The very nature of a fighting game usually lends itself to having a high barrier to entry. This obviously changes depending on the game’s mechanics and nuances. For example: the Super Smash Bros. series has a barrier-to-entry that’s quite low. However, for the most part, many people are turned away from fighting games due, very simply, to the input method for special moves. Of course, fighters have tried to remedy this situation in the past, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has a “simple” mode that removes this barrier, but these modes are not the main game and don’t normally factor into high-level play.
That is until now, Seth Killian and the Canon brothers, Tom and Tony–names that aren’t unfamiliar to fighting game fans as the organizers of the EVO Championship Series–attempt to tear down the barrier to entry and allow all players to enjoy this genre at a high level.
Rising Thunder is the second game from the studio Radiant and has been in technical closed alpha for a little while now. This PC exclusive title is a free-to-play game that will bring in cosmetic micro-transactions upon release. Killian and co. Have gone to great lengths to remove the nuance of genre and bring it down to its core essentials: two fighters, normals, specials, supers and combos.
In a move that could alienate many hardcore fighting game fans, but is also the game’s key appeal, they have completely removed any input methods for specials, throws or ultras. Instead the game functions on an eight-button system where every character has 3 normals, 3 specials, a throw and a super. Every move is tied to a single button on your controller or your keyboard.
The game has been designed from the ground up to not only be accessible to those who struggle with inputs but also those who lack the equipment to do so. This game is completely playable on keyboard. Not in the way that Ultra Street Fighter IV is playable on keyboard though, you can play and win with a keyboard, all the time feeling comfortable that your on an even level with your opponent. The simple button inputs transfer incredibly well to keyboard and provide PC players with an alternative to shelling out $60 on a gamepad or even over a $100 on fightsticks.
Do you want to throw a fireball? No quarter circle forward, just press A. See an opening to do your super? Just press LT. You no longer have to scramble to input a super combo in a short window, gone are the worries about messing up your input and getting punished. If you can see an opening you can go for it, and that is one of the greatest strengths of Rising Thunder: it gets you straight into the meat of the action, the combos.
However in a move to combat special spamming without any skill, a cooldown timer has been put in place. Each of the 3 special moves has a separate cooldown based on what type of move it is and the power of the move. This brings a unique element to the game as while punishing your opponent is easy, missing a special means that your opponent knows you can’t do that for X seconds and can pressure you. While you can’t see your opponents cooldowns, continued play gets you accustomed to the rough timing on your opponents moves. The cooldowns range from the approximately 1.5 second fireball to up to six seconds for moves like Hurricane Kicks which juggle or grapples like that of Zangief in Street Fighter.
After spending a few days with the game, I got to know the roster of characters very well and clearly saw influences for them from popular fighting games. The roster are all robots based in different countries with different pilots aiming to give them each personality and character and for the most part it works. Each character felt unique and all were viable to be played online, as the game currently only features training and online ranked. Characters like Chel played naturally due to her clearly being a Shoto character and influenced by Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter, with a few hints of Kens crazy kicks from Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. She came equipped with a fireball, dragon punch and hurricane kick along with a fireball super, within minutes I saw easy strings among the myriad of target combos and was able to create extended juggling combos. The games combo system snaps into place for any fighting game fan, with the ability to cancel moves into others, the choice of a combo breaker or a dash cancel among obvious combos made the game a breeze to play, and a hell of a lot of fun.
The influence for other characters was clearly seen in there fighting style, Dauntless feels a lot like Dudley, Talos is a grappler like Zangief, Crow is like Cinder from Killer Instinct. The simple input system allowed me to experiment with characters I normally wouldn’t play, for example I don’t play grapplers due to there more complex inputs but I found it easy to play Talos and was stringing together combos in no time. The current roster, which stands at 6 playable mechs, each fill there respective roles well and all were fun to play in one way or another.
Not to mention the fact that while in game every character is restricted to 3 specials yes, but some of these specials can be swapped out for others in a loadout system. For example you can replace Edge’s first special a simple sword slash with one that fires out to short range projectiles, or you can shorten Chel’s dragon punch in order to remove one juggle component to set up different combos. The key point in this is the choice between Deflect and Advance, a combo breaker or a dash cancel. This choice can impact the way a character is played heavily, you can be offensive with Advance or turtle with Deflect again expanding the game beyond merely just 6 characters.
My only complaints with the game so far are it’s generally clunky feel, it’s clear it isn’t a finished product but that will obviously get better closer to Beta or release, some animations don’t flow as well especially dash animations. The only other complaint is lack of modes but that is something I would assume they will keep under wraps till release, but, to be honest, with how much fun I had in training and online with the games exceptional netcode (I had only three very laggy games over the almost 100 I’ve played) I’m fine waiting for more modes.
At it’s core Seth Killian and company show incredible progress in making a fighting game both completely accessible, fun and still have a high skill cap. While keyboard is definitely a viable option, fighting game enthusiast like myself will feel much more at home on a stick or a fight pad. I can’t commend Killian and Radiant enough for attempting to bring in new waves of fighting game fans especially on a platform that needs more of the genre. Not only are they beginning to do that though, there doing an incredible job.
As long as Rising Thunder remains in alpha I will be continuing to play it just as much as I do USFIV or Mortal Kombat X and I encourage anyone, fighting game fan or not, to sign up for the alpha. The game is making great strides but not just that at it’s base level its just damn fun and enough complexity to keep newcomers and veterans alike interested.