Its huge monsters put on a great and imposing show, but Gigantic is really all about making its action MOBA gameplay accessible. Its characters challenge, but they’re not ultra demanding. Its multi-phase battles require strategy and teamwork, but you don’t have to be a master tactician to succeed. It takes time to learn, but we’re talking weeks instead of months. The drawback is that its short, rapid-fire matches risk retreading the same ground a bit too often.
There’s currently only one way to play Gigantic: a 5v5 battle where teams must gather energy to power the massive monsters that sit on either side of the arena. These Guardians are far more interesting than ordinary MOBA objectives because they’re active participants rather than stationary punching bags, and the few times they battle each other during a match are always exciting. Watching one swoop in from its perch, wrestle its rival to the ground, and expose the weak point for its team to attack is really cool, and I wished they’d spend more time in action instead of holding back.
Every battle plays out in two phases, each one fun in its own regard. First is the main phase, a fun but familiar mode in which teams gather power and battle each other over objectives. It follows more of a Counter-Strike or Battlefield’s Conquest format, rewarding for kills as well as territories controlled, rather than a typical MOBA where control is king. The action can get repetitive, but that balance of objectives makes the main phase of Gigantic enjoyable despite its familiarity. The constant back-and-forth of claiming these territories kept me on my toes as I watched the power meters rise.
The second phase, Rampage, transforms the match into a more traditional MOBA style of pushing toward the enemy’s side of the map, except that Gigantic’s original twist is to have one fully powered Guardian make its way across the map to attack and incapacitate its rival. The action becomes heated as every player makes a mad dash toward the two beasts, with one team focusing on the vulnerable Guardian while the other defends, unleashing all their abilities in a confined space. However, they only last a short period before reverting back to the main phase, and that brevity lessens the Rampages’ effectiveness. I also wish Rampages weren’t reserved for the same two spots on each map, as it’s odd seeing the struggles of powerful beasts like these happen in the same locations every time.
After five Rampages without a victor comes the Clash, an endgame state which changes the battlefield to ensure matches don’t go on too long by opening new pathways and moving all objectives closer together. This creates more consistent action and quicker power-gathering. The Sanctum Falls arena during a Clash stands out for me, as it transforms from the largest map in Gigantic to the smallest in an instant. The action of Clash makes me wonder why it isn’t the default game mode, as it makes the main phase seem tame by comparison.
Gigantic throws an extra layer of strategy into the battle through tiny beings called Creatures with useful abilities that can be spawned from specific objective points. One might create a tree creature that heals nearby teammates, while another spawns a cyclops who builds walls to block paths; those extra powers give more importance to the decision of which points a team should concentrate on holding, depending on their strategy. These spawned helpers are also damage sponges, giving you plenty of time to come to their rescue. As the battle rages you can upgrade them to a more powerful form, making them even more important in battle and widening your options. If a healer isn’t available and I’m near death I know I can retreat to my creature and heal up.
The arenas you fight in are bright and filled with color but otherwise aren’t exciting. The Ghost Reef is a canyon dotted with abandoned technology, while Siren’s Stand is an icy tundra sporting a few shipwrecks – you’d think those unique features would create a distinctive feel to gameplay, but they don’t actually do anything except serve as background decor and have no memorable interactivity. Only Sanctum Falls features something interesting, with underwater areas that slow you down and inflict damage while you’re underwater, but even they are easily avoided and sometimes completely ignored.
Likewise, the roster of 19 heroes (of which a rotating selection are available to play for free, in the League of Legends model) checks all of the traditional MOBA boxes in a fairly generic way. There’s a tank in The Margrave, melee specialists like the bull Lord Knossos, the fast but weak assassin in Tripp, and long-range spell casters like the mage Mozu. Some designs are cool, with the potion-happy Uncle Sven and the dragon sorcerer Charnok being personal favorites, but otherwise very few of these warriors stand out on the selection page The heroes do become more interesting in battle, though, thanks to a leveling system that’s more in-depth than most MOBAs. Each hero levels up and gains new abilities throughout a match, but Gigantic gives more choice here than most in that each ability has two tiers of perks, and each tier has two branching choices. The robot HK-206’s Bullet Barrage, for example, offers either a higher rate of fire or armor-piercing rounds at Tier 1. At Tier 2, choices depend on what you chose first: If you picked high rate of fire, you can upgrade it with either more close-range damage or the ability to slow enemies with each hit.
That’s a level of customization not seen in similar games (those without gear shops, at least), and experimentation is rewarding and reveals new roles for each of the 19 characters. Uncle Sven starts out as a standard healer, but by enhancing his Fire Flask with increased direct-hit damage and the ability to cause Burning damage over time you can make him an effective mid-range attacker as well. Being able to choose perks on the fly also allows you to adapt to the flow of each individual match, giving you an awesome power over your characters.
The problem with this perk system is the actual process of selecting each one. Accessing the clunky upgrade menu renders your character defenseless, so you can’t safely choose a new perk unless you’re waiting to re-spawn or you’ve retreated from action to find a quiet spot and sacrificed your momentum. The menu itself is irritating because it doesn’t always respond to button presses, which can make getting to my intended perk (and thus the period of vulnerability) take even longer. I fell victim to more than a few ambushes because of that, which isn’t great even if the upgrade system is impressive.
All of that nuance sounds intimidating, but Gigantic does a great job of teaching the ins and outs. The mandatory tutorial clearly and effectively lays the rules out, more so than others in my experience. Once that’s out of the way, the Practice Arena lets you tinker with each character to your heart’s content, or you can play as many bot matches as you wish before jumping into the real deal. Where other MOBAs are sometimes more keen to throw new players to the wolves, Gigantic makes a real effort to provide ample opportunity to learn it, making me feel more engaged in the process.
Gigantic is a free-to-play game, so naturally in-game currency is a thing and can be purchased. However, the Fortune Card challenge system makes earning money for unlocking new characters and skins more fun than the standard grind. Each card you get comes with a challenge to complete, ranging from easy ones like inflicting X amount of damage on a Guardian to tougher character-specific challenges and straightforward ones like hitting a certain level with your account. Having those achievement-like objectives tied to in-game cash rewards makes earning more feel like less of a chore.