Iron Galaxy’s Season 2 of Killer Instinct is at long last live and (literally) kicking, so there’s no better time to punch, claw and, now with the release of Maya, knife your way to virtual glory on the KI leaderboards.
Disclaimer; as you might remember from my TJ Combo first impressions piece, I’m no fighting game expert. Rather, I’m a masochistic and plucky noob who really enjoys playing Killer Instinct, even when getting absolutely destroyed match after match. Just picture that scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, is beaten senseless by the angry building owner, yet he’s still grinning maniacally and spluttering mouthfuls of blood into his attackers face – yeah that’s pretty much me when I play Killer Instinct online.
Hopefully though, my online bludgeoning has knocked me into shape enough to put together some layman’s tips and pointers which might just help you keep your head above water in the suspiciously yellowy-green baby pool end of the Killer Instinct’s online multiplayer.
Adding to the ever-growing roster this month then is the knife-wielding Maya, a returning fan favourite from Killer Instinct 2. Let’s take a look at what she brings to the table…before she slices it up into splintery pieces.
Maya have this dance?
To start with, Maya looks totally badass; the character has been completely redesigned to bring her up to date with the rest of the 2013 cast (although you can be sure that famous highly combat-suitable leopard print bikini from Killer Instinct 2 will make an appearance in the classic costumes at a later date).
She’s now a Latin-American monster hunter, complete with cool golden Aztec/Incan body armour, long golden braids, gnarly leg scar, and two vicious throwing daggers as weapons. I wonder who gave her that gnarly leg scar? Season 2’s Arcade mode may eventually have the answers I’m guessing.
From her brief snippets of dialogue, Maya’s voice sounds awfully similar to Paz Ortega Andrade’s from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker/Ground Zeroes, which was provided by the talented Tara Strong; I’m betting that it’s the one and the same actor voicing Killer Instinct‘s deadly new demon destroyer as well.
Knife to meet you, to meet you, Knife
Maya instantly feels different to the rest of the roster with her unique dagger meter. It’s located above your normal shadow meter, and it’s something you need to be keeping a close eye on whilst playing as her. This Amazonian warrior is a ranged/zoning projectile character, who uses her throwing daggers to dominate her opponents. In the right hands, she’s absolutely lethal; the daggers allow you to control the pace and spacing of the match, as well as introduce yet another level of meta mind games to the chaos. In my unskilled hands however…well, not so much.
What’s really cool about the way the dagger throws work is that it’s pretty much a win-win situation for you as the Maya player. If you throw a dagger and it hits an enemy, it causes damage – great. If you throw a dagger and your enemy blocks it, then it pings off their block, and levels up a notch on the dagger meter. Each dagger has two charge notches, and each levelling up of the daggers grants Maya’s damage ender, the Spirit Strike (a sort of special Darth Maul-esque double dagger throw), some unique buffs.
One charge on Temperance let’s Spirit Strike ricochet, while two makes it home in toward your opponent. One charge on Vengeance gives the Spirit Strike extra durability, allowing it to punch through your opponent’s projectiles, and two Vengeance charges makes the fearsome thing unblockable.
Put all these charges and buffs together, perform a quarter-circle-forward + heavy punch attack and what do you get? Pain. Lots and lots of pain…and presumably a great deal of blood loss too. This performs the normal Spirit Strike damage ender payout, plus additional damage for each charge of dagger experience you’ve acquired. Performing a high-level damage ender with both daggers at full experience causes some serious pain to your opponent, and if performed as the coup de grace at the end of a particularly long combo chain, it can easily get into the brutal realms of “GODLIKE COMBO!” territory – like I say, a whole world of pain for your writhing and punctured opponent.
This process of levelling up the daggers makes your opponent have to really think lightning fast as to whether it’s better to actually take a dagger hit rather than let you level those daggers up and suffer much greater damage later on.
Maya is very much a risk and reward character. The daggers give her the ability to really pressure your opponent, and to cause some serious pain. But once you’ve lost one, your gameplan and a great deal of your fighting capabilities go flying out of bounds along with that missing dagger. Lose both, and you can quickly find yourself struggling, and unable to dominate the ground and air spaces like you could before.
