Rise Of Incarnates
Anarchy reigns in this westernised jab at the team brawler
Gundam Vs, Bandai Namco’s two-ontwo fighting game series, is a stalwart of the Japanese arcade scene. Yet these games – as well as the style of tight-knit team play that they’ve popularised in so many Shinjuku basements – are virtually unknown in the west. Ryuichiro Baba has worked on the Gundam Vs series for a decade and was executive producer on Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs, and he believes the medium has been the problem, not the message. So, in the absence of a vibrant western arcade scene, he intends to bring this idiosyncratic type of competitive fighting game overseas via PC instead. The result is Rise Of Incarnates, a free-to-play brawler that’s being developed by Baba alongside veterans of Namco’s flagship Tekken and Soul Calibur series.
Baba first conceived the idea for a western-centric competitive online brawler three years ago. He then spent 18 months convincing Bandai Namco’s management of its potential, carrying out market research in London and other key cities. “A lot of research went into the character designs to ensure that they weren’t going to turn off the western players,” he says. “We had to prove that the game would be commercially viable as best we could. And we also spent a great deal of time on the mechanics themselves.” Indeed, while the game shares strategic similarities with Gundam Vs, its aesthetic and fine details are distinctive.
In other words, there are no big stomping robots. Gundam’s sci-fi trappings are gone, too, with Rise Of Incarnates set in a series of derelict real-world cities, each one bordered by piles of smashed cars and concrete. There are four playable characters – the eponymous supernatural incarnates – at this pre-alpha stage, each of which has access to a powerful otherworldy form. The designs are typically outlandish for a game that, despite its global intentions, remains firmly rooted in anime tradition. The mad researcher Dr Gasper Watteau, for instance, can morph into the Grim Reaper incarnate, and wields a scythe lined with a chainsaw blade while surfing along on a tidal wave of corpses.
Strategy derives from the way in which two players work together, either choosing to focus their efforts by ganging up on a single opponent or spreading their attention across both rivals by marking one character each. The combination of chosen fighters alters strategy and, at the moment at least, it’s possible for both players to pick the same fighter. If both opt for Lilith, for example, a purple siren who can streak into the air on butterfly wings, it becomes a game of maintaining distance while showering down locked-on range attacks. Conversely, if both choose Mephistopheles, a powerful rage demon, then they must keep their opponents in reach to make use of his melee attacks. As more characters are added to the roster, new complementary options should open up.
Baba is keen to position Rise Of Incarnates as a game that will support high-level competitive play. “We have a great deal of experience in eSports,” he says. “We know that there are star players and that their tactics influence the masses who follow, so we’re trying to encourage and facilitate that.” Nevertheless, there is a balance to be struck, especially for a novel type of genre outside of Japan, and a game that Baba is hoping will attract a wide demographic.
He and his team have studied League Of Legends and other popular PC-based free-toplay titles that successfully blend a broad base appeal with staggering strategic depth. “It’s important that the game is easy to pick up and play,” he says. “For that reason, we’ve standardised the controls for each character, even though abilities are varied. But even so, you’ll find it’s very hard to beat us, because we have mastered timing, combinations and cooperation. The opportunity for mature strategy and expression is crucial. That’s what will appeal to the top-tier players.”
Ryuichiro Baba, executive producer