Saturday, 9 August 2014

Rise of Incarnates Entered Open Beta Today

I've been driving a tractor and spraying things most of the day, so apologies if this piece is particularly messy.

Rise of Incarnates is basically Bamco's attempt at marketing the Gundam vs Gundam series to a mainstream Western audience. They're releasing it as a free to play game on PC. I played during the closed alpha and feel pretty much the same now as I did then. I won't talk about potential issues stemming from the free to play model for something aiming to be a competitive game. That's for another time. Instead I want to talk about issues about the game in its current playable form.

The crux of issues can be summarised as this: the game is not Gundam Extreme Vs. That might sound like a petty thing, but it runs pretty deep through the game. The Gundam vs Gundam series has had a solid six years of experimentation to get where it is. There's been subtle tweaks to mechanics, serious overhauls of the meta and a great deal of lessons learned about how to make the game fluid, reactionary yet tactical at the same time. I feel that it really culminated with the current iteration on consoles, Extreme Vs Full Boost, though I can understand why the current Arcade revision Maxi Boost reverted some of the ideas in FB, if only to make people die faster.

Gundam vs Gundam is a game all about making your opponent over reach. Whenever you touch the ground, there is a certain amount of time you cannot do anything until your Boost gauge has refilled. How long this recovery time is depends on how much boost gauge you have remaining. You want to goad people into spending all their boost dodging your covering fire or create a false opening so they'll charge right at you, make them land first and then punish them either either a melee combo if up close or 3 rifle shots when at a distance. You want to spend boost often because you can cancel just about every action in the game into boosting. Thus, a lot of the game's neutral involves moving in short bursts just outside of your lock-on range, then doing a quick dart in and seeing what your opponent does. It's a 2v2 game, so you need to make sure that while you're doing this to one opponent, the other isn't taking advantage of your time spent darting in and out to just shoot you in the back.

When you land in Rise of Incarnates, the time it takes to recover is the same no matter what. While this means people are more likely to over reach, there's also little incentive to make small moves to reposition. People just bang their heads against each other. On top of this, lock-on ranges are a great deal smaller, so ranged combat is weakened further. On top of that, the window for cancelling shots into dashing is a great deal smaller, so the ranged game is even weaker. On top of that, all the fun mobility tricks that GvG has developed over time haven't been replicated at all. This is things like double-tapping a direction then tapping the Boost button to dart in a direction while also gaining vertical height in an efficient way. Movement is clunky, firing shots is clunky.

The game's trying to push towards Melee, but GvG has tried that before in Next Plus. That game had a much more versatile combo system than Rise of Incarnates, and even that wasn't enough to keep the game satisfying for long. GvG has a pretty harsh learning curve, but this really isn't the way to try drawing people in.

A number of us wrote detailed feedback during the Alpha about why the game just isn't very fun, and this Beta has addressed none of it. Furthermore, here's some other problems with the game in bullet point form for your convenience.
 - The netcode is bad.
 - The matchmaking is bad. I still pretty much can't play with the group of friends who I usually play Gundam vs Gundam with. This is likely what's contributing to my low opinion of the netcode.
 - I still can't enable GvG-style secondary weapon inputs. In GvG secondary and tertiary etc. weapons are input with things like shot+melee, shot+boost and so on. In this game it's shot+superfluous button and melee+superfluous button. I get that they're assuming everyone is using a keyboard or 360 controller, but throwing a bone to the people who do have experience with the series would be appreciated.
 - Building a 2v2 game with a heavy focus on a block button is a bad, bad idea. Just look at Souls PvP sessions.
 - You can't play as Char Aznable

So all in all, I'll say to give the game a miss until Bamco decides that their Western Gundam vs Gundam game should actually apply the knowledge gained from the previous six years of game dev experience.

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