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Master X Master, NCSoft's MOBA/dungeon crawler hybrid, is headed west

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New game will feature characters from across the publisher's MMO catalog

Massively multiplayer online RPG publisher NCSoft is moving into the battle arena genre with its latest project, Master X Master. Developed by NCSoft's lead studio in Seoul, South Korea, the new game takes the popular MOBA gameplay from titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 and combines it with dungeon crawler mechanics borrowed from games like Diablo 3.

Master X Master has gone through a series of betas in Korea, but NCSoft revealed at an event earlier this month that the game will be coming to North America and Europe in the second half of 2016.

NCSoft calls Master X Master an "action MOBA," because it features full control over a character's movement, including dodging and jumping, unlike traditional point-and-click-based MOBAs. It also introduces a unique tag-team system to the genre, where players pick two masters to control for each match and can swap between them on the fly.

NCSoft says that this Dual Master system provides unique strategies, such as initiating a fight with a melee tank character and then swapping to an assassin to burst damage. However, players have to wait 10 seconds between swapping, forcing them to choose the right time between changes.

The Dual Master system also stands in place of item systems in traditional MOBAs. There will be no in-match item shop that players need to return to or purchase items from throughout each match.

Master X Master

In addition to the player-versus-player match-ups, Master X Master will include a more fleshed out single-player and cooperative player-versus-environment mode. In most MOBAs, single-player is relegated to skirmish matches against AI-controlled opponents; in Master X Master, players will be able to team up in special PvE maps that play out sort of like dungeons in traditional action RPGs.

The PvE mode will include its own loot drops and gear progression to help characters get more powerful. In order to keep things balanced, this gear will not carry over to PvP. Each PvE map will end in a challenging boss fight, and new dungeons and boss encounters will be introduced throughout the game's lifespan.

At its current stage, Master X Master features 30 playable characters. Some of these characters are unique to the game, but many have been pulled from other popular NCSoft titles. That list includes Rytlock from Guild Wars 2, Mondo Zax from Wildstar and Jinsoyun from Blade and Soul, as well as characters from Aion and Lineage 2. More characters will be added to the lineup before and after launch.

Though it seems set up strongly for a free-to-play formula, NCSoft is not yet commenting on the business model for Master X Master. The game will launch in North America and Europe later this year.