Rise of Incarnates is a new franchise from Bandai Namco Games that faces players off in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by the incarnates: mythical gods and demons from human history. Developed by the creators of Tekken and SoulCalibur, Rise of Incarnates brings a new two versus two element to the fighting genre. With a multitude of characters, tactics and stages, Rise of Incarnates packs in a lot of content for a free-to-play game. Inspired by the rise in popularity of the two versus two format in Japan, the developers of Rise of Incarnates want to bring that game type to western audiences as a free-to-play title. I was lucky enough to be invited to Bandai Namco’s Global Gamers Day 2014, where I got some hands-on time with the game.
Set in the Earth’s near future, the game features stages set in the ruins of some of Earth’s most famous cities such as Paris or New York and puts players in command of a variety of different character types. The diversity of characters provides the player with access to a range of different strategies that can be modified to suit the skills of their partner. Taking advantage of your team’s strengths and weaknesses and attempting to adapt your strategy to take advantage of your opponent is a key component of the gameplay in Rise of Incarnates. Engaging in both melee and ranged combat, each pair of players must try to coordinate their attacks in such a way that they compliment one another, allowing them to make efficient use of their time and skills. Since the game is exclusively two versus two combat and each team has a shared life pool, coordinating your attacks with your partner is crucial. By teaming up on an opponent when the opportunity presents itself, players can deliver some quick extra damage before having to start worrying about the other enemy player again.
Players in Rise of Incarnates are given a special ability that is either a summoning power or a transformation depending on the character they are playing. While summoning abilities provide a temporary ally that will fight alongside of the player, transformations allows the player to power up their character, providing new attacks as well as increased damage and movement speed. Each of these summons or transformations is related to that character’s background, which is tied to one of the mystical gods or demons that they take their names from. The characters that were available in the hands-on version of the game included Grim Reaper, Ares, Lilith and Mephistopheles, each of which represented a different playstyle. While Lilith is the fastest of the four, her attacks also hit for the least amount of damage, making her a good ranged harasser. Ares is the opposite in pretty much every way, as he is much slower moving but deals a considerable amount more damage with his attacks. Mephistopheles and Grim Reaper sit somewhere in between the two extremes, giving us an idea of the range of abilities in the game.
The first match I faced off in was set in the only stage currently available: New York city. The teams were Lilith and Ares versus Mephistopheles and Grim Reaper, with me in control of Lilith. With relatively simple controls that avoid long button combinations, it didn’t take long to get a handle on the basics of the gameplay but, since none of us had played before, it was quite apparent that we hadn’t grasped the strategy of the two versus two format yet. With a shared health pool and little to no team coordination, we ended up fighting two separate one-on-one battles that ended up in a loss for Ares and myself. Over the course of the next few battles, I decided that Lilith suited my preferred style of play, despite my initial loss with her. Each successive match we played was a little more exciting than the last, as we began to get a feel for the game’s timing and were able to start properly utilizing the summon and transformation powers, which can be big game-changers in a match.
Over all, it’s easy to see how the two versus two gameplay style has become a popular on in Japan, as it provides a much more variable experience than the standard one versus one format. As one of Bandai Namco’s first free-to-play titles, it will be interesting to see how they implement the monetization of Rise of Incarnates and how they balance purchasables with the free content. Another crucial aspect to how Rise of Incarnates is implemented is the matchmaking and ranking systems, which are always pivotal in a competitive game such as this. With the two versus two playstyle forcing players to pair up, a lot of consideration will need to be made for the player’s preferences in terms of level of skill or attitude. Though I imagine that the final version of the game will prove much more complex than the hands-on version I was able to play, it seemed to me like Rise of Incarnates had just the right combination of straight-forward combat and skilled gameplay to make for a popular free-to-play title. For more information about Rise of Incarnates or to sign up for alpha testing, visit http://www.riseofincarnates.com/. Check out the trailer embedded below while you're at it.