When it was originally announced that Nintendo and Ubisoft had an upcoming project involving the much-maligned Rabbids, some fans might have been skeptical—nervous, even—about the fate of what is essentially a new Mario game. But there’s little to worry about now.
After the Rabbids fall in from a giant portal in the sky, the Mario universe is put into grave danger. Aside from the general havoc wrought by Rabbids, one of their number, nicknamed Spawny, has been merged with a piece of technology that allows him to combine any two objects; meaning mostly Rabbids-themed Mario enemies.
Kingdom Battle puts the player in the shoes of Mario and his friends, as they seek to stop the Rabbid menace and close the portal in the sky; with the help of some Rabbid friends along the way, of course.
Though half of the game’s character roster consists of Rabbid counterparts, there’s enough to separate counterparts from originals to make each feel relatively unique. All in all, there are eight characters available to players: Mario, Rabbid Peach, Rabbid Luigi, Luigi, Rabbid Mario, Peach, Rabbid Yoshi and Yoshi (unlocked in that order).
The Rabbid counterparts of the Mario characters are literally Rabbids dressed in often-poor costumes of the Mario characters, though each counterpart typically plays quite differently from its original. For instance, though Luigi himself is a long-range sniper, Rabbid Luigi is significantly more unorthodox, with his life-stealing dash attack being his best feature, and blasters with high-percentage elemental effects to augment his weird, mobile style. There’s plenty of reason to play one over the other in certain situations, and the campaign throws enough switch-ups that any party is likely to experience a few roster changes.
But though every character might merit a try, one of the major questions that has plagued Kingdom Battle is this: is it difficult? Due to the popular tagline of the game as “XCOM meets Mario meets Rabbids”, many have been comparing the title with the notoriously-difficult, alien TBS of Firaxis Games.
Of course, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is only a little like its more serious counterpart. If anything, it’s a much more streamlined version. But a veteran may still find some moments of difficulty.
As other players have noted, the difficulty ramps up with the introduction of the game’s third world, Spooky Trails. But I myself didn’t find the third world to be any more or less difficult than any of the others necessarily. Rather, difficulty in Kingdom Battle is all about the situations one is thrown in, and how one makes best use of their three-character team.
If there were one major problem with Kingdom Battle, it would be that its difficulty is somewhat engineered at times. The AI can pull off some surprising combos, but most often any particular level is difficult largely because of a disadvantage on the part of the players.
The hardest level for me was the first level of Spooky Trails, which placed my team in an open area, with plenty of enemies around, already behind cover. It was a hard point to work from, even worse considering the spawning of enemies two turns in, which both makes enemies invincible while spawning and allows them a free turn to attack the player unmolested.
I passed at least 90% of the Rabbids levels with a ‘Perfect’ clear; in a fast time with no character losses. And this from someone who hasn’t even played the first level of XCOM. But it was certainly very close at times, and there were more than a few restarts later on to get that ‘Perfect.’
Difficult starting situations continue into the co-op challenges, which are themselves usually a revisiting of campaign areas, though now built around four player characters. Of the two, campaign and co-op, co-op was the most fun in my experience, as bringing on a friend meant a new team dynamic, with success now including a further element of communication and cooperation.
Like the campaign missions, co-op challenges rotate around a few win conditions: reach the area, defeat ‘x’ enemies, defeat all enemies, and escort missions.
The final thing I might note is the general character of the game. Though Kingdom Battle has some occasional cases of toilet talk, these are rare examples thankfully. In fact, some of the humor is actually fairly intelligent; things that might go over the heads of younger audiences.
But beyond humor, the graphics are certainly nice, and it can be fun at times to see the Mushroom Kingdom in a new light. And though Kingdom Battle might feel a little streamlined at times, its basic nature makes it a good introduction to the TBS genre, and it allows players of all ages and skill levels to enjoy the game.
Overall Score: 8.4 (84%)
Summary: Defying expectations, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a fun, lighthearted strategy game open to players of all skill levels. If you’re looking for an introduction to the genre, or just another TBS title to play with, look no further.
Presentation: 8.6 Gameplay & Design: 8.4 Value: 8.8
- Plenty of weapons
- Each character feels fairly distinct from the others
- Co-op challenges are fun and provide a lot more content
- Huge environments encourage a lot of exploration, with hidden levels within each world
- Battles do require a fair amount of strategy in order to ace
- Players encouraged to revisit areas with post-campaign solo challenges
- More DLC content coming (with purchase of Season Pass)
- Few enemy types, though each area introduces a few more
- ‘Difficulty’ sloppily engineered at times
- All campaign teams must include members from each franchise, meaning no teams of all Mario characters or all Rabbid characters
- Moments of Rabbids-brand humor
- Many weapons are simply lesser versions of others
- No explicit co-op for campaign