Performing what would normally be a dagger throw – quarter-circle-forward + either light punch (Temperance) or medium punch (Vengeance) – without daggers will instead perform a kick attack corresponding to that punch’s power. While these kick attacks and special moves are still formidable, without your daggers you lose your ranged capabilities and most importantly, your damage ender. You’ll find yourself having to work very hard to keep the pressure up on your opponent, generally having to go for longer combos with less damage payoff.
When you get to a dropped dagger on the screen, there’s a good deal of strategy to actually picking up the knives that you’ll also have to learn. The daggers can be retrieved manually by pressing all three punch buttons, but although it’s a fast recovery move, you still have to judge when it’s safe to drop to the floor and collect, or when you should remain blocking/fighting. You can also collect them by dashing over them on the floor or performing some of Maya’ special moves on the spot; I found that using the tumble kick or axe kick special moves were the most effective ways of picking up daggers in a hurry, and these allow you to pick up daggers whilst still in combo.
Additionally, you’ll soon learn when you first go online with Maya that clever opponents will try and prevent you from going to retrieve your daggers, either by blocking your way or remaining at the opposite screen boundary and refusing to move towards you, probably spamming you with their own projectiles as well in the process.
Whilst it’s not the end of the world if you do lose a dagger or two, you’ve really got to make sure that you’re holding onto both the daggers if you’re wanting to cash out some serious damage to your opponent. Both daggers are required to perform the precious damage ender; without it, you’ll quickly find yourself struggling. Many times when I was playing ranked matches, I’d find that I could pull off some spectacular combo chains that I was really chuffed with; only to find that when I needed to end the combo and cash out the damage, I’d forgotten to collect a knife or sent one flying across to the other end of the screen, meaning that I had only the launcher or knock-down enders to choose from. Always be aware of your daggers when playing as Maya, and try and keep track of where they are, whether that’s in your hand, or trapped at the far side of the screen.
Never fear though, as if you’re like me and tend to send the daggers flying all over the place, Maya’s instinct mode allows her to instantly recall her daggers upon activation, and then have them boomerang back to her rapidly fast for the duration of the instinct meter.
Slice ‘n’ Dice
Maya’s got a great deal of in-air options to play with; knives can be thrown and collected mid-air, allowing you to pull off some ridiculously cool looking and hard to anticipate combos. I’ve noticed that if you perform a double-tap sprint move, you can follow it up with an immediate jump to perform a ridiculously long leap across the screen. It’s almost a full-screen leap from the looks of things, which is incredible, as it allows you to throw a dagger, launch into the air, throw your other dagger, and continue your combo upon landing, hopefully picking up your thrown daggers in the process. Mind-boggling, but very impressive and tactical, allowing you to pull off some clever cross-ups on your physical interlocutor.
You also have some nifty command normals to throw into your combos as Maya, including an overhead barrel roll kick which also comes with a very useful feint version, so your opponent has to guess if you’re bluffing the move or not. You can also perform a brutal-looking overhead Mantis Strike which pins your opponent to the ground with a double stab. Although it looks brutal, it’s not a move to completely rely on, as it doesn’t cause a lot of damage, and can be countered pretty easily if you’re opponent catches onto you spamming it, though it is good at forcing your opponent off you and buying you some precious distance when going up against a rushdown character such as TJ Combo or Sabrewulf.
Well, that’s about as much as I’ve been able to get to grips with Maya for the time being. I’m not sure who or what Season 2 character is up next; in the trailer video at the beginning of this piece, there’s the trademark teaser for the next upcoming combatant at the end of the Maya stuff. Here we see what looks like a brand new character, often rumoured online in fan circles to be a sorcerer/mummified villain character. Whatever/whoever he is, he looks pretty damn unpleasant and lethal, but I’m only too happy to peel back the rotting, mummified wrappings of this character’s command list when he’s due to come out in November next month.