Monday Night Combat had a nice aesthetic that captured the feel of a sports show, with an intriguing (and slightly scary) game world, and interesting if somewhat flawed gameplay that was at least worth a look.
Too bad there is exactly one (1) dedicated server still running.
This game was basically a third-person shooter/MOBA hybrid with tower defense elements. (The free-to-play, pay-to-win sequel Super Monday Night Combat - which is currently only slightly less abandoned and which suffered from technical issues - was even more MOBA-like.)
Players chose from one of six classes that each played different roles, and money collected on the battlefield or earned from kills could be used to build turrets and upgrade player abilities. The range of mechanics available to the player was a bit confusing for newcomers even if less complex than any actual MOBA, especially when veteran TPS/MOBA players found the game more intuitive.
The two main modes were Blitz, which saw you and your team defending your Moneyball against hordes of robots, and Crossfire, which pitted your team against another team in a 6v6 game to destroy the other team's Moneyball with the help of allied robots; more or less DotA as a shooter.
The tutorial was basic: it only taught the basics of gameplay and how to play one class. Players had to consult more in-depth guides in order to effectively learn about the game.
MNC's world was briefly glimpsed yet revealing: it painted a picture of a totalitarian, consumerist society akin to the Roman Empire that hinted at darker aspects of our own, where the downtrodden lower classes watch the Monday Night Combat show for cheap thrills.
The game's cartoony graphics weren't so stellar, even when maxed out, but they served their purpose, and you wouldn't really have played this for the graphics anyway. Player customization was pretty good though, letting players choose outfits for the classes and pick a title to display gained from completing in-game achievements, such as killing a certain number of enemies. And the characters (that is to say the Pros) had some nice diversity going on - a Hawaiian, an African-American, and a woman comprised three of the six characters.
Overall, despite some flaws, the game was fun enough to earn a decently sized playerbase back in the day.
Okay, you're probably curious about my use of past tense, not to mention my implying the game is dead. Well...
Official servers were shut down in 2012. The playerbase relies on two Steam groups
to gather players for matches either on the lone public server or temporary private ones, and you can bet that most of their small number are skilled enough to utterly stomp newer players.
There's single-player Blitz available, but there is no single-player Crossfire with AI players, which means that the Crossfire-related achievements are pretty much extremely difficult to get - and are practically no longer attainable without farming. And that's terrible.
So what happened to Monday Night Combat?
Lack of support is the most obvious problem. Microsoft wouldn't let developers Uber Entertainment update the 360 version, and they ran out of money to keep updating the PC version. The small team of devs had to jump through a lot of hoops just to get the game released. This led to disengagement from the community and an inability to address their concerns.
Polygon ran an article
on them that illustrates these problems; it's worth reading if you're curious.
Tying into the inability to be engaged with and work on the game, MNC's balance wasn't all that good either from what I can tell. Skilled Snipers and Assaults were difficult to counter. Cheesy tactics abounded, such as excessive use of ricocheting weapons and sniping turrets from outside their range rendering them somewhat ineffective for point defense.
The ability for players to supercharge, and the use of what was basically a doomsday weapon located in the center of every arena, meant a losing team could effectively blunt the winning team if they gained the upper hand. Hackers were a problem, the lack of community development tools/an SDK was a different problem; Tanks, Gunners and grapples were borderline overpowered off the bat, while the Assassin was apparently underpowered.
The only way you can really play this game now is to host your own server and gather a group of friends to play on it. I suppose that since this game originally came out in 2010, it could only have lasted for so long. It's a shame the devs didn't include player AI for Crossfire mode - even with its flaws, that's the one thing that would have ultimately saved this game from its ignoble death.
At least Uber Entertainment survived, and would go on to create the large-scale RTS Planetary Annihilation
- another flawed yet interesting game.
The little time I spent with Monday Night Combat was pretty fun, and it certainly had potential. The main menu song
was pretty good, at any rate. But I really cannot recommend it.
Oh, well. The TF2 promo items were nice.