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Rising Thunder

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Radiant Entertainment
Release Date: 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Preview - 'Rising Thunder'

by Brian Dumlao on Aug. 11, 2015 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Rising Thunder is a free-to-play fighting game from the creators of the Evolution Championship Series (EVO).

If you were watching this year's stream of EVO 2015, you no doubt saw ads for Rising Thunder, a game that may have piqued your interest in several different ways. It's developed from the ground up for the PC, a platform that usually gets ports of console fighting games. It was also developed with a heavy emphasis on GGPO netplay code, something that has to be seen to be believed since the fighting games on the platform usually have subpar online performance. The most interesting part was that they promised a closed alpha for those that signed up. We got a chance to take a look at that alpha, and we came away very surprised.

On the surface, Rising Thunder is exactly what you'd expect. You've got an international roster of fighting robots with different fighting styles battling each other in one-on-one brawls in a best two-out-of-three match. Each fighter has three attack levels and some special moves at their disposal. As the fights wear on, they build up a meter to unleash a more powerful attack and another meter that can be used for more advanced dashing, either toward or away from the opponent.

The minute you get into a fight, you'll notice some big changes to the system. The first has to do with the basic move set. Instead of going with the Street Fighter six-button style or the SNK fouor-button style, the game simply has one button each for light, medium and heavy attacks. It's very similar to the mechanics seen in some of the last Vs. Capcom games, like Marvel and Tatsunoko, where you only have control over hit strength but not whether you're doing a punch or a kick. As proven in those titles, the reduction in hit buttons doesn't mean that the fighting has been dumbed down, since it's still a smooth and fluid experience.

The second thing you'll notice is that everyone's special moves are much easier to execute. Gone are the standard joystick movement/button press combinations that have ruled fighting games since the Street Fighter II days. Instead, unleashing special moves only takes a simple button press for each move you want to use. The same goes for the super moves, which also only take one button press to execute. The uniform special move mechanics mean that each move can only be executed at the same range and speed, so you can't vary things from that perspective.

That last change is probably the most controversial one, as fighting game aficionados can see it as rewarding button-mashing over skill. In practice, that isn't really the case because each special move is attached to a cooldown timer, so spamming the area with fireballs or constantly using the uppercut isn't more prevalent than it would be in any other fighter. If anything, it allows new players to get into the game quickly, since they don't have to worry about memorizing joystick moves in conjunction with a button press. It also means not having to worry about timing, so they can worry about more important factors.

Despite the simplified fighting mechanics, Rising Thunder doesn't lose sight of what makes fighting games appealing. The action is fast, and you have plenty of ways to throw together combos. The common techniques of baiting opponents and looking for openings are still here, and you're still rewarded for punishing players who whiff on moves. More importantly, the controls feel very good, and you get the feeling that you can get quite good at the game in no time.

Since the alpha is a means to test the title's online code, it is safe to say that multiplayer matches are handled very well thus far. It barely took a few seconds before a match was found. Button presses are registered immediately and the matches seemed to be lag-free, as the experience was similar to playing offline. Even after several matches, I couldn't see any signs of missed inputs or missing frames. As usual, the experience can change as more people are added, but so far, this is living up to expectations. One interesting thing to note is that the game plays by tournament rules, so you'll actually be competing in best-of-three bouts instead of rounds. Games are a bit longer as a result, but it gives you enough time to react to a player's fighting style, if needed.

As far as presentation goes, the game is on the right track. The overall look is quite clean, with no excessive, distracting shine on the robots. The special effects are polished but not overly excessive to the point where they fill up the screen to let you know you unleashed something powerful. The punches hit with the right amount of force, and the voices are delivered well. One interesting thing to note is that there are multiple languages being spoken by the international roster. The Russian fighter spouts Russian from time to time while the Mexican fighter will throw in some Spanish. Considering that most fighting games simply opt for everyone speaking Japanese or English regardless of origin, that's a nice detail.

At this early stage, there are still quite a few unknowns. The roster is only six deep right now, and we don't know the pace at which they'll add more fighters. The game's status as a free-to-play title means that we can expect microtransactions to occur, but it's too early to see which elements will be up for sale. There's no word on whether the game will receive an offline versus mode, and we have no idea if there will be single-player modes. For now, you've got Training and online versus, and without any solid precedents set up by the other free-to-play fighting games on the market, it can be difficult to predict what the future holds for this title.

From what we've seen so far, Rising Thunder has loads of potential. The lowered barrier of entry has a good chance of opening up the genre to players who were intimidated by it before, but the strategies and fluidity of fighting make it relatable to veterans as well. The online performance is excellent, and the great presentation is simply icing on the cake. We'll be keeping an eye on this one as it marches toward its release next year.

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