Rise Of In­car­nates

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/devel­oper Bandai Namco For­mat PC Re­lease Out now

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When the end of the world ar­rives, what bet­ter way to pass the time than with a brawl on civil­i­sa­tion’s em­bers? In Rise Of In­car­nates, the first free-to-play Steam re­lease from a team of de­sign­ers drawn from the Tekken and Soul-Cal­ibur tal­ent pool, hu­man­ity’s ru­ined cap­i­tal cities cer­tainly pro­vide a dra­matic back­drop. The Lon­don Eye tilts dis­ap­prov­ingly at the fra­cas un­fold­ing on the far side of a col­lapsed Westminster Bridge, while the dis­em­bod­ied head of the Statue Of Lib­erty glares at the air bat­tles brought to New York by this cast of anime-styled in­vaders. As with Gun­dam Vs – Bandai Namco’s two-on-two, arena-based fight­ing game, which re­mains highly pop­u­lar in Ja­panese ar­cades – this idio­syn­cratic brawler lacks the pre­ci­sion of Street Fighter and makes fewer phys­i­cal de­mands of its play­ers. But matches are bold and mem­o­rable, and there’s no short­age of mind games to be found within.

Most be­gin in much the same way: each team mem­ber (which can be a bot or a hu­man) picks a tar­get, locks on and streaks to­wards them over the rub­ble and over­turned cars. The two si­mul­ta­ne­ous fights find their own space in the arena, un­til some­one defeats their op­po­nent and is freed up to jump into their part­ner’s scuf­fle. When fight­ing along­side one another, char­ac­ters are able to ex­e­cute pow­er­ful tag com­bos that can dev­as­tate a fighter. Teams also share a pool of ‘stocks’ – six in to­tal – which are de­pleted each time a com­peti­tor is knocked out and respawns. This means a weak part­ner can prove un­usu­ally de­struc­tive to a team’s chances, even when paired with a com­pe­tent player, since their losses will quickly drain the shared re­source.

The cam­era al­ways tar­gets one of your en­e­mies, and you can switch the view be­tween them quickly with a tap of a but­ton (the en­vi­ron­ment it­self has lit­tle bear­ing on the ac­tion; you can’t, for ex­am­ple, send fallen ma­sonry fly­ing at your foes). A dou­ble-tap of the jump but­ton also sends your char­ac­ter into a dis­tance-clos­ing dash, the length of which can be ex­tended by hold­ing the but­ton down, a ma­noeu­vre that re­duces the amount of time spent trudg­ing across size­able are­nas. As such, each match has a rapid-fire pace. You must re­main con­stantly aware of your po­si­tion in re­la­tion to your team­mate and op­po­nents to en­sure you’re not flanked, caus­ing the ac­tion to swirl around the arena.

Re­gard­less of which of the 12 launch char­ac­ters you choose, or their par­tic­u­lar bal­ance of speed and health, their movesets share a com­mon struc­ture: a mix­ture of ranged at­tacks, which deal a low amount of dam­age but are use­ful for ap­ply­ing pres­sure or links into com­bos, and bread-and-but­ter melee strikes. The but­ton con­fig­u­ra­tion is stream­lined and sim­ple, but not, on the whole, at the ex­pense of flex­i­bil­ity or nu­ance. Di­rec­tional in­puts on an ana­logue stick act as mod­i­fiers to close-quar­ters moves, turn­ing ba­sic at­tacks into guard breaks and eva­sive ma­noeu­vres, which can be com­bined to cre­ate rich and var­ied strings of at­tacks.

To avoid turn­ing each match into a fran­tic, but­ton-mashing tus­sle, there’s an ac­tion gauge that de­pletes each time you per­form an aerial dash or at­tack. If this is emp­tied, you will be left tem­po­rar­ily vul­ner­a­ble. To add fur­ther im­po­si­tion, ranged at­tacks and your spe­cial moves – which de­pend on your char­ac­ter but in­clude wide shots, stuns and the abil­ity to be­come in­vis­i­ble – have sep­a­rate ‘ammo’ gauges. Once de­pleted, you must wait for these to re­fill over time be­fore you can per­form the cor­re­spond­ing at­tack again.

Many of the game’s com­bat­ants are able to trans­form dur­ing bat­tle into more pow­er­ful myth­i­cal forms, known as Dai­mones. Close-quar­ters brawler Je­drek Tyler can be­come Mephistophe­les, a flam­ing horned de­mon that wields a mag­i­cal sword. Brad Bur­rell, a heavy archer, trans­forms into Fen­rir, a white wolf adorned with glow­ing chains. ‘Awak­ened’ forms of­fer var­i­ous buffs and up­grades, such as quicker and more pow­er­ful at­tacks as well as other sup­ple­men­tary abil­i­ties. The trans­for­ma­tion is tem­po­rary and there is a sig­nif­i­cant cooldown on the abil­ity, so choos­ing the right mo­ment in the flow of bat­tle to use it is cru­cial.

The stu­dio clearly hopes the game will be adopted as a com­pet­i­tive eS­port. While fights are far scrap­pier and more ri­otous than most of the fight­ing games you’ll see at an EVO tour­na­ment, the game does ac­com­mo­date higher-level play tech­niques such as dodge at­tacks, dash can­cels and those tag com­bos. Like­wise, its mon­eti­sa­tion model fo­cuses on char­ac­ter ac­cess and cus­tomi­sa­tion, rather than bal­ance-spoil­ing up­grades. The first char­ac­ter is free for­ever and, as in League Of Le­gends, each week two ad­di­tional char­ac­ters are made avail­able for ev­ery­one to try out in a free ro­ta­tion.

As the free-to-play style guide dic­tates, the game uses two cur­ren­cies, one ac­crued through play and the other bought with real-world money. It’s pos­si­ble to buy ac­cess to new char­ac­ters with ei­ther type, although the cost of each suc­ces­sive pur­chase is cranked up dra­mat­i­cally if you stick to the in-game cur­rency. Else­where, Bandai Namco is clearly hop­ing that the game will in­spire play­ers to cus­tomise their char­ac­ters, with a heav­ing as­sort­ment of cos­tume items such as jew­ellery, hats, ban­dages, al­ter­nate colour schemes and ac­ces­sories of­fered up for pur­chase via hard cash.

Rise Of In­car­nates has al­ready drawn a size­able crowd of play­ers, some no doubt in­trigued by the nov­elty. But, for many of them, con­nec­tion is­sues and crashes have char­ac­terised the game’s early weeks. Such is­sues may prove calami­tous for a ti­tle that, when you do man­age to con­nect, of­fers breezy and straight­for­ward, if slightly un­re­fined and chaotic, brawl­ing. It is its maker’s most suc­cess­ful free-to-play en­deav­our to date, even if that is to damn it with faint praise.

Fights are far scrap­pier and more ri­otous than most of the fight­ing games you’ll see at an EVO tour­na­ment

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