Posted on April 22, 2014 AT 09:00am
Hell on Earth
Last year, when I got to visit Akihabara during Tokyo Game Show, I stopped at one of the arcades to see what it would be like, especially since they’re becoming a thing of the past here in the West. I was surprised to see lines of people inside, but most were only there for a single game: Gundam Extreme VS.
Some folks were feeding in hundreds of yen (mind you, 100 yen is equal to around a dollar here in the U.S.) until their wallets ran dry on this one game based on the popular Gundam anime. The arcade cabinets were set up in bunches of four against every available wall, and players would get to choose a Gundam from a fighting-game-style menu and then battle, two to a side, in a massive arena. Familiar weapons from the series were constantly fired as buildings were wrecked and finally, the giant robot suits would fall. When both members of a team were eliminated, a winner was declared.
It was an interesting concept; constructing an action-shooter around only four players in a large showground and then having them battle 2-on-2. Most 2-on-2 games in the West are sports titles and a couple of fighting games, but I’d never seen anything on this scale. After trying a couple rounds myself, and having my butt summarily handed to me, I continued my trip, chalking it up to simply another unique experience in Japan.
Bandai Namco doesn’t think this kind of experience should be limited to Japan, though. Announcing as part of their commitment to free-to-play games, Bandai Namco revealed Rise of Incarnates at their Global Gamers Day. This free-to-play PC exclusive has pulled in developers from the Tekken and Soul Calibur teams, as well as executive producer Ryuichiro Baba from Gundam Extreme VS., to build a unique experience from the ground up that revolves around that 2-on-2 action-shooter combat, and that Bandai Namco hopes to launch in the second half of 2014.
Players take on the role of the titular “Incarnates,” humans who, in the wake of a great global tragedy, have found they can tap into mythical powers in the hope of reshaping the world. Feared and loathed by the remaining general populace, the Incarnates try to avoid persecution and being used against their will in the ongoing wars of man by remaining in isolation. One day, a mysterious voice whispers to them that, to avoid certain destruction, they must come together and strike down the Sovereign. Thus, their battle begins.
Pulling from myths and religions from around the world, Rise of Incarnates will feature 20-plus characters, but I was only able to choose from four for the demo. Mephistopheles is the German version of the devil and has many hellfire-and-brimstone-based powers. Ares, the Greek God of War, can summon enchanted armor and a massive sword to aid him in battle. Lilith, from Hebrew and Mesopotamian religions, draws you close before ripping you to shreds with her blinding speed. And finally, the Grim Reaper, who takes form in many religions and myths, is represented here as an old man carrying a giant scythe that can call zombies up from the ground beneath him to help overwhelm his opponents.
While I played Rise of Incarnates, I was quickly able to draw many parallels to Gundam Extreme VS. since they’re evident everywhere, especially in the gameplay. First, there’s no story mode. The game revolves completely around head-to-head combat, even if you choose to play by yourself and use three AI bots for the other characters in each match, giving it a similar arcade feel.
Once I was in the game, I personally chose to use Mephistopheles and then Lilith in my limited time as I fought in a destroyed section of midtown Manhattan. From their long-range attacks that whittle away a foe’s health bar to quick dashes to close the gaps for more melee-oriented action to the variety of powers and transformations for each Incarnate, the only difference I saw between the two games really was the more realistic character designs and aesthetic in Incarnates. While I did enjoy my time with the demo, when I was finished, I found myself walking away with more concerns for the title than I had going in.
Much like Gundam Extreme VS., Rise of Incarnates doesn’t really have that quick pick-up-and-play element that you want from a new experience. I felt that, with practice, I could learn the countless moves and transformations of each character, but for those first few matches, much like when I got slaughtered in Akihabara’s arcades, there was a steep learning curve, which makes me question the game’s viability and appeal in the West. Of course, since it’s a relatively new concept over here, early adopters could have an advantage as they learn the ropes together, but this only means that latecomers will, like myself, constantly get pummeled until they can catch up to the competition.
As my time with Rise of Incarnates came to a close, I was also promised that the game doesn’t use a pay-to-win model. In regards to monetization, the only things you’ll have to spend cash on are cosmetic changes to your characters, so at least the barrier for entry for your wallet is low. Whether or not that’ll be enough to rope westerners into this very Japanese concept, however, is yet to be seen.
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