Injustice: Gods Among Us made the statement that the fighting game genre and a comic book universe can combine to create a game with a compelling story supported by strong fighting mechanics. This is coming from someone who wouldn’t consider himself a huge fighting game fan, but was drawn to the story of these heroes that I love engaging with.
During GDC 2017, I had the chance to check out NetherRealms’ upcoming sequel, Injustice 2, and play through the first four story mission as well as learn more about the game’s focus on character customization with the “Gear System”.
I’ll begin by explaining the Gear System which is one of the bigger updates to the Injustice series. Players will be able to choose a character and customize him or her to play and look the way they want them to. Each piece of gear comes with different stats to allow players to play different ways. This, combined with the option to add shaders and unlockable special abilities, will further allow players to make the character they want to.
With the gear system, players will be able to change five different parts of the character’s outfit: The helmet, the chest, the arms, the legs, and the accessory. The accessory option will include the item that is most notable about the character, such as, Wonder Woman’s sword and shield, and Super-Man’s crest.
Each piece of gear has a different look and also provides upgrades to the character’s stats. Each look is heavily inspired by past outfits worn by the characters throughout their comic book history, but there are also new looks that the team felt would fit in the DC universe.
A character’s base gear won’t have any stat changes or special abilities. To unlock gear, players will need to play through all the modes of the game, receiving it as a reward. While players continue their play through they’ll have access to different looks with different stats. This means that while playing online, it’s going to be rare that two characters will ever look the same. This is due to there being thousands of different gear combinations, and quite a few different shaders available for players to have access to.
Each piece of gear has four different stat upgrades: Strength, Ability, Defense, and Heath. By focusing on gear with high Strength, the character’s kicks and punches will cause extra damage. However, gear with higher strength might have a low ability stat, making moves weaker than usual in battle. This begs the question of what kind of character the player wants to create, for instance a well-balanced fighter or a tank with low health.
Additionally, gear will have Augments as an added bonus attached to it. Those can include extra defense to environmental damage, which means that objects like being thrown at the character wont hurt as much. However, another character could be wearing a piece of gear that increases to environmental damage which would nullify the defensive gear.
There are also “Gear Sets” that players will be able to equip to the character. Equipping all five pieces of the gear set will provide an additional bonus, like increase the range of a certain move and more.
Lastly, players can also add abilities to characters for even deeper customization. These abilities can be both offensive and defensive, matching the player’s style and altering how a character behaves in combat.
Every time a player wins a match, they have the chance to win new gear. Additionally, coins will be awarded, and players will be able to use them to purchase more gear. Coins and gear will not be purchasable with real money as the developer stresses that this is not a “pay-to-win” game.
After picking up the controller, I jumped right into the story mode of the game. The opening scene was met with Batman and Robin in the Batwing headed to stop Super-Man from purging Arkham Asylum. After a brief conversation between the two characters I was thrown into a fight with Cyborg.
Injustice 2 boasts an easy learning curve for those who just want to pick up the controller and smash away at buttons hoping for the best. This kind of approach won’t work out against seasoned opponents, though because the combo system can be used to string together moves making it almost impossible for your opponent to recover. Mastering this portion of the mechanics is crucial in the higher difficulties because the window to input attacks gets smaller as you face off against tougher opponents.
Similarly, this time around, the developers have included the use of accessories in battle to be used with a single button press. So in the case of Batman, he is able to summon up to three batarangs to his side to launch at will against the enemy. The results vary, but after the accessory is used a gauge must be refilled before the move can be used again.
Alternatively, there is a special meter that grows over the course of the fight. Once full, the character’s unique special can be activated. However, this won’t always be met with success as the move can be evaded. Sadly, avoiding my special moves was something that my opponent was quite good at. That said, when I managed to connect I was greeted with a satisfying cinematic combo that gave me the chance to change the course of the fight in my favor.
The HUD has been completely revamped when compared to its predecessor. Whereas before the life bar and special meter might have come off as a bit of an afterthought. Injustice 2 features a great looking and easy to view display of your life meter, special meter, and accessory meter without getting in the way of the fight. This was a feature that I was excited to see getting an overhaul, as I was dissatisfied with the simplistic look of Injustice’s HUD.
While Injustice 2 might be easy to pick up, there are some deep mechanics which open up plenty of doors for the hardcore fighting game community. I was surprised after I turned the difficulty to the highest and was quickly defeated by the AI in an embarrassing attempt to show my skills.
With the customizability of gear and abilities, this game offers so many different ways to play: for example: two Batman characters facing off in multiplayer can be completely different, so it’s almost impossible to go into a fight and really know your enemy.
I’m interested to see how the community adjusts to these new changes and what types of super heroes or villains come out of it. Injustice 2 seems to be improving on the missing components of Gods Among Us by adding so many reasons to keep playing. I’m excited to see what other characters and features are introduced leading up to its release on May 16.