Rise of the Incarnates Hands-On Preview
With the announcement of their free-to-play 2v2 fighting game, Rise of the Incarnates, Bandai Namco is aiming to create a major esport while avoiding making the game pay-to-win.
The Rise of the Incarnates demo at its Global Gamers Day 2014 in Las Vegas showcased four playable characters, referred to as incarnates. Each of these incarnates is able to harness the mythical powers of one of four immortals: Ares, The Grim Reaper, Lilith, and Mephistopheles. Three of those characters were able to shift into the role of the mythological character, while Ares was instead summoned to join the character in battle.
When I sat down to my hands-on demo, I knew very little about the game. While I had seen a teaser trailer showing the four characters duking it out in post-apocalyptic New York City, that did nothing to prepare me for actually playing the game. Picking up the controller, I chose the character I thought looked the coolest — The Grim Reaper. Grim is a zany looking character armed with a sickle that’s lined with a chainsaw blade. I could imagine him being related to Doc Brown just as easily as I could imagine him being related to Heihachi. While his bacon-wrapped hotdog of a weapon was very appealing, it was the way he rode waves of undead bodies as if he were Kelly Slater that sold me on him.
Now that I’d chosen my Incarnate, I loaded into a match and immediately started mashing all the buttons, just like I do the first time I play any fighting game. Despite me chaotically mashing random button combinations with all the speed I could muster, my two person team lost.
While this experience didn’t really pique my interest in the game, a presentation by the game’s creators, as well as a question-and-answer session later that day gave me a new perspective on it.
At its heart, Rise of the Incarnates wants the player to strategize with their teammate rather than rush the enemy. The different characters each have skillsets that alone make for a very vulnerable fighter, but when each is paired with a complimentary character, they become much more formidable.
For example, when the player embodies Mephistopheles, they deliver relentless up-close melee damage. While that’s very useful, the problem is being rudely interrupted by a second foe — Mephistopheles’ up-close nature makes him vulnerable to being outflanked. This is where your teammate, who has just summoned Ares, will come in handy. Ares can attack from a distance, relieving Mephistopheles from the burden of watching his own back.
After seeing the developer presentation, I got a second chance to play Rise of the Incarnates. After trying out each of the different characters and becoming more familiar with the controls, I found myself having a lot more fun than in my first attempt. Now that I knew I could tab between targets, I was able to focus more on the battlefield and better support my teammate. Instead of being panicked and having tunnel vision, I was better able to see the big picture. There was a palpable sense of triumph as I summoned Ares and provided defense to my teammate as they used the brimstone-fuelled power of Mephistopheles to pummel that little butterfly girl Lillith.
The only location we were shown was the New York City arena, which honestly felt pretty bland. It consists of an open center area with its most noticeable set piece being a big diesel truck with the gas tanker rigged up. We were promised many more locations when the game is released, like Paris, San Francisco and London, but I would like to have been assured that these arenas would be more diverse in structure and style than the open coliseum we saw in the New York stage.
Obviously, the first concern with any free-to-play title is, “How are they going to monetize it?” As soon as a game becomes pay-to-win, all chances of breaking into the esports world are over. Rise of the Incarnates’ developers plan to make money by selling cosmetic enhancements to the characters, as well as the option to buy new characters. These new characters will also be available in a free rotation that was not specifically explained, except to say that it would be different than the champion rotation players have seen in the MOBA League of Legends.
Fast fighting and sharp strategic teamwork may sound like the perfect recipe for competitive gameplay, but Rise of the Incarnates’ success will truly depend upon the ingredients the players bring into the mix. If gamers approach this game the same way I did upon first sight, it will never make it to its first esport season. However, if Bandai Namco gets the message out to gamers that Rise of the Incarnates is more about complimenting your partner in battle than stringing together a series of combos, we may very well have a brand new title in the growing esport library later this year.
Rise of the Incarnates is set to release in the second half of 2014.