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Hero shooters like Overwatch, Valorant, and Apex Legends have dominated the broader shooter genre for years. The format—with an array of distinctive, differently-abled characters to choose from and specialize in—is so tried and tested that any game entering the sub-genre risks being labeled as a copycat… or worse, stale.
But The Machines Arena, currently running in a closed beta period, puts a fresh twist on the hero shooter formula. It takes a top-down perspective while keeping features that avid fans may recognize from other games.
Once the game is fully released, in-game achievements can be minted as digital NFT collectibles on the Ronin network—the same Ethereum sidechain network that Axie Infinity uses. This is completely optional, and there will be "zero NFT sales outside of the game," claims Directive Games Chief Product Officer, Kent Byers.
Currently the game is available on PC only, but a mobile version of the game is due to release later this year. We went hands-on with the closed beta on PC; watch the video above or keep reading for our take on this promising Web3 game.
In The Machines Arena multiplayer, there are two game modes: Push Back and Detonation. Push Back is very similar to Overwatch's Escort game mode, in which two teams battle it out to see who can push the payload the furthest. Meanwhile, in Detonation, one team must plant and then set off a bomb on two separate sites.
You currently have nine characters to choose from in three different classes: tank, support, and assault. My personal favorites to play are Pyro, Nightcore, and Zulu.
Pyro is a tanky robot with a flamethrower strapped to his arm. It feels awesome to lead the line, soaking up damage and enabling everyone else’s abilities before you hose the enemy down with a flamethrower.
Nightcore is a stealthy assassin with a fun ability that lets you clone yourself while you become invisible. Your clone attacks for only half your usual damage, so you can use this as an aggressive ability, as well as a tool to get out of tight situations.
Meanwhile, Zulu is your typical shoot-'em-up character with all his abilities focused on killing the opponent—explosive rounds and two different airstrikes. This was the character I got the most kills with, by far.
All of these mentioned features will be very familiar to anyone who has played Overwatch before, but the top-down element gives this experience a different vibe.
I've never played a top-down shooter that has competition at its core. For this reason, I think The Machines Arena could hold a really unique position as an esport in the future. A quick glance at the game’s Twitter shows that the community agrees. A mini tournament has already been hosted, and there are clips of players teaming up to strategize while playing the game.
Machines Arena also has a tidy single-player mode called Death Run, which turns the game into a more traditional top-down blaster. You spawn in with no abilities; not even a weapon. It's your job to earn money through killing waves of enemies, which gradually allow you to purchase weapons, abilities, and upgrades.
Death Run is super entertaining, and I can see people playing this game simply for this game mode—especially since the best players can land on a global scoreboard. Unfortunately, you can't currently play with friends, but I think a co-op mode would be a lot of fun.
There are some small annoyances amid the current beta—menu quirks, like Death Run not clearly being labeled a single-player mode, as well as too-small player gamertags during matches. The latter can make it difficult to coordinate with a friend.
Again, these are small details that are easily ironed out by the time this game is out of closed beta. Overall, though, I'm very impressed with this game.
The Machines Arena takes a unique approach to a subgenre that has honed some of the most popular shooter games of the past 10 years. At times, it perfectly walks the line of being fresh while familiar, creating a very fulfilling gaming experience.
I'm really excited to see what this game has in store next as it emerges from closed beta and hopefully finds a sizable audience to keep the servers packed with eager competition. And hopefully we see a ranked mode in the mix then to really hone in on the competitive aspect of this game.