PAX West 2022 - MetalCore by Infinite Games
Will the mech-based game stand on its own legs, or fall victim to its NFT underpinnings?
A light infantryman spawns in a dark military base. They get a quick grip of their surroundings and dash outside, towards the sounds of distant battle, only to be met with an enormous unmanned four-legged battle mech the size of a skyscraper. The infantryman hops into the driver’s seat and starts lumbering their way towards the sounds of war, bullets whizzing by, quicker two-legged mechs bounding past. After destroying a few mechs and neutralizing a few enemy infantrymen, the titanic mech becomes a target far too massive to miss, and is eventually torn to shreds by enemy fire, killing the operator.
Upon respawn, the humongous mech no longer towers over the battlefield, an empty stall sitting in its place. It’s gone for good, the tactical advantage of a giant tank along with it. The battle continues sans overpowered fire support, and the original infantryman’s faction loses the fight.
This was the first five or six minutes of gameplay I experienced and the premise in general for Infinite Games’ new free-to-play(F2P) open-world mech shooter MetalCore. A sizable crowd was drawn to the MetalCore booth at PAX West 2022, as their booth was accompanied by a huge statue of a mech towering over the dozen or so PCs playing local 5v5 matches within the convention. I was led to a small room under the statue, sitting down with Jon “Chainsaw” Cooper (Design Director for MetalCore) to give this new IP a try and get a little more in-depth discussion around the FPS mech shooter.
One thing is for certain - MetalCore is ambitious. The free-to-play shooter will include a massive open world with multiple playable factions, different infantry classes, a multitude of mechs to choose from and own - along with tanks and military planes, for good measure - and immense skirmishes and battles happening simultaneously throughout the map.
One of the more interesting aspects of MetalCore is how it handles which mechs are on the battlefield and at what time. Each player will be given their own garage which will house their various mech variants. The only thing is, these mechs aren’t permanent. Throughout each match, the player will be able to collect resources in order to craft and upgrade the mechs in their garage. This includes building new mechs and maintaining the ones you already own. If you decide to take a mech out for a spin during a battle and it gets destroyed, it will become unavailable until you repair it, spending those valuable resources.
On top of this, more blueprints can be earned or bought to create new mechs and craft upgrades. Mechs aren’t strictly necessary to fight in each battle, however. According to Jon, the devs spent ample time making sure that each unit has its place. Infantrymen are useless against the superior firepower and armor of mechs and tanks but are the only units available to go into buildings and capture points. Tanks and planes pack less of a punch and are generally weaker than their mech counterparts, but are far more maneuverable and faster than the mechs.
The mechs themselves also have multiple classes that play different roles in each encounter. The aforementioned tetrapod mech is an absolute beast and tears apart enemy armor, but it’s slow and genuinely the size of a building, making it a huge target. It works better in the background, raining hellfire down from afar, and providing fire support for the units in the front. The smaller, faster two-legged mechs pack way less of a punch but have the ability to skip over the battlefield and jump around the larger mech’s fire. Each piece has a part to play, and, from the short experience I had with the demo, what you do with the provided units really does make a critical difference.
The model of the game itself is an intriguing one as well. The map is a large open world, with three (possibly four) playable factions spread throughout the map. Each server is going to be enormous, and as players move throughout the map, skirmishes and battles will happen naturally. The size of the battles will be determined by the number of players in the area, with open spots being filled with AI-controlled bots. If done correctly, this model could lend itself to some seriously fun battles and some very good stories of factions conquering each other and vying for power. According to Jon, there will be an overarching story that follows the players through the skirmishes for those that want to partake in a more narrative-driven experience. For the most part, though, it seems the focus is on big, hectic battles.
And big, hectic battles they are. As I played against the others in the lobby right outside my little demo room, it was constant chaos. As soon as I got my giant mech, I decided to throw Jon's advice out the window and lumber straight into the middle of the action. As he said would happen, after I destroyed a few measly mechs, my hangar-bay-sized Goliath became the biggest target on the map, quickly getting torn to shreds. I didn’t eject in time and went down with the ship.
In this demo, it didn’t make much difference as another mech would be populated in the next map, but in the full release, I would have just lost that mech due to my reckless playstyle. It really put into perspective the importance of playing your class and following your role, as that mech would become unavailable to me until I repaired it in my garage after the battle. The guns are meaty and feel suitably devastating, especially in the mechs. The mechs themselves move in the way their design would entail. It feels very natural to bounce across the map in the two-legged mechs, just as much as it feels natural to crawl in the massive four-legged one. I tried flying a plane, but I immediately blew it up. That wasn’t the game’s fault: I’m just very bad at flying planes. After each death, I wanted to hop back in and experience more destruction and see more cool big mechs blow each other to smithereens. It’s chaotic, it’s fast-paced, and it’s really fun.
There’s one aspect of MetalCore that remains very controversial, however. MetalCore's F2P nature gives way to the usual caveats, with microtransactions on offer to purchase more resources. This will speed up the process of fixing and building your mechs, but Jon assured me that it’s totally possible to play Metalcore in its entirety without spending a dime - if you’re willing to put in the time. The controversial aspect of MetalCore, however, is that you’ll have the ability to mint your mechs on the blockchain, turning them into an NFT which can be bought and sold for real currency.
The initial reasoning I was given for this decision is a sound one. In games such as World of Warcraft, when you max out a character and complete all available quests, you can create a new character, but your old one sits unused. Hundreds or even thousands of hours of gameplay just sit on a menu screen, never to be used again. In MetalCore, you’re given the ability to turn your beefed-up, high-level mech into an NFT, and do with it what you please. If you want to give it to a friend who’s just starting out so they can have a fun overpowered mech to play with, you can do that. If you want to let a fellow faction member borrow your mech so the team can win a few more games because theirs isn’t up-to-snuff, go right ahead. If you just want to make some money from your hard-earned mechanical beast of destruction, you can do that. It gives utility and potential prosperity out of an otherwise static element of games like this, and on paper, it really isn’t a bad idea.
Obviously, there are a lot of potential problems with something like this. Scalpers, whales, and pay-to-win are a few that immediately come to mind. Jon assured me that they’re putting measures in place to keep these practices to a minimum, and to keep the playing field as even as possible throughout peoples’ time with MetalCore. Throughout the explanation provided by Jon and his team, he was adamant that these aspects of MetalCore are not necessary and are only there for people who feel like using them.
I truly hope that this is the case and that MetalCore finds its own way in the gaming world. Being that it’s a free-to-play game, there’s really only so much you can take issue with when it comes to business practices like this. If Infinite Games can find a way to implement these NFTs without it becoming a detriment to the gaming experience, MetalCore may find its place among the Warframes and the Genshin Impacts of the world. And for the sake of the title itself, I hope it does, because ultimately MetalCore is a fun and frantic competitive FPS with some really interesting ideas, it just remains to be seen whether or not the implementation of NFTs will stop these ideas from reaching their full potential.
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