In­jus­tice 2

Can a fight­ing game sur­vive the ef­fects of a ran­dom loot sys­tem?


PS4, Xbox One

De­vel­oper NetherRealm Stu­dios Pub­lisher Warner Bros For­mat PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin US Re­lease May 16

“We’re al­ways try­ing to ac­com­plish some­thing that’s ac­ces­si­ble right out of the box”

The great and seem­ingly ir­rec­on­cil­able chal­lenge for fight­ing-game mak­ers is how to al­low new­com­ers to feel briskly com­pe­tent at a game while si­mul­ta­ne­ously af­ford­ing the afi­ciona­dos with suf­fi­cient depth and nu­ance. NetherRealm Stu­dios’ out­put skews to­ward the for­mer group. There are no com­pli­cated SNK-style joy­stick in­can­ta­tions in its pre­vi­ous ti­tle Mor­tal Kom­bat X. Like­wise, in In­jus­tice 2, the stu­dio’s sec­ond DC-uni­verse fight­ing game, even the most de­mand­ing spe­cial moves need only a few di­rec­tional taps be­fore they ex­plode across the screen.

The game’s chances at earn­ing a slot in a ma­jor fight­ing-game tour­na­ment may be stymied fur­ther by a new and labyrinthine gear sys­tem. At the end of each match you’re awarded with ran­dom loot, typ­i­cally pieces of ar­mour and weaponry that can be used to im­prove or cus­tomise the playstyle of your hero. Each of the char­ac­ters has four slots for ar­mour and one for an ac­ces­sory. These pieces have their own buffs and stat up­grades that are spread across four at­tributes: strength, de­fence, health and abil­i­ties (for ex­am­ple, you may choose to equip Bat­man with a spe­cial batarang, or fo­cus on par­ries and eva­sions).

Each piece of ar­mour, of which there are dozens per char­ac­ter, comes with no less than 20 colour schemes. The blend of shaders and buffs will en­sure that no two char­ac­ters that meet on­line are en­tirely alike. Ac­ces­sories change the look and feel of the weaponry, adding, for ex­am­ple, knots and pro­tru­sions to Swamp Thing’s club. As well as a weapon’s look, these as­set swaps also al­ter its sta­tis­ti­cal at­tributes – which is, as any fight­ing-game de­signer will tell you, a balanc­ing night­mare.

“We do have a fully bal­anced mode in­tended for com­pet­i­tive play. Play­ers can carry over vi­su­als of the gear sys­tem, but stats are flat­tened so that both play­ers are on an even play­ing field,” says NetherRealm’s Brian

Good­man. This will be an on­line mode, as well as an off­line op­tion for tour­na­ment use. “For on­line play we have a sys­tem that will ar­ti­fi­cially match play­ers of sim­i­lar stats.”

To fur­ther com­pli­cate the sys­tem, in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ters can be lev­elled up as you progress through the game’s var­i­ous play modes, which, in ad­di­tion to the main story, in­clude so-called Mul­ti­verses – shorter cam­paigns that are sub­ject to spe­cial rules and re­stric­tions (some of which will be de­liv­ered as timed events). On­line, char­ac­ter lev­els will be mit­i­gated, Good­man claims, so that a level 15 Bat­man will be able to face-off against a level five Har­ley Quinn with­out the re­sult be­ing a fore­gone con­clu­sion. The gear and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing stats, how­ever, will re­main present, so that there is an ad­van­tage to the player who has been play­ing for longer, un­less their op­po­nent has been par­tic­u­larly lucky and ac­quired pow­er­ful gear early on.

These are some­what par­al­lel is­sues to those be­ing faced by Mar­vel Vs Cap­com In­fi­nite, which uses a gem sys­tem to al­low play­ers to cus­tomise and al­ter the movesets of clas­sic char­ac­ters. But in In­jus­tice 2, the po­ten­tial gulf be­tween a high-level char­ac­ter with top-tier gear and a new­comer is far greater.

The way in which gear is en­coun­tered is far from straight­for­ward, too. Some gear will drop ran­domly, post match, through­out every mode (these items can even be equipped in the af­ter­math screen). Over­watch- style loot crates, known as Mother Boxes, are awarded to you when you com­plete a Mul­ti­verse event. The more suc­cess­ful you were in the event, the higher the level of the box’s con­tents. You earn in-game cur­rency through play, which can be used to buy Mother Boxes out­right, while you also earn spe­cial loot via daily chal­lenges. For a game that prides it­self on ac­ces­si­bil­ity, the mix­ture of ran­domised and di­rected re­ward sys­tems is a lit­tle be­wil­der­ing.

“I think at this point NetherRealm Stu­dios has es­tab­lished its style, both in terms of a fight­ing game and a hyper-real aes­thetic,” Good­man says. “We’re al­ways try­ing to ac­com­plish some­thing that’s ac­ces­si­ble right out of the box, so any­one can do cool things, but we also want to make sure there’s depth there.” It’s an am­bi­tion that In­jus­tice 2 may strug­gle to meet, its sim­plis­tic core nes­tled in­side an overly com­plex su­per­struc­ture.

Each of the 20 colour-scheme shaders that can be ap­plied to weapons and ar­mour have been, the stu­dio claims, mined from DC comic-book his­tory, to en­sure a cer­tain de­gree of con­sis­tency be­tween game and canon

Brian Good­man, mar­ket­ing games man­ager, NetherRealm Stu­dios

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