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A MOBA that aims to be a world apart from its competition.
Bandai Namco's excitement for Supernova, its new Windows-based MOBA with RTS elements created by Primal Game Studios, was apparent at their recent launch event for the game's open alpha. In eSports fashion, my gaming session was spread over several matches with mostly other journalists who were getting hands-on for the first time on the 5-on-5 multiplayer action, featuring live commentary from eSports announcers. I didn't have much opportunity to listen, though, since I was mostly flailing around behind my units until my commander went down to strikes from players far more familiar with MOBAs than I.
The first thing that is immediately different about Supernova is its science-fiction setting. The environments look like they're from Starcraft more than anything else, and the Commanders (the direct player control units) are in styles from all kinds of different sci-fi franchises from Japanese-style mechs, to Mechwarrior– and Warhammer 40K–inspired designs. This mix of styles is part of the fun and gives the new game a cosmetic edge that is different from other triple-A MOBA titles.
Conversely, the RTS elements will be handedly familiar. Each player sets the progression of what kind of lane units are built and can purchase different unit-types for their waves, with air, infantry, and mechanized units, with each having strengths and weaknesses compared to the others. This can be micromanaged in terms of build order, upgrades, and the different unit types being put into play. The progression of these units in player armies can be turned on auto mode for new or inexperienced players who just want to enjoy the game as-is, but customization will offer greater abilities to maximize damage and offers an additional element of strategy.
As a ranged attacker in both games I played, it was in my best interest to position myself behind my armies and intervene with special attacks or unit buffs from a distance. Other players, whose Commanders were in melee-based mechs were better served by crashing into the middle of enemy ranks and smashing them up. I was basically lunch-meat for those guys.
The depth of Supernova was a little overwhelming at first. In some respects this was partially due to playing with a fully leveled set of Commanders who were at the level cap of 40. In regular game progression it would take the first ten levels just to get access to all the RTS-style army units, let alone individual Commander abilities and accessory sets, which can be created through the game's crafting system on dropped items. This deep customization of the character can also be turned on auto-mode for players who simply want the gameplay experience without the in-depth character-building experience.
Supernova is free-to-play, but as Primal Game Studios devs stress, not pay-to-win. Their monetization model is designed to allow players to purchase cosmetic upgrades for their mechs. We got to see several, quite whimsical ones, like a hockey skin, that transforms the mech into a robo-goalie and lets them skate across the alien landscape.
Even players not not familiar with MOBAs should have a good time with Supernova. With the auto-features turned on, I felt like I was contributing a little to my team's successes despite our eventual defeats, but it was always fun. The intimidating depth of the game and its customization has a lot that will attract players, and the auto features and level progression keep things accessible. The public PC Alpha begins February 26th, 2015, and players can sign up at the official website.