Hyper Universe Review
One of the things I tend to harp on is how unnecessary it is to “Reinvent the Wheel”. If something is still fun, why change it? MOBAs are definitely the exception to that rule. So many of them feel the same, and much more simply get lost in the path of the titans like League of Legends. However, NEXON’s Hyper Universe does this and more. Hyper Universe is Nexon’s answer to doing something different in the genre, creating a 2D side-scrolling action MOBA. You still have two teams fighting to destroy each other’s base, but it’s done in a 2D plane, where players jump down shafts or climb up ladders to reach the other lanes. It already boasts 41 characters, each with their own unique equipment, several skins, and storyline cutscenes. Their kits do not immediately feel like I saw them first in League, SMITE, HoN, or other MOBAs, which is certainly a benefit. From the moment I first played this at Pax South last year, I was in love with it and the concept. I have had access since very early on, and have enjoyed watching it develop and grow.
Even the one-lane maps have other lanes to jump and climb around in, the jungles hiding in the tops/bottoms of the game map. This expands the other maps even further. So far there is a one-lane map and a two-lane map, where two teams of four do battle. The goal is the same though: kill the enemy minions, push down towers, kill the jungle camps for buffs and extra benefits/gold/exp, then stomp on the other team with great vengeance. Explode enemy towers, and then their base and the maps also have optional (but advised) boss monsters to defeat. Each character has a basic attack, a stronger attack (~ 3-second cooldown), three special abilities, and an ultimate ability. Characters also purchase items that can be upgraded, depending on the item type (boots tend to be only twice, for example), but there’s the rub. Items are definitely different in this game, compared to other MOBAs. Ranked Mode is not opened yet, but the PVE/PVP modes are free to play beyond that.
The maps can feel kind of daunting to run across though. Even with ladders/jump pads/spots to leap down, it still takes a long time to get from point A to point C. That’s why, for 200 gold, at least in certain parts of a match, you can teleport from base to a tower, even if the tower has been destroyed. There are also neutral portals in the top/bottom of a map that both sides can appear at, so it’s important to be aware that these things exist. And for a game with no “relics” or “trinkets” or “extra spells”, it’s nice to have some kind of teleport ability without having to slot it or pick it. As the game went on, the teleport feature in the base wound up having a charge time, and it was very slow. I couldn’t figure out what it was based on, just yet.
There is one thing I will definitely say about Hyper Universe: the AI does not screw around. The Veteran AI successfully baited me and my teams on more than one occasion. It doesn’t dive unless it feels safe and had smart, powerful builds. Hell, you could probably use their builds for yourself and find success, if you pay attention to how they act. I did not lose any of the AI matches, but several came very close on Veteran. The bots acted as regular players, and in one of them, the bots managed to get more kills than the team of players. Now that could be that some of my team members did not play in Early Access and as such, didn’t know what to expect. Still I feel like the AI matches are a good place to start, unlike some other MOBAs I’ve played, where the bot matches are a joke and they teach you nothing but how to use your abilities. So this could be because we were awful, but perhaps it was simply solid AI.
Each of the characters of Hyper Universe can pick an equipment set from a list of common equipment of varying stats and unique equipment that can be purchased only with GP (Game Points, free currency). There are bundles for their Premium Currency that also come with unique equipment, a character and skin, and an extra equipment slot. These are a little on the pricey side though. Each character has four unique pieces of gear, and while they don’t have outrageous core stats, they shine in their passives. For example, Celine’s unique Wind Crystal is a standard Attack/Attack Speed/Critical slot item, but at its third stage upgrade, it offers – 2-second cooldown and +50% knockback. That’s where it becomes powerful. The regular items have passives at their final stages too. Headhunter is another example of this. “Regular attacks inflict an additional 4% of Max Health damage, and can occur every two seconds”.
Each equipment slot has six items in it, and while uniques are pretty powerful they still leave two extra slots for other items. You are not required to fill them with particulars. Don’t want to bring boots or some kind of consumable? Don’t do it! Want an extra attack speed item? Feel free! I’m noticing that popular builds do not usually include all four of these items. Find what appeals to you and your playstyle the most, and then build around the stats you need as a role. Sure, those uniques are fancy and can feel pretty powerful, but each of these uniques is built around a particular skill. I’m sure for casual matches you can just stack them, as I have, but I’ve also been exploring other options. The builds on Korean fansites tend to stick to about two of these Uniques at the absolute most. That should tell players that while they’re great, they’re not always the answer. These all cost the same, 3k GP, for the time being. I do feel like the gold gain is a little on the slow side, but it’s not going to take a million years to get them, and this I’m grateful for. I like the touch of each character having their own unique, specific equipment that stands out for them. I also like not having to have to pick items on the fly while in a match. You can purchase additional slots for equipment builds for all occasions, and those can be purchased for GP/Real-Money currencies. Thankfully, however, you can edit the basic slot you acquired with your hypers. Items feel very powerful though, and the power spikes can be pretty outrageous.
