Platform: Xbox One (also available on PC).
There's a small chance that you already know about Gigantic. Motiga's superhero-influenced MOBA-cum-third-person shooter first debuted back at E3 in 2015, receiving some quietly confident praise thanks to its outstanding visual style.
Flash forward a couple of years and the developer has gone through hell to ensure their creation saw the light of day. Through numerous delays, reworked approaches to how the game would be playable and a saddening amount of layoffs, Gigantic is a project filled with genuine passion - it's something you can tell from the get-go the team wanted to make, and its soul is routed in a phenomenal premise.
If you're unfamiliar with the MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) genre - and if you're on consoles it's very slim pickings - know that usually you'd be commanding huge armies of units to take various points on a given battlefield. Titans of the genre like DOTA (Defence Of The Ancients) and League of Legends handle their action from above, RTS-style, but more recently we've seen a number of titles like Paragon, SMITE and the completely misunderstood Battleborn bring the action down to the ground.
Gigantic's big differentiation is rather than fight for one specific node in the centre of the map, each team is defending and attacking a towering Guardian beast. After building up enough energy from offing players and fortifying positions on the map, your fearsome overseer will leap forth and tackle the enemy's respective leader, putting them in a spot where you can move in for the kill. It's a 'three hits and they're out' system, though once a Guardian begins to charge, any kills the enemy claims will factor into a defensive buff, mitigating and perhaps preventing any health points depleting.
The whole game revolves around setting up these 'set-pieces' by killing enemies and claiming smaller spots on the map, and in the moment, it can be incredibly satisfying to watch the sublimely animated heroes and villains go to town on one another.
Alongside killing foes, you've got other 'nodes' placed across the map; often two or three for each team and some in the centre that are neutral until claimed, that are used to summon a variety of additional beasts into battle. Ranging from helping fortify defence to revealing enemy positions, healing or attacking nearby players, your own character's special energy - called 'Focus' - can also be invested to upgrade these creatures two more stages.
As such, Gigantic's roster and encouragement of experimentation across its various means of attack and defence can be overwhelming to newcomers - something not helped by a tutorial that handles the basics, but negates to tell you anything close to specifics in regards to elemental effects, attack-direction and importance of when to attack or retreat.
Thankfully, Gigantic's selection of characters is one of the finest I've come across in any 'hero-based shooter' (or whatever we're calling the genre Overwatch, Paladins, Battleborn etc. slot into). Showing a huge amount of variety between radius-based healers, snipers, melee classes and all-rounders, thanks to Motiga's fantastic art department, it's easy distinguish the various champions from one another, with the only remote similarity between some individuals being a similar use of swords or rifles.
Having roster variety and balance be so core to the experience is both where Gigantic soars and occasionally stumbles. Simply down to the unpredictability of playing against other humans, you could match up with a number of champions that essentially provide the yin to your yang. You're able to influence this somewhat by highlighting which fighters you'd like to be favoured during matchmaking, but once you've picked a character and launched in, that's it for the round.
Matching bullet for blade and magic for melee can result in some very anime-esque back n' forths as streams of flame get dodged and skewered by other players flanking from the opposite direction. And when all of this goes down as both Guardians are flying overheard or rolling around in the dirt, trying to free up their respective weak spots for the win, it's a rush of "GO GO GO!"-based fury that encapsulates precisely why the genre works so well.
Consequently, the other side of that online unpredictability is that Motiga need to keep an eye on their burgeoning player base. Gigantic has been out in open beta for months at this point, but with a full release should come an influx of newcomers, all inevitably finding exploits and specific combinations of powers that can potentially cheapen the experience. Already it's certain death if the likes of Lord Knossos, Tyto and Tripp team up (all melee fighters), admittedly forcing you to work together and hang back, but it still feels as though these champions need to be monitored going forward.
As Gigantic will continue to be a game that rolls out updates, character tweaks and roster balances alongside an already-devoted community, it can be hard to slap a review score on top. However, the core of Motiga's engine, the sublime art style, fantastic premise of warring Guardians and experimental nature of roster combos is one hell of a tantalising package.