A Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Review about the many things it did right and the few things it could do better
What happens when you take Mario and make him cross over with the Rabbids? You get a turn-based strategy game much like Xcom ofcourse! This is the premise of the game, where the Rabbids have invaded the Mushroom Kingdom and now Mario and his gang combined with Rabbid-versions of themselves must save it from utter destruction! As the title has already told you, you will find out about the many things the game does well as well as a couple of things that could be a bit improved.
Thanks to Ubisoft for supplying us with a review copy for this title
Let’s talk about the story and atmosphere of the game before diving into the gameplay. As you would expect from a Mario game, the story keeps itself simple and light but gets the job done with a lot of charm. The background is as follows, the Rabbids have invaded the Mushroom Kingdom with their (time) washing machine and one of the Rabbids, who goes by the name of Spawny, has gained the ability to combine two entities into one.
This causes the creation of the Mario, Luigi, Peach and Yoshi Rabbids, which were simple cosplays beforehand, and a large amount of Rabbids-like enemies. However, with the arrival of the Rabbids, Havoc has spread over the Mushroom Kingdom causing a lot of damage and crazy occurrences. With your squad, your goal it is to safely capture Spawny and make sure further disruption is avoided.
While the story is fairly light, there are definitely some interesting events here and there. The game could also be described on focusing much more on the characters and on the interactions between them. One of the main characters in the game is Beep-o, a small robot that looks like a little disk, who will guide the heroes throughout the world. All the protagonists interact with themselves and NPCs during cutscenes and small intermission sequences during gameplay. Here, each individual’s personality will be clearly visible to you, like Mario’s heroicness, Luigi’s timidness and the Rabbid’s craziness. Despite your Rabbid companions being quite friendly, they are still Rabbids after all.
Both the Mario and the Rabbid franchise feature a lot of humor, so it is quite clear that the game will keep quite a humourous tone. Some may the jokes quite immature or even a bit obnoxious, but we felt like they are really charming. This game is a silly one after all and expecting anything overly sophisticated would be quite wrong here. It was oftentimes rewarding and made the world feel alive when we found some Rabbids doing silly things right next to the level.
Atmosphere and Technical Performance
Let’s get into the game’s atmosphere and technical performance. The game has a fantastic artstyle that takes modern effectswork and blends it in very well with the world of Mario. The game was developed using Ubisoft’s own Snowdrop Engine, which is also used for South Park: The Fractured but Whole and Tom Clancy’s The Division. It is impressive how well the Nintendo Switch runs the Engine and the graphics of the game.
This does however come at a cost as the game runs in 30 frames per second in 900p docked and 600p undocked. Many people prefer 60fps gameplay, but with lower graphical fidelity. Seeing as the game is turn based, the framerate leaves gameplay unaffected. Therefore, going for either choice better framerate or better graphics is a decision that affects only the visuals and opting for higher graphics but at 30fps is understandable. If you are used to high-framerate gameplay, it’ll take a little getting used to, but the game plays just fine once you are. We do have to say that we did notice a little bit of stuttering here and there, but this only happened rarely and had absolutely zero impact on the game.
With the game looking so good, we sometimes wanted to halt for a moment to just take in its beautiful visuals. One thing that was a bit annoying at those times was that the game has a locked camera for a majority of its playthrough. During battle and some out of levels sections, you are able to turn the camera 360 horizontally. We were unable to tilt it vertically though and this would have been appreciated in some spots. We believe the camera is locked in this way due to the game having such great graphics. What is probably happening is that the engine avoids rendering stuff that is out of sight and therefore saves on graphical resources. This is overall a bit annoying if you want to really take a good look at your surroundings, but we do get a better looking game for it. It is for you to decide if this is really an issue.
One place where the lack of camera movement was annoying though was during combat. It would have been great to be able to zoom out of the battlefield to get a quick overlook of it. While the tacticam, which allows you to pan the camera over the entire arena, kinda fulfills this purpose, it is still slower than if you could just zoom out. This was probably left unimplemented due to the graphical limitations of the Switch. It would have been nice to be able to get an overview of the battle arena this way.
A point that is very important for the atmosphere is the soundtrack. Here, it has been implemented very well, as the used soundtrack really fits the ambience of each location. The quality of the music itself is also great and Grant Kirkhope, the soundtrack’s composer, really did some brilliant work here.
There is just one caveat that we found with the application of the music, which occurs during boss battles. It was a bit offputting seeing a cutscene that pumps you up with exciting audiovisual content and then hearing a little, rather relaxing audio track right after, which usually plays in the preparation screen before every single standard level. This was too steep of a drop of excitement and as a more vigorous boss theme played right after, the game should have simply skipped over that little level preparation theme. This seems very nitpicky and sounds like we are making a big deal out of it. Rest assured, we also think this is just a very minor detail and barely affects the game if at all. It is just something that we noticed and we simply wanted to point it out.
