The god incarnate.
Of the titles showcased in Bandai Namco's Global Gaming Day for the Americas, none were more highly touted than Rise of Incarnates. The unique game, in the States at least, is bringing logistics from the Japanese markets to the Western World, so the touting may be well-deserved, and if so, it's lofty ambition for a game that relishes its label of “free-to-play.”
Bandai Namco Games America Inc. announced its new Free-To-Play division during its Global Gaming Day media event in Las Vegas, comparing the free-to-play model with downloadable content on consoles with faster release timetables. Their first major dive into this realm, Rise of Incarnates, promises to offer updates tailored to the needs and desires of the fans while still offering a unique 2v2 structure unseen by Western audiences.
Rise of Incarnates revolves around a war between humans and the titular “Incarnates,” those who either can summon or are actually imbued with the powers of gods and demons from various mythologies. The decision to bring the 2v2 structure was prompted by its success in Japanese titles such as the Gundam Extreme Vs. series, but recreated for Western audiences, designed to bring the action of multiplayer (4v4, 8v8) and pair it with the intensity of PvP. In the 2v2 structure, your only ally is your partner, forming what Bandai Namco thinks will be a stronger bond of trust than just a group of teammates.
Nick Tan and I were able to get some playtime with a very early alpha build, and quickly I saw the benefit to the 2v2 structure. It could occur at some point during the battle that you may have a foe close to a knockout, when you hear that your partner needs help. Do you go for the kill or hurry off to save your ally? Health is also a team issue, as your life meter holds about as much as three knockouts per character. However, if one character is having a particularly bad run and gets knocked out three times, that character will still regenerate, but another knockout will cut further into the health meter. It is possible, theoretically, that a player could never get knocked out and still lose if his or her partner gets knocked out six times. It's clear in Rise of Incarnates that only teamwork will make the dream work.
Though I have been speaking of knockouts, it's not just a fighting game. There are also guns and weaponry, but to call it a shooter is wrong as well. Rise of Incarnates blends both shooter and fighter genres, with some summoning and spellcasting thrown in for good measure, which Bandai Namco hopes will open up the game to more types of players and allow for more strategy. We were able to play as four of the playable roster characters: Mephistopheles, of the Faustus legend; Ares, connected to the Greek god of war; Lilith, representing the demon woman of Babylonian mythology; and the internationally-recognized Grim Reaper. Being fond of high-flyers in fighting games, I found the most success with Lilith, working in some sweet high jumps combining with a shower of bullets to swoop in on my foes.
It's difficult to critique a pre-alpha build, but one difficulty was that the characters, should two of the same be picked, didn't palette-swap; during one match we had three people playing as Lilith. Had it not been for the indicators by characters noting friend or foe, I'm certain there would have been more friendly fire than there already was.
Bandai Namco promises a wider choice of characters, of stages (only one was playable at the event), and of weapons, but ultimately how much is this going to cost gamers? According to director Ryuchiro Baba, nothing. He promises AAA-quality with a free-to-play structure, and that there will be opportunity to “pay-to-fancy,” as they have termed it, and it will never become a pay-to-win venue.
The website for Rise of Incarnates will launch April 22, with instructions on how to apply for testing cycles. Stay tuned to GameRevolution to see if Bandai Namco's latest gamble will rise or fall.