Games from PAX South 2017: Hyper Universe, a First Impression

Hyper Universe is a side-scrolling MOBA that is breaking genre tropes to provide a fast-paced, action-packed experience for newcomers and MOBA veterans.

The MOBA genre is one that hasn't really been able to capture my attention. There's something about the genre that has always felt like some barrier had been in my way of getting into it. Whether it be the high skill curve to a game like Dota 2, knowing the different aspects of how to effectively play a character in League of Legends, or just the lack of knowledge as a whole about games like SMITE or Heroes of the Storm. Because of this, I have just let the entire genre as a whole fall to the wayside for me. This all may change for me with Nexon's Hyper Universe.

Hyper Universe is a MOBA that has broken from the usual tropes of the genre. While the common theme of MOBA's is an arduous battle that lasts for what feels too long for me, Hyper Universe is a very fast paced game where the action seems to constantly be happening. Because of this, matches only last around 15 minutes. As someone who can't stand the length of usual MOBA matches, this was a great thing to see.

So how do you actually play Hyper Universe? Like most MOBAs, you start out in a character select screen. Each character is separated out into different categories like tanker, technician, supporter, assassin, etc. All of these feel like they had serious time and effort put into designing them. There's a very animated nature to all of them and each of them have their own personalities and backgrounds that make them feel unique. There are characters that feel more serious while there are plenty of characters that feel fun and carefree.

You are on a team with 4 other people (5 players total). Once all players have chosen their Hypers, they are loaded into a map. This is where we find the biggest difference from other MOBAs; Hyper Universe is played from a 3D side-scrolling perspective.

It is this side-scrolling perspective and Hyper Universe's control scheme that I feel lend to the action-packed nature of the game. The game uses only the keyboard to control it. You use the arrow keys to move and the A, S, D, F, Q, W, E, and R keys for your abilities. Because of this, the game feels more like a game played on an arcade cabinet rather than a game played on a computer.

So after loading into the map, you are introduced to how the map is laid out. Like a usual MOBA, there is a lane structure, but because you're playing from a side-scrolling perspective, all the lanes are stacked on top of each other. In total, there are 7 lanes for you to play on. While this may seem like a lot, the map has been designed for easy access between each level. There are ladders that allow for a way between the levels but on top of that, there are areas where you can pass through the floor of the lane to drop to the lower lane. If you are looking for a quick way up, there are jump pads that can be used for a speedy way back to a higher lane.

I think the most interesting travel mechanic Hyper Universe has though is the teleporter network that allows for travel between your base, turrets, and the top and bottom of the map. This means that if you are far away from a fight, you can just jump into a teleporter and be right back in the action. I found myself able to jump into help my team without having to wander for a minute down a lane which keeps that action coming at almost a constant rate.

So the point of each game is to fight your way through the enemy team's turrets and getting to their base and destroying their core.  This should feel familiar to a regular MOBA player as should the combat. Your character has a basic attack on top of 4 abilities. Each character starts at level one and as they fight, they gain experience that will level them up and upgrade their abilities.

Now from my experience with Hyper Universe, I didn't choose which abilities I upgraded when I leveled up. It seemed that they were on a preset path for upgrade as I played. I'm not sure if this was just because we were playing a controlled build of the game or if this will be something that makes it to the release version of the game. If this is representative of the final release version, I'm not sure that I am terribly upset.

As someone who finds MOBAs to be pretty confusing when it comes to the ability upgrades, having a preset upgrade path for my character was pretty nice. Instead of just selecting some random skill or having to pull up a character upgrade guide, I could just keep focused on playing the game and staying in the action. It was a nice feeling.

Speaking of upgrade paths, there is an item build system in the game. When you start, you choose a set of items that you will have available to you as you play. For the game I played, my character had a pre-built item set that as I played I could purchase a new item or upgrade it. You have the option of choosing to purchase your own items at will or the game has an auto-buy and upgrade path for your items.  Again, I found the automatic system to be quite nice as figuring out item builds is another hassle I've had with other MOBAs. All of these automated systems allowed me to keep focused on the action and keep on playing.

As a whole the game felt awesome to play. I played the support character, Pinky. Pinky seemed to specialize in slowing her enemies so her allies could just come in and do the real damage. She also had a pretty nice area heal ability that came in handy at times, especially in a team fight.

Watching the fights move from level to level and grouping up really made for a great gameplay experience. Hyper Universe really shines when you're in those team fights. As the support character, it was really fun to get into those fights by getting to stun enemies, and then watch my team come in to secure the kills I just set up. In other MOBAs, I usually ended up feeling like a hindrance to my team, but here it actually felt like I was helping which felt great. On top of all of this, it took no time to get a grasp on how the game functioned so I was getting in there on the action and felt like I actually knew what I was doing.

If you've been keeping away from the MOBA genre because of the steep learning curve, Hyper Universe will probably be the one you may want to get in on. The fast paced nature of the game and unique gameplay mechanics are really something awesome to experience. I know that I can't wait to get back into playing it and will be keeping my eye on this game.

What do you think? Is a side-scrolling MOBA something that you want to try? Let me know in the comments!

Published Feb. 3rd 2017

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