On the positive side, little nods and references can greatly enhance a game’s atmosphere, which this game features a lot of, especially on its weapons. Overall, the game impresses with a humorous story, great visuals and an awesome atmosphere. It simply is great to see a world that is filled with detail and really makes it into something that you want to spend more time in.
Let’s get to the basics of the gameplay now, which are as follows. You control three characters during your standard playthrough and try to complete an objective each level. These can range from defeating a certain amount of enemies, reaching another section of the map or escorting a Toad from one place to another.
The combat is then turn based. You select your characters and choose where they go and what they do. Each character has a total of 3 actions available during the turn: movement, an attack and a special ability. Herein lays the first big point on why the game is good; all 3 actions are doable in any order, which opens up a lot of strategic options and depth.
As positioning is very important, being able to attack first then move in or out afterwards can be crucial to your success. For example, if you are very close to your enemies, you could first hit them with your weapon and then move to safety afterwards to possible give your teammate a lift through an assist jump so they could attack themselves. A really fun and unique aspect is, is how you are able to damage enemies with your movement ability by sliding through them when traversing on your path.
It is cool how each character is distinct and unique with their available weapons and abilities. Some abilities and weapons are shared between characters, but overall each one receives a unique combination. For example, Mario and Luigi have a similar special ability, which triggers when an enemy moves into their attack range. Here, Mario and Luigi will attack them during the enemies turn in a very cool and exciting slow-motion sequence, which is really fun to watch, but is short enough to avoid becoming annoying later on. Further, as this ability is rewarding in and of itself, it feels awesome when you upgrade it to be activateable multiple times in a single turn. What makes the characters different however is the following. Mario is a beefy character with more health than Luigi, but Luigi is able to attack at a higher range and this also applies for the just mentioned ability.
Character’s become even more distinct in their talent trees. These generally have a similar structure and similar abilities like additional health, but also unique traits that make them stand out. Mario gets the ability to directly jump onto an enemy with an assist jump from a teammate and do damage, while Luigi is able to increase the amount of fields he can move along with unlocking the ability to teamjump with two characters in succession.
This variety in characters might seem like it could be quite complicated, especially at the start. However, great design is shown in how the game teaches you about them, their strengths and abilities. You start off with 3 characters with higher health: Mario, Rabbid Luigi and Rabbid Peach. At the start, you are unaware of the dynamics of the game and are therefore oblivious on how to protect your squad from damage. The game then only enables the basic movement and the basic attacks. It forces you to focus on getting into cover as much as possible and avoid damage. As the game gives you higher health characters at the start, it is aware that you will do mistakes and allows you to do them.
After you’ve gotten to know the game a bit better and have internalized defending yourself, you unlock new abilities that open up new strategic options. You will also gain access to Luigi, who has a higher range than the others but quite a bit less health. Now that you have some idea on how to protect yourself, the game deems you to be good enough to play with a more difficult character. This is really great game design, since you are able to experiment with a greater safety earlier, but allows deeper gameplay once you progress. This concept continues later on, where you will unlock characters and abilities that do area of effect damage. These also hit your teammates if they are in range, so you must be even more careful.
On the topic of aoe attacks, enemies can also hit their own allies or even themselves, which can result in some really funny and unexpected situations. Our favourite example for this is the Rabbid Piranha Plant fight near the start of the game. Here, the plant attacks with a fireball, which damages and burns anyone in the area it hits. However, when the Piranha Plant went up really close to one of our characters, it actually managed to hit itself in the process. The way it then ran around like crazy was simply put entertaining.
Another extremely impressive aspect of the game is the previously mentioned movement of the protagonists. In most other Strategy games movement and action are very seperated things but in this title they are blended together and the traversal is therefore gamified. By being able to slide through or jump on enemies to do some damage on them, the movement itself becomes fun. Being able to use allies to jump further or onto an elevated location also feels like a big reward every time you do it. Whenever you now move your characters, a lot of possibilities go through your head. Do you move forward, slide through an opponent and then return to safety or do you use another friendly character to flank the opponent but put yourself at greater risk? It is awesome how many options you have for your movement and how fun all of them are.
Just another interesting and in our opinion positive mention on the movement is that your movement is limited by the distance from the point of origin, rather than the actual amount of fields that you are moving. Even if that meant you’ll be going around for a longer distance, you could still cross a gap or a wall, as long as the opposite side is within your area. This effectively means you have a larger area of movement available to you, but beware, so do your enemies.
