It’s not every day that a gamer gets lucky and finds something pretty good in the free-to-play market. It’s a much rarer occurrence when said game is in a subgenre completely foreign to this gamer. Rarer still is when said game is in a console’s online marketplace. This game is a particular little title called AirMech Arena – a great game that is a great addition (and first-time experience) in the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) subgenre. Designed for the Xbox 360 by Carbon Games, this version of their open-beta (as of this writing) PC MOBA title AirMech is very easy to get into, very addictive, and very hard to master.
Players take control of powerful machines called AirMechs, pieces of lost technology with the capability to transform on-the-fly between air vehicle and ground mecha modes. With the bare minimum of story provided, the player is instantly thrust into the tutorial upon first loading. This turns out to be a very important move, as the controls – while easy enough to use at the start – require a little bit of practice (both here and in the offline solo modes) before getting out there to take on greater challenges.
Said challenges manifest in the sheer amount of customization within the game. To start, you have your basic AirMechs. Each type of AirMech has different offensive and defensive capabilities for both air and ground modes, as well as special abilities unique to each craft type (Saucers can convert enemy units and fire death rays, Bombers can attack air-to-ground, Angels can dodge fire and act as snipers, etc.). With your choice craft also comes a selection of pilots with different abilities, special items to attach to your AirMech to adjust its stats for both modes, and even a wide selection of buildable units such as vehicles and turrets to completely shape your load-out with. All of these choices ensure that no two players will ever have the same play experience… Or rather, no six.
The game’s multiplayer is quite exhilarating, with the capability of hosting online PvP matches with up to six players, or pitting up to 3 players against the environment in survival matches. No matter which mode you choose (or even create, as the game allows for custom matches as well), your experience is always going to be delightfully frantic.
The graphics and sounds that the game takes do a very good job of adding to this feeling – there’s just something inexplicably satisfying about seeing your detailed AirMech glow bright with a nice whooshing effect upon leveling up, or seeing a base produce one of your upgrades or units from its dark depths with its whirring mechanical noises. Between building and deploying your unit armies, buying upgrades for your AirMech as it levels up, capturing neutral/enemy bases for your side, switching between air and ground modes to quickly traverse and fight within the varied stages, and taking on incoming hordes from the opposition; there is never a dull moment in a single match. The game does a pretty decent job compensating for network issues as well, with short pauses designed to replace lag and properly sync up all players, ensuring no cheap deaths happen in a single match.
This title isn’t without flaws, minor as they may be. There is no music during actual gameplay. The only music tracks that play are a simple repeating track in the menu (which sets the mood pretty well) and the end-of-match jingle. Additionally, AirMech Arena makes no secret that players would get a lot more content out of buying the additional Starter Pack and Prime add-ons, but what’s important is that it doesn’t REQUIRE you to buy these in order to make the best of your playing experience.
Most of the additional content is being able to buy units, items, and pilots worth real-world money converted into Diamond currency; but the ones that the player can earn, or even buy using in-game currency (Kudos), are all balanced in such a way that you don’t necessarily need to buy the Diamond versions. Ultimately, the advantages that players have all come from finding a playing style suitable to themselves.
With the game having been out for a little over 6 weeks at this point, it’s amazing just how well the whole thing is put together. If you’re looking to get into the MOBA scene but don’t know where to start, AirMech Arena is a good first experience. Great presentation, great gameplay, and overall just a blast to play. Just don’t go blaming Carbon Games if you develop an addiction.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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