By their nature, fighting games have a high barrier of entry. This changes depending on the different type of fighting game, but for the most part the coordination and reflexes required to play tend to cause many players to check out. A select few fighters have attempted to alleviate this issue, such as Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s ‘Simple Mode’ that assigned special moves and super attacks to specific buttons. But, modes like this are often considered a special mode and not the main game.
Seth Killian and the Cannon brothers, Tom and Tony — better known as the organizers of the EVO Championship Series fighting game tournament — are attempting to change the preconceived notions about fighting games and their technical difficulty.
Along with the Cannon’s fledgling game studio Radiant Entertainment, the trio has set out to create a fighting game that allows players to skip the pain of learning the depth and complexities of a new fighting game system and jump into the heart of fighting games.
Rising Thunder is the second game from Radiant, set to go into technical closed alpha later this week. The PC-exclusive title is to be free-to-play, with micro-transactions for cosmetic items to come at a later time. Killian and company have gone to great lengths to strip down fighting games to their bare essentials.
In a move that may alienate hardcore fans of the genre, complex button presses and combinations have been removed. Instead, each of Rising Thunder’s 6 current characters have 3 special moves and a super move that are tied to a single button on the controller.
Want to throw Chel’s fireball? Press a single button. Chaining into the special is the same as any fighting game, minus the strict reflex requirements. To combat any potential move spamming, each special goes on a move-specific cooldown that is indicated as a red timer on the screen. Specials like projectiles have a short cooldown, while moves that have priority or juggling properties can go on as much as a 6 second cooldown.
If this is all sounding similar to the bevy of free-to-play MOBAs, you wouldn’t be wrong. Radiant is clearly attempting to make a fighting game that is instantly accessible to wide variety of people, especially those that may have an interest in the genre but not willing to dedicate the massive amounts of time required to learn just one game system.
I’ve had the chance this week to take Rising Thunder for a spin in training mode and a few online matches, and I can confirm that the game works as explained. The combo system snaps into place in a natural way, with strings and juggles being the main focus, and not the player’s inability to physical perform a tricky combo.
Within a few minutes with Chel, I was stringing together multi-hit combinations with a few juggles, even ending my attack with an air throw. Likewise, I was using the grappler Talos and putting together wall bounce attacks into an anti-air throw, all without stopping to think about what my thumbs were doing.
It was a nice feeling. The game does a great job of getting to the heart of what fighting games are about and making you feel competent. Rising Thunder’s system gives players the chance to think about the psychology of fighting games instead of their potential inability to perform as required.
My only real complains about the game engine is that it still feels very rough. Movements are jerky, with each character’s jump feel very ridged and floaty. Likewise, dash animations are very strict. Of course, I expect these issues to be sorted out as the alpha rolls out and consumer feedback can be taken in.
As expected, the game is very bare bones at the moment. The game’s roster will surely expand, as will the number arenas. Likewise, I expect training and online modes to expand as development continues. Word from Radiant is that character variations will eventually come, giving each robot multiple versions a la Mortal Kombat X.
I commend Radiant for attempting to change misconceptions about a genre I have a real affinity for. In many ways, this feels like what Blizzard has done for the MOBA genre with Heroes of the Storm: Remove roadblocks that keep certain players out while attempting to create something adaptable and easy to play.
I’ll have updates on Rising Thunder further down the road as Radiant continues to update and test the game.
Will Harrison is a journalist covering video games for the daily newspaper The Toledo Blade in Toledo, Ohio. He can be contacted on Twitter at @DoubleUHarrison or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.