Onwards to the levels, which are fun and really well executed. The objectives of a level combined with its layout provide some very interesting and unique challenges. There can also be further hazards in a level like a tornado and a chain chomp, which give an additional strategic layer. It was really cool seeing a level that is completely without cover, only melee based enemies and a chain chomp. The chain chomp acts as a hazard and attacks the closest entity, which can be either friend or foe. The challenge in the level is therefore to kite your enemies so they are the closest to the chain chomp to get them attacked instead of yourself. We were very impressed by this level, as it used the present mechanics to craft something entirely unique. These kinds of levels happen every now and then and really make the pacing of the game stand out, as you are constantly doing something differently. As a cherry on top, it was entertaining how Rabbid Peach’s and Luigi’s offensive ability by the name of the sentry, an RC car that moves towards the enemy, is also targetable by the chain chomp and can therefore be used to finetune your approaches.
Now that we’ve been talking about some details of the gameplay, we have yet to talk about the combat itself. Compared to some other strategy games, it is very streamlined. Each character has two standard offensive abilities, two weapons that can be quite different. Mario has a gun for ranged attacks and a hammer for immense area of effect damage on melee range. Peach has a shotgun with aoe damage, which spreads in a cone shape, and a rubber-ducky, a little grenade that can hit enemies behind cover. Every character has distinct weapons and knowing how to use them to their full potential is the key to winning battles. As the streamlined system allows you to focus on a few weapons and abilities, you can get into the combat much faster. This allows you to really understand the abilities and playing the game therefore feels really rewarding.
Something else that ups the quality of the combat is that the abilities are used without any resources like Mana and are entirely cooldown based. In many other games, we oftentimes wondered if we should use this ability and were afraid to use it, as we felt the resource could be better used later. Removing this pressure made us more confident to use our abilities and the game felt fresher because of it.
Just one very nitpicky thing that we want to mention here is this. When you select where to go it is possible to missclick, meaning you might be going into a slightly more open field rather than behind cover. It happened from time that we failed to let go of the thumbstick on time while already having mentally prepared to click the A button. It would be nice if we had an option to enable a safe click, meaning the game should ask us to confirm our movement if we happen to go into an open zone away from cover. This would make the missclick issue completely disappear.
Overall, what all of these things we’ve mentioned about the combat of the game do, is make the game a great start for anyone, including beginners of strategy games. The game then teaches you its concepts and you are able to more easily learn about its depths. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle therefore enables you to play what it has to offer well and gives you an opportunity that lets you reap the rewards of a satisfying experience. This title removes the entrance barrier and is therefore better to play at the early levels, where other strategy games and also fighting games fail. There you usually have to play for a long time before you can start to really enjoy them and it is great how you can have fun with Kingdom Battle right away.
Surrounding Gameplay and Level structure
Outside of combat, there are a lot of other things can make or break the game with one thing being its pacing. In terms of that, the title alternates puzzle sequences, exploration sequences, less intensive combat and more intensive combat really well. Too much of any of these could make the game either stale or exhausting, but a good mix of them perfectly nails the pacing and the game has definitely achieved that.
A good pacing also usually allows the game to be played both in short bursts and in long stretches. The structure of the playthrough is as follows. The game consists of 4 worlds, which are divided into subworlds (e.g. world 4-5, 4-6, etc.) that contain one to three battles each. These individual battles allow you to play the game in short 15 to 20 minute bursts, but the subworlds still give you a bigger level of strategy, as you are only healed at the end of each subworld. Therefore, if you perform poorly in your first battle, you will have to carry your low health along to the next one. There might be a mushroom lying around that still heals you a bit and you can also swap party members out. This brings us to another critique point of the game. In your party of only three members, Mario must always be in it. This means that all strategies must revolve around him and any good idea that could be executed with a different combination therefore goes bust. Even after the main storyline is finished, the limitation still stands. The only game mode that is exempt from this is the local co-op.
On the positive side, whenever you complete a level, each character receives orbs to expand their skillset independent on their participation in the battle. To further expand on this, the game lacks an experience bar. Progression is done solely through the weapons you buy with coins and the talent tree. Therefore, all you need to do to get a neglected character up to snuff is buy an appropriate weapon you unlocked and select the skills in the talent tree. Some defenders of the experience bar will find this as a negative. In our opinion though, it removes yet another worry of a character based strategy game as you can just use the characters that you like and if you want to swap to others later, you are easily able to do so. What’s more, you are able to reset a character’s skill tree at any time and you will regain all spent orbs in the process. This allows for easy adaptation in case you previously skilled infavourably.
