Given its long list of influences, it would have been easy for Gigantic to feel like an also-ran — a repeat of a game we’ve played a thousand times over.
Instead, developer Motiga has pulled off a clever balancing act. Gigantic combines well-worn genres to make an experience that feels new, but familiar.
Rather than settling for an objective-based team shooter or a MOBA full of colorful characters, Gigantic mashes together the best parts of both genres into a unique package. You might feel like you’ve seen it all before, but this combination still offers something special, a mix of mechanics that feels dynamic rather than stale.
Each match in Gigantic follows the same formula: Players must defend and empower their guardian, a massive beast that sits at each team’s base. You gather power for this guardian by killing enemies, summoning beasts and controlling points across the map. Once you’ve pooled enough power, the guardian can attack the enemy team’s monster in a massive, screen-filling fight. This is your opportunity to hustle to the opposite end of the map to attack the downed guardian before it struggles free. If you cause enough damage, you inflict a wound on the enemy’s guardian. Three of those and you win.
Gigantic requires more of its players — more strategy and more steps to victory — than you might be used to from the average team shooter or MOBA, but the game knows that. A tutorial walks you through each phase of the game’s mechanics — from summoning beasts to attacking and defending the guardian — until it’s sure you’ve got the gist. By the time I had run through the mandatory tutorial and bot matches, the game’s flow felt more natural than it sounds in description.
Moreso than with the the structure of each match, my expectations were challenged when I looked through the game’s roster. Gigantic launches with 19 heroes, all of whom are colorful and bursting with so much character, you can imagine them headlining their own animated film. While it may be initially clear what character archetypes each hero falls into, further examination proves there’s more than meets the eye. All of Gigantic’s combatants are a blend of ideas that break the mold one way or another.
Take for instance, Zandora, a galactic, sword-wielding woman. On the surface, you might imagine she’s a melee bruiser whose sword can cut down enemies. You would be half right, but she’s also one of the game’s few support characters; in addition to slicing and dicing, she can cast buffs on herself and her team. Understanding that Zandora will likely find herself in the middle of most team fights, the developers created a hero who feels equal parts tank and essential utility character.
Design choices like this solve a few problems at once. For one, MOBA players who might not be great with their aim can play a melee character who is more than just “left click to win.” Sure, Zandora is strong, but she’s also highly strategic. Knowing when to cast her buffs is essential for winning fights and keeping your team alive. On the other hand, she gives shooter fans an interesting introduction to melee combat that will feel different than what you’d expect.
Other melee characters have multidimensional gameplay baked into their kits. Wu feels like they dropped a fighting game character into Gigantic; Aisling is a young swordswoman that can summon a melee companion to fight with her; and Tyto and Tripp are traditional “glass cannon” characters who are fast and strong, but can fall quickly in battle if they get overzealous.
The ranged characters are also more nuanced than simple “point and shoot” heroes. Beckett is an adventurer who carries two guns, and she can feel like a completely different character depending on which weapon you choose to wield. Xenobia is a demon that harasses the battlefield and sucks life from her enemies. Charnok’s fire-based attacks bombard the battlefield and let him control the space around him. Even more traditional characters like the sniper Imani or the battle robot HK-206 have a few twists that set apart their otherwise predictable loadouts.
Gigantic takes character diversity a step further by allowing you to modify your hero as they level up. Individual skills or character traits can be changed, giving some attacks news elements or even changing a character altogether. For instance you can give the aforementioned Zandora an upgrade that allows her to shoot lasers from her sword, effectively turning her from a melee to a ranged character.
This flexibility makes certain characters feel totally different depending on the situation. Instead of having a fixed kit of skills, players can modify their heroes on the fly to meet the demands of any given match. This idea is hardly new in the space of MOBAs, but considering the flow of Gigantic’s combat and how often it changes, my choices felt even more situational. I never found myself sticking to the same optimized character builds in every match. And while I spent a lot of time figuring out how to best compete against certain situations or team compositions, the game’s progression system makes all that experience worthwhile.
Since Gigantic is free-to-play, not everything is opened up for use to start; you’ll need to work through matches and grind out currency to eventually unlock the entire game’s cast, as well as some of their skins or summoned creatures. This system offers up the standard in-game currency which you earn by playing and special currency you can buy with real-world money. Like many free-to-play games, characters and other valuable unlockables can be bought straight out instead of earning enough in-game currency to get them. The game’s most desirable cosmetics skins are only available by spending actual money.
While Gigantic rotates who you have access to periodically, the game never struck me as entirely withholding as I grinded to earn currency to buy the characters I wanted most. The training mode is helpful for test driving any character you’d like by allowing you to fight various types of monsters at will and letting you choose every upgrade at the start. This is great for players eager to figure out where to spend their hard-earned currency since they can test every hero out and experiment with all their upgrades.
For the purposes of this review, I purchased the Gigantic Founder’s Pack for $30, which was renamed the Ultimate Pack on launch and gives you access to all current and future characters — but I only picked that up halfway through my time with the game, and I still enjoyed myself, even before I had access to the full roster. The character diversity is strong enough that the grind for currency was still enjoyable.
Gigantic also employs several tools to make grinding less tedious — most notably, its fortune card system. Fortune cards offer up a handful of different challenges — for instance, you might need to gain a certain level or complete character-specific challenges — in exchange for large pools of in-game currency. You can get new cards in a daily draw or as rewards for leveling up characters. Fortune cards are a great way to keep players coming back for more, and they add an incentive to try out new characters. This metagame is a much-needed mechanic to keep free-to-play players engaged with the game while they grind for currency.
Grinding for new characters or cosmetics would be pointless if Gigantic didn’t have a competitive scene to begin with. Thankfully, Motiga has built a community during the lifespan of its multiple betas. Even in its final beta period before its official launch, I didn’t have much difficulty finding matches and competent folks to play against. The developers are active across social media and share weekly updates on their YouTube channel. This gives me hope that Gigantic will have a future even as it launches into an already crowded scene.