Hyper Universe Review: The Lights Are On, but No One's Home
Developed by Nexon for the North American market, Hyper Universe is a free-to-play 2D action MOBA wherein two teams, chosen from an eclectic cast of over 40 characters, clash for the sole purpose of destroying their opponent’s base.
Nexon wedges into the saturated MOBA universe with two side-scrolling, mechanically identical arenas: the futuristic Delta Station and medieval fantasy Dragon Refuge. The uninspired approach to PvP combat, combined with recycled navigation tactics (e.g. ladders, teleports, springs, and dashes), dominates the look and feel of Hyper Universe, but fails to drown the extensive roster that offers a playing style (and aesthetic choice) for every gamer.
While no two characters feel the same, the cast, regardless of role, wields an arsenal of six unique abilities, including an ultimate, that can be activated by pressing A, Q, W, E, and R to fire off a series of devastating combos, or lack thereof, to forge through enemy defenses toward the Final Defense Turret. The key orientation can be a bit awkward, especially for those used to clicking or using W, A, S, and D to move; however, key binds can be edited in the user settings, and players can also opt to use a game controller.
Ability execution is seamless and complemented by a cooldown timer. The interface is predominantly free from obstruction, though upgrading equipment with gold collected from downing enemies seems to put an unreasonable onus on players to have a working knowledge of the various stat improvements. More competitive players can preset several equipment configurations, though they are restricted to one per match.
Unlike other MOBAs where teams may rely on brute strength, Hyper Universe encourages social strategy to complete objectives; lone players are primarily unable to charge lanes without a teammate’s support. It’s apparent some classes require nerfing, as unbalanced characters may experience gross respawn times that, when combined with a player detracting from the map’s main objective, all but guarantees defeat.
Connecting to the HyperNet does pose an issue. Players queuing for regular or AI matches are paired regardless of experience or level, with some wait times exceeding 30 minutes. Stepping away from the computer, even briefly, can cause some to miss the 10-second ready check, resulting in a requeue. The community is exceptionally small, so the odds of entering a match are entirely dependent on peak playing hours (unless you organize a custom match). With the absence of a central storyline, players are left with testing new kits in Training Mode, as doing so in regular PvP is ill-advised.
There are four servers — North America, South America, Europe, and Asia — that players will be asked to choose ad nauseam. Victims of recurring lag will have their character replaced with an AI when disconnecting from the server, which, for better or worse, will impact the match’s results, as well as your performance history.
The odds and ends: Hyper Universe’s achievement and crafting systems are forgettable. Playing characters and completing story-based objectives, such as adding them to your roster or winning a series of matches, unlocks text interactions that fail to bring the intensity of the game’s combat system. With no central playable thread to hold the lore together, interactions fail to hold any real significance. The incentive to completing story achievements is to stock up on in-game currency that can be used to buy new hypers and equipment.
Players can grind for crafting materials to make skins, equipment, equipment slots, emotes, and emblems, or skip the hassle altogether and purchase the desired items using cash directly. But with such long match queues, it begs the question: why spend the money on something I may not be able to use?
Hyper Universe unjustly maintains relevance on the back of its roster, which overall lacks a genuine diversity. The character models, packed with a trove of inspired skins, are not indicative of their intended meta, or are otherwise wholly clichéd; however, where the hypers lack refinement, the game makes up for in polished combat arenas. Transitions are smooth, abilities are executed clearly and believably, and enemy bosses, such as the Dragon, are particular standouts.
The soundtrack is limited but maintains the upbeat, battle-inspired, futuristic tone Hyper Universe sets out to achieve. Sound effects mirror their animations in degree and quality.
Nexon’s foray into the MOBA genre with Hyper Universe is far from revolutionary. The gameplay is enjoyable, but it lacks the stamina to hold up against its competitors. While the mechanics, arenas, and soundtrack may devolve into a passive, albeit comfortable, numbness, players will return to wreak havoc each week with their favorite hyper. The game’s strongest selling point is that it remains free to play. Implementing any subscription service will surely erase whatever remaining players populate its servers. Only new maps, a compelling storyline, and iconic heroes will allow Hyper Universe to realize its fullest potential.
Hyper Universe is available on Steam. You can watch a trailer for the game below: