By Christopher Withers
Fighting games get a bad rap by many outside of the fandom, mostly for being too simplistic. Not many have a story, or if they do it’s fairly basic; for the most part they really only have the one gameplay mode; and the genre is frequently dragged down by it’s continued lack of diversity. I hesitated to put that part in since the word “diversity” is almost toxic to the game community but it is a problem that is another day in the making. Today we have to talk about one game in particular, one game that actually does some interesting things with the fighting game genre… unfortunately it’s an iPad game.
The above isn’t to imply that iPad games are bad, but fighting games, most of which require at least six-seven buttons, are not ideal for a mobile platform, something which hasn’t stopped Netherrealm, developers of Mortal Kombat from developing mobile versions of their games and a new WWE based fighting game, Immortals. There really isn’t a “plot” to Immortals, just a set-up; there is some kind of big box of glowly purple evil, it’s opened, alternate reality wrestlers, punch, kick, punch, kick. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I could be wrong but it feels like this is a pitch more than a game, showing what a potential “WWE meets Mortal Kombat” game would look like in order to draw interest should such a game happen.
My problem with this is that the haven’t demonstrated a whole lot of interesting redesigns of WWE characters. Most are obvious, Roman Reigns as a Centurion, Daniel Bryan as a goat, Triple H as Conan, John Cena is a Superhero… the lack of intriguing characters is made worse by the weirdly restrained special moves. Some of the special moves are made more explosive, like Roman Reigns launching a guy into the air before hitting the Superman Punch, but for many of them it’s just their real life signature move with some special effects behind it.
The actual fighting engine is simplistic, but is actually one of the better elements. The game uses a Dragon Age Heroes style “stamina” system, with each fight taking a certain amount of stamina and that stamina slowly refilling over the course of real world minutes/hours. Before a fight you choose three different superstars to be on your team, choosing from Bronze/Silver/Gold ranked characters. You fight with light attacks, tapping the screen, which will occasionally present a combo finisher wherein you swipe in a direction and get an additional attack; heavy attacks, swiping across the screen, or blocking, holding two fingers against the screen. The fighting engine is pretty simple but it helps to keep things easy and fast, aided by switching character through touching their portraits along the side, or using super moves.
The real depth here comes more in preparing for a fight than the actual fight itself. In-between fights you spend Immortal Credits to buy booster packs, individual characters, or upgrading your current characters abilities. This is ultimately where the more interesting elements of Immortals comes into play. The basic story mode is rather forgettable, as it just strings a bunch of basic matches together with the occasional “boss fight” against a supped-up version of one of the playable characters. The better mode is Challenge, which sees players having to go through four 12 fight challenges and one fifteen fight challenge, with a variety of prizes, ultimately including a Gold superstar that is not available otherwise. So far the characters winnable through Challenge aren’t available through any means other than Challenge which is great, since it really puts an emphasis on actually playing the mode to something nearing completion. What makes it more inventive is the restrictions given to you for each challenge, one level may restrict you to only using bronze characters for the 12 fights of that challenge, while others may force you to play with a specific character on your team.
It also is worth mentioning that the game is free-to-play with a microtransactions system. The system is clearly designed to force you to spend lots of money to get any feeling of progression, which is sleazy but at the very least there is a relatively good “Starter Pack” available only once for $9.99 that gives you a Gold Randy Orton, Silver The Rock, and 30,000 Immortal credits, which is barely enough for two bronze characters but it at least starts you off.
I would recommend playing it for an hour or two, and if you enjoy it get the starter pack, as it’ll give you some forward momentum for a little while. I don’t think that it can keep your attention for too long but for no price it can at least last an afternoon.