September 23rd was the early-access ‘soft-launch’ of Killer Instinct Season 2, the new season of the rebooted and beloved fighting game being developed by Iron Galaxy, who are taking over from Season 1 developers Double Helix.
In addition to eight new characters (don’t worry, I’ll get to TJ soon) that will be rolling out over the coming months, Season 2 brings with it some major changes to the existing characters and gameplay; all the Season 1 characters have received tweaks and buffs to their movesets, some minor, some quite drastic.
Maximilian Dood – everyone’s favourite YouTube fighting game god and all-round groovy guy – has produced a three-part series of detailed videos in association with Iron Galaxy examining these changes in depth. No doubt those of you who are as excited about Season 2 of Killer Instinct as I am have no doubt already devoured these greasy nuggets of info already, but I thought I’d include them below for the hell of it. Practice makes perfect, right?
Now, before we go any further, in the miraculous case that I’ve somehow managed to pull the blood-soaked wool over your eyes by dropping in the occasional fighting game term, I’m no fighting game expert. At all. Nope. No way. But, those of you who’ve read my Killer Instinct review and impressions will know that Killer Instinct was my first proper introduction to fighting games, and since my first nervous foray into Killer Instinct, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the game, the series as a whole, its history and place in the wider gaming culture – I mean come on, who hasn’t heard of a C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER yet?
Nevertheless, while I sadly can’t provide the level of in-depth detail and knowledge that pros like Maximilian have, I thought my initial layman’s impressions from the equivalent of the fighting game baby pool may be of interest to players who, like me, thoroughly enjoy playing Killer Instinct, but perhaps aren’t the best at it.
In that sense, consider me more of an enthusiastic yet masochistic beginner who likes to get his face kicked in a lot online. So, (pauses to spit out a mouthful of blood and shattered teeth) I thought I’d share with you what I’ve managed to pick up so far from many virtual batterings (and if I’m lucky, occasional wins).
I’m pretty much a jack of all trades sort of player in Killer Instinct; I’m comfortable playing with most of the characters and styles, though I’ve yet to really nail down any one particular character/fighting style in any significant depth.
First I had a play around with my personal trio of favourite go-to fighters – Glacius, Orchid and Sadira – to see how they fared in general with the new gameplay changes. Largely, things feel mostly the same, which is good, as I think Double Helix managed to nail a lot of things in the previous season.
However, from my brief time with the new mechanics, my trio of favourites already feel much better to me. Glacius and Orchid have been significantly improved from what I understand and are now more appealing to pro players; both characters have been given new moves (Glacius now has a puddle dodge, Orchid gets stun grenades) and have had major tweaks to their respective special moves (Glacius’s Hail iceballs now bounce along the ground, Orchid’s Shadow Ichi Ni San ender now shoots a wall of columns across the screen).
Whilst the feeling in pro circles is that Sadira has had her spidery-wings clipped so to speak, for a player at my level she actually feels way better. One of her major drawbacks is that if you get cornered by an opponent, it can be quite hard to escape being pinned and get back into more comfortable airborne territory. You can more easily escape corners with her new shadow web-sling, and she’s been given a few more command normals which make it far easier to get your helpless opponents into the air for you to claw with her viciously spiked sandals and claws. Eat your heart out Spider Girl; Sadira still has some nasty tricks up her viciously pointy sleeves as far as I can tell.
Anyway, I’ll leave talking about my Season 1 favourites for now, and briefly share my first impressions of TJ Combo, the first Season 2 character. Players who purchase the Season 2 Ultra Edition get access to an early version of TJ Combo to use in the main gameplay modes (minus his own personal stage for now), with the exception of the somewhat story-based Arcade mode. So let’s take a jab at playing as the formerly cybernetically-enhanced champ himself.
TJ Combo is a returning character from the original Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct 2 (which, incidentally comes with the Season 2 Ultra Edition – I’ll sink my teeth into that shortly). From his initial reveal trailer, TJ appears to be on a path of redemption; as a champion boxer/MMA fighter, his goal is to fight his way through the tournament honourably to right the wrongs of selling out to Ultratech in the backstory of the previous games. All set to epic sounding piano chords and throbbing wub-wubs aplenty courtesy of Mick Gordon’s fantastic soundtrack work.
TJ’s a rushdown character in terms of fighting style, probably closest in terms of technique to everyone’s favourite slavering blue lycanthrope, Sabrewulf. In fact, TJ has similar easy inputs to Sabrewulf as well; most of his combo chains are basic left-right punch/kick inputs, and the launcher and damage ender are set to down-up punch/kick, so those of you who are already comfortable saving people with our feral blue friend will find themselves at home with TJ.
Upon looking at his command list, I was surprised to see quite how many of TJ’s command normals are designed for in-air use. One of Iron Galaxy’s major tweaks to the combat in Killer Instinct has been to make it much easier to get continuous air combos and juggles, and the ability to recapture an opponent mid-air and continue the combo on the ground.
As a result, TJ has several in-air juggle options at his disposal, as well as a nifty cross-up punch which you can use to make your opponent guess as to which way you’ll attack on landing.
TJ’s unique combo trait – Auto Barrage – is the ability to chain together punch and kick auto-doubles, providing they are of a different strength each time and with no repeats. Successfully going through all 6 different auto-doubles results in TJ pulling off a unique damager ender which causes some serious damage.
TJ’s instinct mode – known as Glory Days/Last Breath – is interesting. Used normally in combat, TJ’s instinct gives him a blue glow and he gets increased speed to his movements and attacks. However, if TJ has a full instinct meter when defeated or ultra’d, then he will defiantly shout “I’M NOT DONE YET!”, slamming the floor to send out a long-reaching shockwave before getting back to his feet with a small fraction of health left.
Even though it’s perhaps not going to have much of an impact in pro matches, I can see that at my level, the ability to get back up and fight on if you’ve got a full instinct mode could lead to some fantastic turnaround moments at the amateurish level I play at.
Anywhoo, that’s my two cents (or should that be two pence) on TJ – the next character, amazonian warrior and all-round knife-wielding badass Maya is up next month providing there’s no delays or developmental setbacks. In the meantime, I’m going back into the virtual ring to get my head boxed in by all these new TJs cropping up online – wish me luck, I’ll definitely need it.