(I’d just like to come back and note that NCSoft has done unimaginable things to MxM and may it rest in peace.)
My YouTube and Reddit are constant streams of different video games I should be interested in yet somehow NCsoft’s Master X Master wasn’t even on my radar until after the beta started. It wasn’t some Reddit post about the opening, it wasn’t one of the thousand gameplay videos you can find on YouTube; I actually found it through Discord on a different game’s discussion.
I got into the beta, downloaded the game and immediately got hooked at the login screen with some catchy not-too-serious music that pumped me up and got me ready to go fight something. This was just the start of what I can say was the smoothest beta test I’ve ever experienced.
MXM is NCsoft’s MOBA. It’s a smashup of many different NCsoft characters from all the games they publish. The key gimmick is the ability to swap between two different masters (heroes, champions, etc.) at a short interval, making each character twofold. You can pick any two characters which makes for some great synergy and some broken combos. Take a ranged carry and when they get low, swap to your assassin and surprise them with your burst; take an assassin and when you get focused down, swap to a tank and make them wish they didn’t get so close; take two supports for all the CC and heals. It doesn’t really matter, just pick two you enjoy together.
The wonderful thing about MXM is the variety of levels. They have 3v3 action arena battles that only last 5 minutes and the only objective is kills, 5v5 League of Legends/DOTA-style map with towers and bosses amongst other objectives, and they also have PvE and minigames. PvE can get ridiculously challenging and rewarding at higher difficulties. You can even go on small raids that will give materials to unlock certain masters.
Masters must be bought with SOL (another currency, yay!) and you get SOL through leveling and daily/weekly quests. Not all masters can be bought immediately though, many require a certain achievement first. Some are: unlock 20 masters, collect certain items, win 10 or 100 matches, gain a certain amount of achievement points, etc. This system reminds me of the Super Smash Bros series where working toward goals with friends nets you cool new characters. It may seem obnoxious to some but I rather enjoyed it.
I also need to note that the 3v3 has a hard 5-minute and the 5v5 has a hard 25-minute limit. In 5v5 the games can be shorter if you destroy their base or hit 1,000 points (I never saw a 1,000-point game though). For someone like me who is restricted on time, having a hard limit is great. I can’t play LoL or DOTA anymore due to 50 or 60 minute games that you thought would be a quick 25.
This may sound like chaos but swapping masters is easy to follow. The swap time is around 15 seconds so you won’t be spamming your swap button. That also means you must choose when to switch wisely because if you die on one master you die on both. It makes engaging as a tank a little riskier because that squishy you just tried to lockdown may be swapping to someone you wish they wouldn’t. It’s easy to force a switch through CC or burst though and an enemy is the most vulnerable right after they swap. Teams tend to focus whoever swapped as a result, since it’s hard to focus THE carry since most people will have a carry (or two because, you know, more damage).
Everyone also has a choice between skills. Each master has four skills and an ultimate but only two skills can be taken into a match, giving you the choice between mobility skills, CC, different damage skills, etc. It’s easy to make a carry out of a support and vice versa as a result but most masters are decently niched regardless. The amount of customization between picking different skill combos with two different masters makes your playstyle easily personalized. You may find someone playing the same two masters as you but in a totally different way.
There’s a fine line between a fair fight and something rigged by added stats. MXM walks that fine line with the added node system. Nodes are similar to a rune page in League of Legends where you can add extra stats like defense, attack, skill power, cooldown reduction, etc. Because of this, there are clearly better options for some masters and you can’t get them too easily. I’d say the competitive integrity is still there because even if PvE drops are random, you can use another resource to buy them from a shop. This adds another layer of depth but also another layer you can’t see on your enemy, making for surprise builds you had no way of seeing coming.
I’d also change how you can jump straight into ranked at level 1 with no experience. This is a problem when high ranked players are matched with people who literally haven’t figured out how to swap yet. There needs to be a hard limit where you must be a certain level to queue for ranked.
I must say I haven’t been this hyped for a MOBA ever. The variety, customization, and overall feel to the game were amazing. I never once lagged (except when my LAN cable came out and my awful Wi-Fi kicked in). There weren’t any server crashes that I know of and queues took about 2 minutes for any mode, sometimes shorter. If you were aiming for ranked it took a good 5-10 minutes to queue which I’m sure will decrease when more players are present. Controls were smooth and customizable, characters were fun and witty, the music was worth leaving on and overall I had a blast playing.