Rising Thunder is the newest brainchild of Radiant Entertainment, a company with deep ties to the fighting game community. Seth Killian, the legendary commentator and Street Fighter 4 developer, as well as many of the organizers behind the Evolution tournament series came together to create a modern interpretation of the traditional 2D fighting game.
Rising Thunder aims to bring all of the depth and complexity of Street Fighter to a new audience by lowering the barrier to entry that has kept many players out of the scene since its inception. A combination of one-button specials and a free-to-play business model place Rising Thunder on the frontier of FG development, but not everything is rainbows and sunshine in the new fighter. In fact, many of the gameplay changes that are aimed to make Rising Thunder more approachable may be working against that philosophy by turning new players off of the game before they have a chance to appreciate what makes fighting games so popular. Instead of discussing my problems with Rising Thunder in a mature and construction fashion, I prefer to list them in an arbitrary order and complain. Heaven or hell! Let’s rock!
5. Mashing One-Button Invincible DPs
The biggest difference between Rising Thunder and other similar games is the inclusion of one-button specials. This seems like a no-brainer, but it does change how the game plays significantly beyond allowing players to do specials easier. A veteran fighting game player will still have to take more time to do a special notation like a QCF (quarter circle forward) than to press a button, regardless of how many times they’ve performed that notation. Games like Street Fighter have been balanced around this fact, and the developers seem to be experimenting with the implications of faster specials.
Invincible DPs (dragon punches/uppercuts) are a mainstay in traditional fighting games, but they’re usually balanced by having an awkward and slightly more complex notation that other moves. They usually become active very quickly, have many invincibility frames, and read to knockdown situations, or in some cases, additional combos. Rising Thunder’s DPs remove the delay between the player’s thought and their execution without removing any of the benefits of the DP move, leaving their inexperienced players very frustrated. The addition of cooldowns help, meaning that a Vlad that mashes DP can be punished relatively easily on wake up for a few seconds after messing up, but they don’t do much to decrease the frustration of getting DP’d out of a non-true block string (a series of attacks that doesn’t leave the opponent in blockstun throughout the entire string of moves).
Obviously better players can bait DPs easily and ensure that their opponent stays in blockstun, but newer players will be very turned off when their opponent mashes DP. They’ll lose to an opponent that mashes DP and then assume that they need to mash DP on wake-up or during blockstrings to become a better player. That player will then either stay in a low rank hell where these techniques go unpunishes or will progress to a higher rank and get completely destroyed against players that know how to counter them. Neither of these options will create an experience that will encourage non-FGC players from continuing to play the game.
4. Playing on a Fightstick
Another big “benefit” of having one-button notations for every move in the game is that Rising Thunder can be comfortably played on keyboard. Not only does this make the game easier for some players that prefer playing on keyboard, it also lowers another barrier to entry for fighters, which is the expense of a good fightstick or controller.
However, this isn’t without downsides; a lot of FGC players will find that playing on their fightsticks is awkward and suboptimal, as the game has been so heavily designed around keyboard use. Having every move associated with a separate button means that stick players will need to utilize all of the 6 buttons on their controllers. Some games, like Skullgirls, already do this to some extent, but they also allow players to ignore the 5th and 6th buttons by using combinations of the other four buttons instead. Rising Thunder’s dev team has decided to not allow for button combinations for fear of creating option selects (the ability for one input to result in two different outputs based on the context of the match).
Six buttons without the ability to use combinations wouldn’t be half as bad if the last two buttons weren’t the grab and super button. I play with my hand resting over my buttons, with my palm hovering over the right most bottom button. If I choose that button to be my super button, I run into the issue of accidentally pressing it with my palm, but if I choose it to be my grab, I have a very difficult time performing more precise grab set ups with characters like Dauntless (I need to hold down my Gamma special, then immediately press the grab button once the special finishes, for example).
3. Fighting Bad Players
Removing the execution barrier to entry seems like a great thing for the fighting game scene, but it also creates a very frustrating experience of making it easier to lose to bad players. This may just be a bad case of PJSalt, but I find that I lose to players that don’t know anything about blocking, but can easily perform complex mix-ups and set ups. I know that they went into training mode to learn these strategies, but they’ve never played another fighter where they need to learn how to block. I wouldn’t mind this as much if I was at a higher rank, but my current experience in ranked play is full of frustrating matches against people who can dish out damage, but can’t deal with any of their own strategies once they’re presented with them.
My salt may not be a means for concern for the Rising Thunder dev team, but I can’t be the only player that can’t stand playing ranked because of how easy it is for bad players to deal tons of damage. I doubt that new players will have an experience that makes them want to keep playing in the current state of low-rank play. If Rising Thunder wants to be a niche title for veteran Street Fighter players with bad execution, that’s fine, but it seems that Radiant Entertainment wants to use their game as a platform for newer players to get into the FGC. This approach will require at least slight changes to how a traditional fighter works to create a gameplay that lets bad players fight each other while still feeling like they’re learning and progressing. If I didn’t know that overheads, high-low mixups, and grab mixups were easy to deal with, then I would have quit a long time ago. I’ve tried to teach enough non-FGC players fighters to know that new players are not willing to deal with frustration or salt lightly. The salty scrub video that blew up after Rising Thunder went into open beta is a great example of what I expect will happen a lot once RS becomes more popular, and as much as I love listening to scrubs complain, it’s not a good look for the future of Rising Thunder as Street Fighter’s entry drug.
2. Talos’ Blue Boot
I’m going to be real here. This entry was entirely added because I’m salty. I can deal with one-button invincible DPs, mostly thanks to their cooldowns and long recoveries, but Talos’ blue boot is the most frustrating ability I’ve ever fought against in any fighting game. It helps that Talos has command grabs to compliment the armored, long ranging command normal that causes a wallbounce, but even if he didn’t, I would still pick the character with blue boot over the character without every time. Armor on normals is usually added to make up for the normals lack of speed, giving the player a way to play footsies without getting beaten by quicker opponents every time. Blue boot, on the other hand, is fast, leads to heavy damage or tricky mix ups situations, has armor, and is in a game without many multi-hitting moves that are quick enough to punish the armor. I blame Blue Boot for the amount of Talos I see in ranked play. I also blame the normal for keeping me from playing the game’s grappler, because I hate Talos despite the fact that I almost exclusively play that character archetype.
1. Ranked Play
As it currently stands, Rising Thunder’s ranked play is atrocious. Admittedly, the game is in some form of an alpha test phase, but I’ve been ranked up against enough Legends as a Bronze player that I don’t want to roll the dice on whether I’ll enjoy myself playing a video game. The game will get better as development continues, but I will not submit myself to trying to climb the ranked ladder as it currently stands.
What have your experiences with Rising Thunder been like? Do you think the game will improve as it approaches release? Let me know in the comments below.