Monday, January 13, 2014

Back to square one

Let's talk in detail about Killer Instinct because Need for Speed Rivals is boring and has reminded me why I don't play Need for Speed games. A man can only tolerate so much dubstep.

KI is close, very, very close, to being a great fighting game. It is currently incomplete: there is no single player beyond survival mode. There are only six characters and six environments. From a content perspective there is just not much there and in my opinion proves that the 'episodic game' model does not work for a fighter, or at least there has to be more at the beginning to keep people interested.

Mechanically, however, it steals just the right amount from a variety of places. Movement wise it is very Street Fighter. I like being able to port over at least some of my skills, it keeps the beginning stages of the game from being too frustrating, especially when everyone else has a month's head start. The movement being the same makes it very tempting to play the same way. If you take away the vortex characters Street Fighter is all about spacing. Footsies are more important than big combos. Footsies are important in KI but only because they lead to something more. Just getting a knock down or a stray hit is almost meaningless.

KI's execution barrier is about as low as it can get. A bread and butter combo is Street Fighter is usually two or three moves strung together, preferably without a nasty link getting in the way (from a mid-range scrub perspective as my own, anyway). KI bread and butters are ten to twenty hits, but the timing is loose and the motions can be looser. I was able to string together fifty odd hits into Ultra within thirty minutes of turning the game on. An hour later I realized that this was not important because that is not where the game actually was. There is a mind game in the combos, one with counters and feints that I have not quite figured out yet. Getting touched does not make it a one player game, ala Marvel vs Capcom 3. You are still playing and can defend yourself.

The high level stuff is still there. KI calls link manuals but they function the same way and can still be broken. Resets are actually more important because of the breaker mechanic. Stringing together block strings can be dangerous because of shadow counters. Everything single aspect of the fight has a risk/reward piece. Except for the broken parts, anyway.

It's a new game and there are things that don't work. All of my time online has been spent as Thunder. Thunder's walk speed is ass, so some of the issues I am going to list may not apply to everyone else. Runaway Jago is too effective. Sabrewulf's dash can actually pass through the opponent and, done correctly, is very hard to counter. Sabrewulf on the whole feels a little overpowered, but that may change with time. As a whole it is difficult to see what moves are punishable and which ones aren't. Too many of them are safe which can lead to just silly pressure. I need to practice my shadow counters.

I was surprised the level of douchiness on display in ranked play. Again, Street Fighter has spoiled me. The worst I get there is the occasional bit of hate mail. KI is full of people who disconnect mid-match, tea bag your corpse on knock down (yes, this is still a thing) and straight up troll when at a large enough life advantage. Of the three the trolling is the most annoying and the one that I cannot say a thing about. I have been guilty of that in the past and am getting what I deserve for playing Blanka exclusively for forever.

KI is a good game that needs content and just a little balancing. The content will come. Here's hoping the support extends beyond that to keep the game alive.

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