Airmech – Open Beta Preview
With the recent surge in popularity in the MOBA genre, new developers need to come up with ways to keep things fresh to gain players. Carbon Games is attempting to toss some new renovations to the genre with Airmech, a blend of MOBA action with real-time strategy elements from games like Starcraft. MMOHut had a chance to preview the early beta release of the game, to see how the game stacks up against the giants of the MOBA platform like League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth.
When we first logged into Airmech, the game provided a quick tutorial on game mechanics. Movement is handled with WASD, aiming with the mouse cursor, and attacking through left click. Although this may differ from most MOBA players preferred control scheme, it works well for Airmech.
The tutorial also teaches us one of the most fun, and unique aspects of the game: flight. Using shift, you can transform your mech from robot to jet, allowing you to zip around the map with ease. The downside to the transformation is you can only attack other aerial targets as a jet, such as players that are likewise flying. Shift also transforms back into robot, though, allowing for seamless play.
The tutorial also introduces unit construction. Like many MOBA games, “creeps” constantly spawn from a main base, and head towards the opponent. However, Airmech adds an additional layer of strategy through unit use. Tanks, turrets, mines, and additional soldiers are just some of the things that can be built. You can then go into jet mode, pick them up, and place them strategically across the battlefield. You can also issue them commands, such as attack, defend, or patrol, giving a great deal of flexibility and control over the battlefield.
Once finished with the tutorial, we were placed into a lobby with several options. The game offers a quickplay function, letting you get right into the action if you prefer. You can also host your own game, including password protecting it for friends, or pit yourself in a single player mission against AI. Otherwise, the game offers 3v3, 2v2, and 1v1 PvP missions plus co-op missions against the bots.
To test and hone our skills, we started by competing with the game’s AI. The map was a simple area, and the idea was to capture and hold as many bases as possible, while trying to destroy the enemy’s main base. The AI was often questionable during the match. Countless times it charged into a base full of heat-seeking missile turrets we built, only to explode in a shower of metal. It did, however, display some clutch moments in base capture, which requires three to four soldiers to enter. Since vehicles cannot take bases, soldiers are one of the most important commodities on the map – and the most fragile.
Unlike traditional MOBAs, Airmech does not seem to have activated abilities. You attack with your guns using left click, which also melees your opponent if they are close enough. In addition to persistent levels, your robot can also level up in matches; however, most skills you learn are generally passive such as increasing your defense, firepower, and how many units your jet can carry at once. Key skills and ultimates are lacking, and there are no in-match item shops to gain boosts throughout the match. MOBA experts might find this a bit disdainful, but we also found that it kept gameplay fair between players.
Since we were still learning the ropes, our first game took about twenty minutes. However, we emerged victorious, gaining experience and Kudos, which is the in-game currency. Checking out the shop for the game revealed a wealth of purchasable goods, including mechs, units, and even pilots and other customizations for your bot. Many of the items, it seemed, were only purchased through real cash currency, which may turn away a lot of potential players.
Unfortunately, a lack of potential players was also a key snag we ran into in Airmech. There simply were never many players around to play against. We realize, though, that the game is still in an early state, so proper advertising and word of mouth will go far in attracting more people. The one game we did have against others was a 2p v 2p match. It was hectic and intense, and seeing the strategies the other players were employing gave us a good idea of what can be expected and how to adapt on the battlefield. Hit and run strikes against opponents and their bases are quite strong, especially when backed up by sending in forces of tanks and soldiers.
With some development time and more players, Airmech might really shine. The combination of MOBA and RTS is done quite seamlessly, and once you’ve gotten used to the tactics that players have created and use to win, you’ll be ready with a counterattack of your own. Hopefully the game will get a little less reliant on cash purchases for new units and mechs to counteract a “pay for power” attitude. Overall, Airmech is definitely an interesting experience, and one to keep an eye on, especially as it is available to be played through Chrome and also offers offline play and experience.