A few skills and abilities could have been explained better though. These were the debuffs applied by the weapons like ink and honey and to be more specific, the vamp debuff that is Rabbid Luigi’s bread and butter. Once you unlock the talent, Rabbid Luigi’s dash applies the vamp debuff, meaning a percentage of all subsequent damage is given to the attacker as health. This means that any party member can heal himself up after Rabbid Luigi applies the vamp debuff. The percentage that is returned as health can then stack up and even exceed 100%, meaning you can make Rabbid Luigi into a healer of sorts. This is left a bit unclear from the explanation of the talent and the ability though. We first believed that it was only the single attack from Rabbid Luigi that would give health, which makes the ability seem a lot weaker than it is. This is definitely something that the developers could have explained better but once again, this is a rather small issue.
Another great thing about the game and its level structure is the puzzle and exploration segments. The puzzles are usually of the observational kind meaning you can solve them by carefully observing the environment and piecing together the clues in them. What you oftentimes get from them is either a collectible that you can look at the museum and sometimes orbs that allow you to get more skills on the talent tree. This means that you can get stronger for combat while doing stuff outside of it. We were motivated to further do the optional puzzles at the side as they really feel rewarding. The game actually plays a little psychological trick on you here. The museum rewards could be considered uninteresting and the orbs are much more desireable. But by mixing both of them together, the game avoids having you expect orbs as a reward. If you would get the orb reward for every single puzzle, it would become an expectation and you would feel much less rewarded from it. Therefore, the psychological trick the game plays on us here, is greatly appreciated and is actually just very good game design.
We’re about to finish up with all the details of what we want to critique the game for, with just one last thing remaning. The game offers a local coop multiplayer mode for two players, where each one takes a turn control of two characters to achieve objectives catered to coop play. It’s absolutely awesome that this kind of game offers a local multiplayer mode. However, you kinda need two people who know what they’re doing to get the most out of this mode.
Local multiplayer is usually enjoyed by someone who knows what to do and a friend who simply tags along. This would make this mode a bit of a mismatch and you would need to coach your friend a lot. Therefore, it would be cool if the coop mode would be available for online play as well. Here, the use case of two people who know what they’re doing playing together is more likely. Once again, avoid thinking we are complaining about this and take this rather as something that we believe could make the game even better.
Let’s delve into what a Value Review is about: our second review score in form of a price in Dollars, which determines at what price the game is worth buying for. In the time of aggressive microtransactions, yearly Releases, buggy games, short games costing a lot of money and other weird business decisions, we wanted to be able to state these things and evaluate them in our score, without actually saying that a game is necessarily worse because of them. All of these factors involving business like microtransactions are therefore evaluated in our value, while only the quality of the game itself is considered in our review score. This way, you can be sure that our review score states exactly how good a game is and leaves the pricetag and business factors out of the equation.
The main story takes around 20 hours to beat with some additional challenges available when revisiting levels. An awesome soundtrack along with great graphics and a lot of fun little things to find in the world create a fantastic atmosphere. The addition of a coop mode also adds value to the game, even if we had wished to be available online as well as locally. The game does have Amiibo functionality, which we consider as a form of microtransaction, but the bonus is tiny (just a weapon) and the functionality is very unintrusive. Therefore, it leaves the value of the game unaffected. Overall, considering all these features, we deem the value of the game to be around $47.
Though the quality of the existing content is definitely there, we feel that in order to achieve the full price value of 60$ the game should‘ve bolstered a bit more all around. Playing the game to its fullest by searching for all the hidden collectibles and doing all the challenges (including the ultimate ones) takes the dedicated player around 45 hours, according to http://www.howlongtobeat.com/. The main story itself should take the average player only about 28 hours. Though that is respectable, it just falls a bit short when compared to other similar full-price titles. For example, the game is commonly compared to XCOM 2 (30 hours Main story, 62 hours completionist). We find that to fill this gap, Ubisoft could‘ve included some more game modes, like for example a Boss Rush Mode, or a Survival Mode with infinite, continually stronger enemies. Though these kinds of additions might be made via DLC, those will cost extra and would have to be analyzed on their own and given a seperate value.
In conclusion, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a great game that really impresses with many of its aspects. Its streamlined gameplay allows it to be great for beginners while also offering depth to all players. The critique we’ve given to the game was only concerning minor points, as the game was completely free from any big issues. From playing it, we could really feel the love and passion that has been put in by the developers. Overall, we give the title a score of 87 as it is definitely something that many people should go and try out. If the kind of whacky humour that the Rabbids bring to the table is really something that floats your boat, you should definitely jump on this title.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is one of the easiest strategy games to get into. It teaches the mechanics to the players well and encourages them to experiment with them. If you are interested in tactical games, you should definitely try it out. Especially, as the game is void of any major flaws. The whacky humour further adds to the charm of the game.
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