Mastering Gigantic is rough, but rewarding

If you walk into Gigantic knowing nothing, prepare to walk out feeling like you know even less. The new semi-shooter, semi-RPG, semi-MOBA title from developer Motiga focuses on an eclectic mix of warriors battling to protect their chosen guardian, the gargantuan mythical creatures from which Gigantic gets its name. That seems simple enough at first - but once you actually sit down play it yourself, you realize how many moving parts it has (and how unprepared you really are, in my case).

To get a grip on the more intricate parts of Gigantic, you'll first have to master the basics. The game sports sixteen playable characters for you to choose from (though they won't all be in the beta releasing this August), all with different specialties. You're then assigned to one of two teams, both of which have a gigantic guardian master. The guardians will stay at opposite ends of the map for the bulk of the round, so they're basically the base you have to defend.

However, the point of the battle is to build your guardian's attack gauge, which you do by engaging the enemy and controlling the map. Once that gauge is full, your guardian will attack the enemy's, knocking their gauge back down and giving you an opening to attack. It takes time, but the ultimate goal is to kill the opposing guardian, which can only be done by keeping your own guardian safe and powered up. And when a single kill can mean the difference between a fully powered guardian and getting pummeled, it becomes a race to rack up points as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In order to reach that goal, you'll want to pick a hero whose specialty best matches your playstyle. Some are fairly straightforward, like a walking tank named HK-206 who fires barrages of bullets and turns into a stationary turret, or the sniper Imami who... snipes things. Others aren't immediately obvious, and if you choose to play as one of the more complex fighters, you'll be hamstrung in battle until you figure them out.

I, for instance, played as a fox archer named Voden, and found I was doing very little damage to anything. It wasn't until I saw a seasoned player take up Voden's bow that I realized the canidae could drop puddles of poison and shoot his arrows through the fumes, giving them a toxin boost and raising their damage in the process. The game doesn't broadcast that information for you, and the only way to figure it out is to look through your character's skill tree. The problem is, it never feels like you have time in the midst of a hectic battle.

That's only step one. After you've figured out the intricacies of your own character, you'll need to master the best way to utilize their strengths in the field. Planting sentient flowers that heal you and setting down literal watch dogs gives your guardian extra boosts, but it's not immediately clear how you do that or where they should go. Plus, you have to determine which allies best augment your skills, which upgrades to take as different trees unlock, when to favor offense or defense, and how to get your team to go along with your plans - all on the fly. Winning the advantage is a constant tug-o-war, and if you aren't prepared to handle all the moving pieces in each match, defeat is practically guaranteed.

Now, that description isn't meant to scare anyone away, or say the game is poorly balanced. When I stepped into the paws of my champion for the first time, surrounded by other players who had never touched the game before, it was mess as we all flailed around the battlefield shooting each other, never laying down a single boost, and never making it across the map in time to help our guardian wound the other.

But when I stepped back and watched more experienced players take the field, the result was a much better organized, more tactical affair, where battles were decided by split-second reactions rather than who could bumble around most effectively. Ultimately, Gigantic is a tricky beast to master, and you'll be running blind until you manage it. But once the game starts to speak to you, like a giant monster talking directly into your brain, that's when you feel you've received your hero's favor.