As far as combat and controls, I think they’re mostly very fluid. I play with a controller (PS4) because I didn’t care for the keyboard controls, which felt weird and awkward. But with a controller on PC? It just felt right. There’s one major issue I have. The D-Pad on the PS4 controller kind of moves you, but it was jerky and stalled. It would make me dash when all I wanted to do was run forward. The stick felt perfect though. It’s easy to buy equipment on the controller, easy to fight. You still have to use a keyboard to type to your team, but any kind of voice chat, which is easily attained on PC, eliminates that need. I wish it would show PS4 buttons on a PS4 controller, but that’s not a need, merely a want. I still know what Xbox Buttons do. I do feel like team fights are a bit of a cluster on the 2D plane, but this does not change how fun they are. They’re a blur of fighting, explosions, and pixel effects. Cooldowns are decent for the most part, but I do feel like some characters are definitely more powerful than others. Celia was able to build mostly attack speed, and never had to stop using her incredibly strong wave of arrows, and was able to 1v3 with the greatest of ease. Balance is still being worked on, which I feel is necessary. You won’t ever have balance in a MOBA, but I do feel there are certainly Hypers that stand out among the crowd.
But there’s one final bit of controversy regarding Hyper Universe: censorship. I’m personally on the “no censorship” train, but if it doesn’t change gameplay, I don’t care. There are people downvoting and reviewing the game negatively on Steam, because of censorship. Athena has less cleavage, oh no! These art changes do not change gameplay, accessibility, balance. It changes splash art, and probably some jiggle physics. Spoiler Warning, friends: many of the in-game female characters still have lots of cleavage in the actual in-game action. You don’t have time to look at that, though! The game is meant to be played, not to drool over. It doesn’t change that the game is fun, the characters are interesting, and the action is non-stop. It is my sincere opinion that the censorship of certain art assets does not make the game less fun. I do however have an official statement, taken from their developer blog:
Based on our internal review, we deemed that some of the artwork that is currently causing so much discussion was creating a hurdle for certain players, who find that type of artwork uncomfortable, stopping them from playing Hyper Universe for the first time. In other words, the art in question was harming the game’s accessibility. We decided in the middle of preparing for Early Access to change the direction of that art; the changes would also be applied to the Korean version of the game in a patch at the end of the current season, on 9/14, before the new season began. We are deeply sorry that we could not keep the content consistent, due to difficulties in managing the revisions for both the Early Access and Korean versions; we will work harder to keep the content consistent across regions in the future.
Final Thoughts: Henshin! Great (4/5)
Hyper Universe is a fun, unique MOBA, and I don’t get to say that often. Most every player I’ve encountered so far was neither toxic nor vile, but I’m sure that will change as it grows. The characters are fun, fulfill a variety of roles, and while some of them might feel similar visually, I love all of them. From anime Magical Girls (Pinky) to Giant Robots (Zett), Western Superheroes (Jennifer) and Nightmare Fuel (Jack, Curse Eye). This game scratches every particular itch and has incredibly fun gameplay. The balance will come with updates and patches, but so far I haven’t played anyone that I thought was absolutely awful. In fact, everyone I’ve played so far had something I could enjoy. That’s the really weird part. Normally in a MOBA, I find myself sticking to guardians, tanks, and healers. I feel like it’s a little harder to tank in this game, mostly because it’s set on a 2D plane, and can be a bit harder to dodge the shots being fired, but every role is fun. This is probably the first MOBA I’ve ever played where I can play just about any role and feel like I’m being useful to the team.
Hyper Universe does need some kind of “Founders Pack” that lets people unlock all of the characters permanently. Those that bought in early did receive a fair amount of characters, but having an option to buy everyone would appeal to a larger audience. It’s one of the things that made Smite so appealing to me and would help here too. I love the large launch cast, and at least it has more than one map immediately, but I’d like to have some kind of option to pick which map I queue for in non-ranked matches. I’m not wild about the Cubes, which give shards of characters/skins/etc, but I did not see an option to spend real money on them, for which I am eternally grateful.
The game has fun story options, fast-paced combat, and it opens up a lot of options for further coverage. I simply do not understand why someone would downvote it because it has fewer “anime tiddies” in the splash art. That’s just immature. Sure, censorship in art is foolish, but it’s likely in the name of broadening an audience, to get more people to play their game. What matters to me is how it plays, not how much fanservice it has. I disagree with their choice, but I certainly understand, logistically, why it would be so. I think it could be curtailed by simply showing less in the Korean splash art/in-game sprites. But this censorship has in no way changed how much I enjoy the game. I’d very much enjoy it on a console as well. Perhaps with cross-platform? I do worry that the grind for characters/equipment/etc will feel frustratingly long, we will just have to see how those numbers develop over time.
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