Currently in Technical Alpha, Rising Thunder is already set to be the next big thing in the fighting game industry. It’s also probably the closest thing we have to a Pacific Rim game minus the destruction of environments (can this be in the game please?). What truly sets the game apart from other fighting games is the simplicity of the controls (without being as simple as Divekick) and the emphasis on keyboard controls. But is the game really as newbie friendly as it’s design makes it out to be?
I like how the characters actually speak the language of their home country, even though the nationalities represented are standard fight game fare (looking at you Street Fighter, Tekken, Dead or Alive…). I like how the female robots aren’t highly sexualized. I also like how vibrant the colours are and the attention to detail with the sound effects. The characters profiles were detailed enough that it was easy to gauge how the fighter would feel before even testing them out. The game also assigns each fighter with a difficulty level based on the ease of control. I’m not sure what to think about the two female fighters in the game were the “Easy” fighters, but it was something that stuck out for me for sure.
Rising Thunder throws you into things a little too quickly. There is a practice mode, where the AI has no movement options or ranked mode, where you get your ass handed to you. There is no middle ground, hopefully something rectified in the final version. As someone who only faced ranked leaderboard after completing the campaign with -every- fighter jumping into ranked without any real practice was daunting. Another alarming element of ranked was the fact that you gain experience after losses. My first few games were against higher ranked players and barely managed to get any shots in yet my experience bar suggested I was learning something about the game. I got to level 2 without winning a game which undoubtedly put me against even tougher opponents. Out of all the genres of video games, fighting games have the most ruthless ranked queues by far. Street Fighter II on XBLA will make you cry. I don’t know if is because they are only populated by the most hardcore fans or the matchmaking is not up to snuff but the experience is always humbling and rarely newbie friendly. However, after getting chain-grappled and beaten to smitheroons for several games I was starting to get the hand of the unconventional fighter.
The keyboard controls weren’t as bad as I’d imagine they would be although I hear playing with a fight stick is much better (as it should be). There is a certain “feel” of the genre lost on the keyboard. There is no need to be memorizing combos or timing keystrokes because special moves are assigned to one key. These special moves have cool-downs to eliminate special move spamming, but it is by far the biggest thing to get used to in the game if you are used to other fighting games. As I play more of the game I will have to train myself to either memorize the cooldowns of all the fighters (because it’s important to take advantage of your opponents cooldowns) or at the very least look at the bottom left of the screen as I’m playing. Someone going into the game without fighting game experience but plays MOBAs, MMOs or top-down RPGs might have less trouble with this. The game is also on the slower end of fighting games, but slower doesn’t necessarily mean easier. I’d compare the experience to the Tekken series, still using an elaborate combo system, except with more emphasis on timing. Button mashing, as one tends to do when they are first learning the feel of a new fighting game will not be helpful in either of these games.
It’s hard to say whether or not Rising Thunder will be an accessible game for new audiences or just another fighting game where hardcore fans fill the servers using new players as punching bags. We need to see a campaign mode or an un-ranked online mode (even in these have been historically frustrating to play in). Keyboard support that functions well with the design of the game is great, but this does not necessarily mean it will be a more friendly game. Ranked modes can be great for learning only when there is a friendly community dedicated to teaching other players, something that cannot be inherently built into a game.