On the surface, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle seamlessly blends the visual stylings of the Mushroom Kingdom with the zany antics and humour of the Rabbids. Beneath that surface, though, is a game with layers and depth that kept surprising us throughout our play-time with the E3 demo. Fellow Ubisoft Blog reporter Mikel Reparaz and I just got done playing it and came away with plenty to talk about:
Giancarlo: I think there’s an obvious elephant in the room that surprised everyone – Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a mix of turn-based, tactical action and adventure game mechanics! That wouldn’t normally be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a crazy mashup like this, but it absolutely works. And what makes it such a pleasant and interesting experience out of the gate is the fact that Mario + Rabbids has an incredibly easy to understand visual language that removes much of the learning curve you might normally find in games of this genre. I felt like I was pulling off complex tactics in no time.
Mikel: It’s easy to understand, and yet deep enough to reward experimentation. I didn’t know for example, that I could slide into enemies and do bonus damage by just by running through them on the way to the next cover point (although enemies do it often enough, especially if you take cover too close to them), or that by running one of your party members into another, you can catapult them to distant spaces or new heights using a team jump. But the game hinted that I could do something when I hovered the cursor over the right space, making this stuff a must-try once I’d discovered it.
Giancarlo: Exactly. Once you see that your character gets an additional move turn after a slide attack, I started wondering: can I slide tackle and then move my character into a warp pipe to then position them behind enemies or get the high ground? Sure enough, you can and I did. It was great to see all of these possibilities unfold and it makes me really curious how this will come into play on some of other maps.
Mikel: Other things are a little more obvious; the last battlefield of the demo, for example, is littered with these big toybox-like blocks filled with flammable material, bombs, and other dangerous contents. You can’t target them directly, but a lucky shot at an enemy cowering behind them could set them off, which did bonus damage, robbed the enemy of their cover, and made them easy pickings for the rest of my party.
Also, it’s great that each character can move, attack, and perform a special action in a single round; doing one doesn’t diminish the other two, so you’re not at risk of, say, moving so far that you can’t attack, or attacking and then getting stuck without cover.
Giancarlo: And if you’re not really paying attention to what’s available on the battlefield, it’ll set you back. I got myself into a pickle a few times by not really taking advantage of the environment, forcing me to go on the defensive and lean on Rabbid Peach’s special area-of-effect healing ability to get Mario and Rabbid Luigi back into fighting shape. Once I collected myself and moved everyone into a spot where enemies couldn’t get a good angle, I started deploying Mario and the Rabbids out, taking more care to use the high ground and warp pipes whenever possible.
It also helps to take note of other special abilities, as well as some of the weapons we picked up over the course of the demo, some of which are found in the cool puzzle-like adventure parts of the demo.
Mikel: The special abilities can make a huge difference when you’re down to the wire and it’s make-or-break time. In the last round of my fight with the final boss, Rabbid Peach was down, Rabbid Luigi was stuck in the open with no cover, and things were looking dire. But Mario’s special ability – which adds a sizable damage bonus to his attacks – let me do enough damage to the Rabbid / Piranha Plant hybrid boss to take it out of commission, winning the battle.
I’d found a few new weapons over the course of the demo, too. The blasters here are nothing short of bizarre, with unique shapes and designs that hint at the status effects they can impart – which, in turn, give them an extra oomph and make it worth keeping an arsenal for different situations. It’s also essential to know that weapons can only be wielded by specific characters – and that Rabbid Luigi’s weapons look like antigravity yo-yos, rather than blasters. This means that even beyond their special abilities, the characters aren’t just interchangeable grunts in combat, and selecting the right party of three is essential to building your strategy.
When we were exploring between battles, I thought the puzzles we encountered felt really Mario-appropriate, pushing us to run through labyrinths of shifting walls in a dash to grab coins before the time ran out and they all disappeared. While we’re on the subject of what’s Mario-appropriate, I really like the way the relative innocence of the Mushroom Kingdom meshes with the more chaotic, oddball aesthetics of the Rabbids. Somehow, a Rabbid sitting on a giant, spiked-collar-wearing rubber ducky in the middle of a gargantuan toilet feels oddly appropriate to both franchises. And your guide through it all is BEEP-0, who – despite looking like a robot vacuum with rabbit ears – has a personality that’s right in line with the mildly befuddled, easily flustered characters who’ve filled explanatory roles in more recent Mario games.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle will be released for the Nintendo Switch on August 29th. For more on all the games Ubisoft is showing off at E3 2017, check out our lovely E3 page.