One of the biggest surprises at X-15 was the strong showing for one of Microsoft's newest IPs, Gigantic.
This free-to-play MOBA shooter from Motiga first caught my eye on the showroom floor with it's bright and colourful artwork. I had to have passed their booth five or six times before finally sitting down to try it out.
I should state now that I've never really been on the MOBA fan bus, so I was skeptical when one of the developers started describing Gigantic while we waiting for players.
The goal of game is to kill the other team's massive guardian. This is done by unleashing your team's guardian by gaining points through kills and map control. The first team to kill their opponent's guardian is the winner.
Motiga had 16 playable characters to choose from, all with varying skill sets and play styles. The trinity of damage dealer, support and tank were evenly spread out amongst the choices.
I ultimately went support and picked Uncle Sven, an old chubby alchemist, who uses potions to deal damage and heal.
We were loaded in to a crisp and colourful canyon for a 5v5 showdown. The first thing I did was hop through the world, to one of the three summoning portals of my team's side of the map. Capturing these portals are essential for control and ultimately gaining points for your guardian.
I decided to summon a healing minion that moves around as a bot. Alternatively I could have summoned a small dragon that does melee damage and chase down approaching enemies. You can later evolve these creatures to do further damage or healing.
It wasn't long before I encountered my first enemy. Sven's main attack action is "fire flask" , which lobs a fiery concoction at nearby enemies. With a little help from my teammates I was able to get my first kill.
I realized pretty early on that Sven was a little on the floppy side when it came to absorbing damage. I found myself frequently throwing down the AOE ability "healing water" to keep myself and nearby teammates alive.
Sven can also throw an acid flask that does damage and weakens an enemy's armour. His last ability, "elastic ooze", produces a blue puddle that delivers a super jump. Sven's focus ability, which is akin to a special move, is an AOE attack that turns enemies into harmless kawaii lizards for a short period of time.
All these abilities, except for the focus are immediately unlocked when you begin the game.
As you level up through killing and capturing zones, players can spec and gain bonuses to healing, armour, mobility and damage.
In executing these abilities, at least with Sven, I could really feel the third-person shooting element of the game. I decided to use the Xbox One controller and was able to seamlessly move around, while taking aim at nearby enemies. A woman I was sitting next to said she really didn't hit her stride until she dropped the controller and picked up the mouse and keyboard.
Gigantic's gameplay is fast. I found myself running around, tossing down elastic ooze to get away from foes and capture zones. Jumping became my ally and my key evasion tactic.
When a player dies, they respawn at their team's home base. This is the only time I spent time there, but was typically the safest spot to do spec upgrades. Getting back into battle doesn't take long. Each home base is equipped with several launchers that send players flying through the air and back into the thick of battle.
When the power level for your team's guardian is full they start to move across the map. This gives a team the chance to attack the enemy guardian and if enough damage is done they can inflict a wound. Inflicting three wounds to a guardian ends the game.
When of the guardians gets down to their last wound, it triggers "clash mode", sending both guardians out into the field to do battle. As they move across the map they transform the terrain, but the demo they showed was still in development. During crash you can no longer summon creatures, so what ever you have going in is all you get. Kills also give double power.
In the end my team ended up losing, but not before I secured 10 kills, four deaths and 14 assists.
It was all just pure unadulterated fun and one of the best experiences I had at X-15. It left such a longing impression on me that I signed up for the beta on the train ride home because I wanted to keep playing.
Gigantic was easy to pick up and felt very familiar despite my lack of MOBA experience. This without robbing fans of the genre of the storied game mechanics that keep them coming back for more.
An official release date hasn't been announced, but it is expected sometime this year. Once the game launches, Gigantic will support cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10.
Closed beta for Gigantic will launch on Aug. 28 and you can sign up for that here.