How Killer Instinct Season 2 proved the value of the season model
Killer Instinct's second season just ended, and from the Pre-Season in September to the Story Mode update added two weeks ago, quite a bit of content has been added to the reboot of the 90s arcade fighter. While the fighters are still the central point, Season 2 added a few modes that beefed up the single and multi-player aspects of the title.
Last time on Killer Instinct
The nine characters added this season included four characters from the first two games and five new characters. The series vets, TJ Combo, Maya, Riptor and Cinder all take some aspects from their previous versions, but also have a lot of new features as well. TJ Combo added the recapture mechanic, which allows a combo to continue on an airborne character, and Maya’s daggers can be powered up and even planted on the ground and retrieved boomerang style. The eight characters from Season 1 even got a few new tricks, such as Orchid's throwing grenades.
However, the old characters don't get as crazy and twist the game mechanics around as much as some of the new comers do. These five introduce mechanics such as semi-tag teams, restriction of stage boundaries, and extra meters for super moves. While all of these sound as if they might break the game, that's not how it played out, and over the season anything that was overpowered was toned down or is getting balanced in the constant updates the game has.
Extra Features for everyone
Single player modes have been added to help players learn the combo-breaker system in practice, but the biggest addition would have to be the Shadows mode. Imagine Forza's Drivatar in a fighting game and you have a slight idea of what this mode is. Players take a character (not all are available currently) and fight matches to improve their Shadow's AI. The more matches you play, the better the AI gets at fighting, just like you. Unlike Forza, players decide what matches are added to the Shadow, and losses are encouraged to be added, so your shadow can learn how to play defense.
Shadows are a new frontier for fighting games, and when starting out, the AI is pretty creepy. It will even mimic things that AI doesn't do regularly, such as taunts and crouching over the opponent's body after a round. Shadows mode has its own survival mode and a points system that is used to purchase the ability to have more than one shadow at a time.
Every month a new season
The major change to multi-player is how ranked matches are played, as they now take the form of a monthly league instead of overall wins. Upon starting the new mode you have to play 10 qualifier matches, which places you in one of three tiers: Gold, Silver or Bronze. Victories can move you up a tier, until you reach the Killer Tier by placing in the top 32. In addition to the tiers resetting every month, players can't be demoted by losing, which is always a plus with the intricacies of online play.
Another big change is how customizations and titles are unlocked. Instead of having to compete hard to reach milestones such as 40 ranked wins with a character, points are now earned during matches and for milestones that contribute to a player and a separate character level up to 50. Also, early in the year each character’s colors and accessories were bumped up to nine options available in each category, and there were even Christmas accessories made available early in the season.
Not in Technicolor anymore
Even the graphics have been improved, with a resolution bump from 720p to 900p and the option to toggle motion blur. It makes the game appear a little crisper, and just shows how much the game has improved over time. The menus have been changed to represent the story’s theme, “The Rise of Ultratech”, which is another nice bonus for those who have been around from day one, although I would have liked the option to switch between the menu themes.
Every character has their own stage, as was the case in season one with the exception of bonus characters Omen and Shadow Jago. Stage Ultras have returned, and can be done instead of the standard Ultra at the end of a match dependent on positioning. Some of these are fairly obvious, such as the window all the way to the right in Aria's stage, but all of them are easier to position and pull off than in the older titles.
The season concept is still pretty new in gaming, with most games not going on for a second season after the first splash of content. With Season 2, Killer Instinct is almost a completely new game, with exponentially more content than the first season. With what was added this time around, the bar is high for Season 3 and for other fighting games using the season concept.