What I’m Playing: Super Monday Night Combat
After being so bad at action RTS style games, but still loving to play them a lot, maybe its no surprise that I’ve really taken a shine to Uber Entertainment’s Super Monday Night Combat.
A sequel of sorts to the original Monday Night Combat, SMNC takes a lot of what made the original great, but more importantly removes a lot of the stuff that we didn’t like.
Monday Night Combat always felt a little too hectic. We knew what the game was trying to do: transplant the DotA genre that was quickly becoming popular at the time into a 3rd-person shooter that was much easier to digest. What it really ended up being, however, was a slightly hectic blaze of gunfire and confusion, to put it lightly. Yes, it was wild fun, but the DotA part of the game got lost somewhere between the constant onslaught of bots and a chicken mascot.
Its no wonder then that the mantra for SMNC is “the rules have changed”. A line that not only comes up in advertisements for the game, but is also reiterated throughout the game itself. Things are different in this iteration, but it will be baffling how similar it still looks and feels.
Maybe that’s because much of the prior game has somehow made it into this game. In fact, there’s not really anything about the first game that I could definitively say doesn’t exist in this game, with the exception of the maps. Everything from juice, to the original pros, to the mascots (Chickey Cantor included!) still remains, but they’ve all just been heavily reworked into a much more structured DotA gameplay.
Playing the first few minutes of each match always seems to be a test of player’s abilities. Those who are new to the game will run out as if without a care in the world, only to be decimated by the minion bots of the other team, let alone the opposing players. Those who are more experienced know its actually required now to kill bots in order to earn money and experience, which in turn gets more skills and perks for the team.
Uber, in what may either be a genius move or a missed opportunity, still elects to not have a store of weapons and items in the game. That is, the typical store where you would buy perks for your character like a pair of +20 speed boots, or something to that effect. The only thing that money gets used for in this game is juice (a brief 10-second boost to your damage, healing and speed), extra bots for your team and jump-pads for getting to inaccessible parts of the level.
There is also a slow cool-down ability called “The Annilihator” that occasionally pops up. This pad destroys all of the enemy team’s bots and takes a huge chunk of player’s health, often resulting in instant deaths. Naturally this pad is a bit of a special occasion every time it comes up, its announced loudly over the game’s PA and will almost always result in a huge battle to grab a hold of it. Its the special occasion things that keep every minute of this game fresh and wild.
And of course the real fun of the game is leveling and ultimately leveraging individual skill, teamwork, special abilities and well-timed assaults to ultimately take down the enemy team’s base. So much is going on with SMNC that I think I could write a book about everything there is to learn about the game, but really you just need to step into a few matched before you grasp everything.
The only true competitors to SMNC are other DotA-style games and the sort of teamwork-centric shooters like Team Fortress 2, so at the end of the day Monday Night Combat sort of stands alone as a very unique experience. Oh did I forget to mention its free-to-play?
Yes, the game does actually do a good job on the free-to-play front. It takes a lot of cues from League of Legends: rotating the free pros to 5 different ones every week, allowing players to unlock all of the pros for free and charging modest prices in real money for costumes and XP boosters. Surprisingly absent was the ability to purchase perks for your character, but perhaps this was done for balance reasons. I do love the idea of being able to buy a character outright instead of renting them.
So I can’t really recommend this game enough at the moment. The only downfall I see is that the playerbase seems a little small at the moment, but in the few weeks I’ve been playing the game off-and-on I’ve seen it rise steadily. As people give the game a chance I see them adopt it more and more, much like League of Legends in a time long past. Free-to-play also means easy adoption for your friends. Hopefully they can get past the first few matches.