Last year at PAX East I had the chance to privately demo NCSoft’s upcoming MOBA Master X Master, and at the time praised it for its compelling single player and co-op modes as well as a general attitude seemingly designed to “make MOBAs fun again.” This year’s PAX demo was a bit less off-the-wall, a bit more familiar, but still ultimately an enjoyable MOBA romp. I got to play as the new Master “Statesman” of City of Heroes fame, and learned about the game’s forthcoming closed beta as well.
My time with MXM this year focused less on non-traditional MOBA forms and more on expected competitive play. I spent most of my time controlling Statesman, and I was immediately both charmed and amused by the amount of variety the character brings to the standard MOBA-champion mold. Described as something of a bruiser by NCSoft, Statesman is “a melee juggernaut with a kit specializing in damage mitigation.” He’s also being called an “immovable object.” Based on what I saw, that all sounds about right.
MXM’s main differentiator hasn’t changed, and that’s its tag-team style; I had to be reminded continuously to swap out my Master for its teammate waiting to be tagged in, and like last year the mechanic imbues a de-stressing effect throughout the general experience of this kind of game. I still died, as did everyone playing at some point, but resting one Master while piloting the other and keeping health and mana in reserve somehow emboldens the player to try new things or be aggressive when they otherwise wouldn’t.
The Statesman himself truly is a heavyweight, with two of his main capabilities (Dull Pain and Flying Haymaker) proving very true to the character for both their sense of humor and devastating results. The latter in particular adds a very hands-on level of granularity and control; after executing I half expected to be presented with a City of Heroes-style selection of actions and continue wailing on opponents from there. I did get carried away several times which led to death, but what’s important is that it wasn't frustrating – a trait MXM appears to hold in very high regard and that, thankfully, hasn’t yet been toned down or yielded in favor of competitive or esports demands.
Other Statesman havok is carried out via his “Zeus’s Bolts” and “Foot Stomp” abilities, all of which eventually allow him to, with the proper powerup acquired, take on a titan mode and wreak havoc on enemy Masters and towers in particular. This I thoroughly enjoyed; upon becoming a titan, towers are suddenly about as sturdy as toothpick castles, and destroying one so quickly can have drastic results on the tide of battle in what essentially amounts to a split-second. Like every other Master, Statesman also possesses an Ultimate (called Heroism here) which massively boost his range and mobility for true vigilantism. Within the confines of MXM, of course.
The upcoming closed beta for Master X Master ought to be fascinating, as the game has now been revealed and talked about extensively but has not yet received thorough hands-on from the public. My hope is that the competitive esports crowd doesn’t hijack what the game appears to be about –making MOBAs fun– and instead embraces its uniquities as something different and fresh within what I personally find to be a tired and played-out genre. From what I’ve tried last year and again earlier this month, it’s entirely achievable.
The closed beta runs from April 6th to April 27th, with signups available on MXM’s website here, set atop an impressively flashy Statesman reveal. If MXM gets through closed beta unscathed (or better yet, improved), then I will consider myself officially excited for its public release.
For more MXM, check out my preview from last year’s PAX here, as well as our full coverage of PAX East 2017.