In the ruins of New York, the Incarnates are battling it out. Formerly normal humans, they’ve now been given the powers of gods or demons, and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance as they battle it out in two-on-two matches.
That’s the premise for Rise of Incarnates, and it’s one Bandai Namco really hopes you’ll like. Built specifically for the Western audience, the fighting game/shooter hybrid nevertheless utilizes a 2v2 format that is not very well known outside of Japan, where games like Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. are big hits.
According to the development team, there’s a psychology at play that makes 2v2 games more accessible than regular fighting games. In the latter, the more skilled player wins over 90 percent of the time. But with the right partner, even less experienced people can win in 2v2 — and if not, they can always blame their partners for the losses.
Executive producer Ryuichiro Baba says the synergy between players is what makes the game mechanics intriguing.
“Obviously it’s Gundam in Japan, so there’s a lot of popularity just from that combination,” Baba said at Bandai Namco’s Global Gamers Day. “But it’s not just from the Gundam aspect, it’s that aspect of partnership between you and the other person in 2v2. We felt there was a lot more to explore there. It’s not as much about personal skill, but how you work as a team.”
That proved true in my two play sessions, where I died each time but was still able to do enough to help my more experienced teammate to victory. The fighting game elements definitely overshadow the shooter parts (I was told that won’t be true for every character), but they were also trickier to master. As a result, I mostly hung back and hurled ranged attacks at opponents engaged hand-to-hand with my partner.
“All characters can do melees, but also ranged weapon attacks,” Baba said. “So you can shoot from afar, and you can hide behind objects — not a real Gears of War type of cover, but out of the line of fire and such. So the positioning and strategy involve not only you and your opponent at a distance, but also your partner. What they’re doing and how you back them up is really important in this format as well.”
Only four of the planned 20 characters — Mephistopheles, Ares, Lilith and the Grim Reaper — were playable in Las Vegas. All characters will either be summoners, capable of calling in divine or demonic entities for super attacks, or be able to transform themselves into more powerful forms. I didn’t witness these abilities while playing, but the B-roll footage of the Grim Reaper literally riding a wave of undead minions looked very cool.
Baba wouldn’t spill the beans on the story behind Rise of Incarnates, but other members of the team were a little more forthcoming. The game is set in the near future, after a disaster or “core event.” Gods and demons from various pantheons all seek to take advantage of the ensuing chaos for their own ends, manifesting themselves through humans that are transformed into Incarnates.
There are no RPG elements in the game, so Bandai America is releasing free digital comics to provide more information on the game world. New issues will come out monthly, and they are planned out pretty far as a developer told Gamesided that there are “more than 12” issues.
What else did we learn? The battlegrounds will be real world cities, though no one would confirm any besides New York and Paris. It doesn’t appear that players will have to pay to unlock characters, as the monetization system was described as “customization items and pay-for-time.” Regular tournaments and events will supplement the normal play modes, which will include the option to play against bots for practice. Sign-ups for the alpha, which should kick off in late spring or early summer, are already in progress.
There are big expectations for Rise of Incarnates, but it looks like it has the potential to live up to them. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all be a lot more familiar with 2v2 combat by this time next year.