While at Gamescom this week, I was lucky enough to have a sit down with the Ganeral Manager at Namco’s Production Department 5, Ryuichiro Baba. Baba is heading up the team behind an interesting new fighting game, Rise of Incarnates. Rise of Incarnates is no ordinary fighter though, it’s a bold new IP for Bandai Namco – a two-on-two battler that’s also free to play.
“Gamers in Japan have been enjoying 2v2 games for a while – games like Gundam Vs Extreme (a title Baba also worked on) – but they’re still largely unplayed in the West. I wanted to bring a taste of this genre to western audiences” Baba explained. “We felt making a free to play title on Steam would be the best way to reach as wide an audience as possible and introduce this kind of experience.”
Taking places in a ruined, real world scenario where you do battle in New York, Paris (and soon, London), Rise of Incarnates puts you in control of one of six characters, and you and one of your friends partner up to take on two adversaries. At first glance the game looks very fighter-like – with long flowing combos, but Baba was keen to point out that they wanted to keep the controls as simple as possible for Rise of Incarnates.
“For most fighting games, every character is different and have complex controls to master – for Rise of Incarnates the controls are simple, and standardised across each character, we also worked to make sure that it could be played comfortably on a pad, a mouse and keyboard and arcade stick too.” Baba told me.
Was he worried about alienating fighting game fans by ‘dumbing down the experience’?
“We’re aiming not to alienate anyone, to make it as inclusive as possible for everyone to play. We want it to be enjoyed and played by all kinds of gamers. People who like fighting games and also people who like shooters, for example, who may not have been into fighting games before.”
The depth of Rise of Incarnates comes directly from its unique 2v2 set up, I wanted to know what this unique style of game meant for players?
“We wanted to make a game where the focus was on your performance with your partner – how you move, position yourselves attack and defend together – not on complex combo memory. The more players you have, the harder it is to create a game that’s entirely based on co-operation. Only having two players means that you can co-operate easier, and then you can start to explore the depths of this system and devise your own strategies.”
It helps that the current character roster is pretty diverse in the range of play styles that each individual offers. Lead character Jared can transform into demon Mephistopheles and is handy up close and at range. Terrence can summon Ares to do his bidding, while token sexy-female character Mariea relies on speed and, as long as she can get close enough for a kiss, the ability to transform into Lilith whenever she likes – while Jared, for example, relies on meter to tansform.
Elsewhere trick character Gaspard can summon a zombie horde to overwhelm enemies, while the newest edition to the pack Erendira wields a lance and rides a Tron-like bike for superior movement around the arena. Lastly Reinhold, the slowest of the characters benefits from a massive spider tank that’s all about the long range damage – and he can even call on an orbital cannon to bring down the pain.
So even if you’re a fighting game fan or not, there should be a play style that you feel comfortable with. From the brief play time we had at Gamescom it was clear that experimenting with different pairings, and exploring all the tactical depth that each pairing has to offer will undoubtedly prove to be Rise of Incarnates biggest draw, and it will be interesting to see how the online community develops as people get more familiar with different match-ups.
I was curious to know where Baba saw Rise of Incarnates future heading. Was he interested in seeing it developing as an eSport? Or did he feel that it’s something the fighting game community would claim?
“Rise of Incarnates was at EVO 2014 and the response was very positive but as the game is on Steam, it also opens up the game to a very different and much wider audience – it will be interesting to see how this develops and which kinds of gamers are attracted to it. There’s room for both groups to enjoy Rise of Incarnates”.
Fighting game fans in particular have always been fans of the more Japanese style of artwork – where as Rise of Incarnates takes a step away from this. Was that intentional during development.
“A little, although the artists for Rise of Incarnates are veterans of games like Soul Calibur and Tekken – we did want to create a universe that wasn’t distinctly Japanese in art style, but I think Rise of Incarnates does have the best of both worlds, and the feedback we’ve had from fans has been very positive.”
Fan feedback has always been really important for games like Rise of Incarnates – is there anything that Baba learned from the Alpha test?
“The main things we’ve changed are increasing the control response, we’ve also made a nicer UI and implemented better tutorials. Of course, as it’s on PC we’ve also had to think about allowing for more resolution support.”
And what about the dreaded term ‘free-to-play’? For some people, just the term itself can be very off-putting.
“You only play for cosmetic or vanity items. The game itself is completely free, and as a free player you’re not at a disadvantage against paying players. If you really like the game, and want your character to look unique, then you can pay to customise your character. Rise of Incarnates isn’t pay-to-win.
Thanks to Bandai Namco and to Ryuichiro Baba for giving us the opportunity to chat. If you’d like to try Rise of Incarnates yourself – the Beta as still going, and will be playable all weekend, ending on the 18th of August. Get involved, right here.
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