The Machines is what you show your friends when they argue console-quality visuals just aren’t possible on mobile devices. The frenetic and fun new multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, created by Shanghai-based Directive Games, is the poster child for cutting-edge technology. Not only does the experience run on Unreal Engine 4 and Metal 2 with incredibly detailed graphics highlighted by dazzling texture and lighting effects, but everything screams at 120 frames per second on iPad Pro. For real.
Oh. And the entire game is built to take advantage of ARKit for augmented reality battles that unfold, quite literally, in your living room.
“AR technology adds a completely new dimension and depth to gaming,” says Directive Games CEO and cofounder Atli Mar Sveinsson. “For the first time, players have complete control of how they see a scene in a game, becoming the directors and deciding how content is experienced, which in turn results in incredibly innovative gameplay and opens many possibilities for the future.”
You take control of robot factions to do battle in a futuristic war that’s waged for 200 years and destroyed civilisation as we know it. The presentation is dark and gritty, the intuitive play style immediately recognisable to fans of the genre. As you deploy units across multiple battle lanes, you can redirect their movement on their path to destroy the enemy’s portals and base.
Of course, PvP action is great online, but the developer hopes the AR gameplay will nurture local tabletop warfare, too. There’s not only a deeper sense of immersion to be had as you navigate the real world to see your augmented battlefield up close, but the overall urgency of the engagement increases, too, because you can see your opponent doing the same thing. It’s also a lot easier to trash-talk someone close enough to touch.
The Machines is available with both a single-player mode so that you can practice your strategy, and real-time battle modes to show off your skills. Although straightforward combat is the focus out of the gate, Directive is already planning a roster of tournament modes.
“We are very proud of the visual fidelity we achieved not only for how the game looks but also for how it makes us feel when we play,” says Andrea Cesaro, COO and cofounder. “With the additional bonus that, if players are in the same room, they can battle together with AR and socialise in the same way as they did with good old board games.”
You can’t help but gasp at the detail and fidelity of the visuals when you zoom and pan around your first AR battle – trouble is, you’re in charge of these hulking great robots too, so you’d best concentrate and not just stand there agog. It takes canny strategy and a keen understanding of your units’ strengths and weaknesses to take out your opponents’ portals and base, but the action isn't so intense that you can’t also move around to marvel at the futuristic battlefield in front of you.
AR technology adds a completely new dimension and depth to gaming.
Atli Mar Sveinsson, CEO of Directive Games
You can battle opponents online, of course, but The Machines’ creators also hope real face-to-face battles become a big part of the experience too, in the same way board games bring people together (except with The Machines it’ll feel a million times more futuristic).
It also has a single-player mode useful for practice sessions. With continued play you can unlock more robots and perks to deploy on the battlefield. Developer Directive is already planning tournament modes, too, so it’s not merely a technical showcase; games in this genre are famed for their stupendous depth and long-term appeal.
The Machines has only just launched, of course, but tie all we’ve described into a neat bow and you’ve got one of the most fascinating new games to have arrived on the App Store in a long time.