Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was surprisingly one of the best games that I played at E3 2017. The game, which was unfortunately leaked a few weeks before its epic reveal at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, joins the two titular characters for a turn based strategy adventure. What, at first looked like an odd combination of properties and genre turned out to be a fun little strategy game with some great touches. It was so enjoyable that I actually ended up playing the demo twice, once with Nintendo and once with Ubisoft, with a different boss battle awaiting me each time.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was surprisingly one of the best games that I played at E3 2017
Mario + Rabbids gameplay takes one of two main forms. Exploration, which according to Ubisoft’s (INSERT NAME) amounts to about 30% of the final game, and combat. Exploration is pretty straight forward, with the player controlling a blue robot sort of character whose origin seems key to the plot of the game. Mario and his two Rabbid compatriots follow close behind, though later parts of the game will let you swap out these two sidekicks.
There’s a maze partway through and my Ubisoft demo featured a couple of fun navigational puzzles. One involved hitting switches that moved bridges between a few platforms. My goal required some backtracking and smart manipulation of the switches and bridges. Still, while this portion of the game works just fine, the real draw is in the combat.
The XCOM-like turn based strategy doesn’t at all seem like something that would fit with the Mario universe, yet Ubisoft seems to have crafted an experience that does perfectly well. It’s an odd thing to watch, and an odd thing to feel as your mind shifts from figuring out which platforms you should jump on to which enemies to target, how, and in which order.
Mario’s also not alone here, with two teammates that are under your direct control. In the demo they’re Luigi and Peach themed Rabbids, but there will be many more available later in the game. While some might view the Rabbids poorly I feel that Ubisoft has avoided the pitfalls of Minions (which seem like a fairly blatant ripoff of the Rabbids actually), and keep these guys fresh and funny in their own way.
Whether you like them or not, the gameplay in Mario + Rabbids is the real star and while the demo only showcased a couple of combat situations, what was shown here was quite impressive. This isn’t a hardcore strategy game, instead it borrows mechanics from those titles while layering on more simple and fun ways to experience it.
The best small touch in this early game is how Mario + Rabbids alters the standard turn-based movement mechanics. Rather than having movement work as a standalone function, instead it can also serve as an attack. By running straight into your enemies you’ll deal some quick damage, then you can move behind some other cover, perhaps taking them out with your next shot.
You can also team up your characters, having Rabbid Luigi run into Mario or Peach who will then propel them further along the map. Movement quickly becomes as important a mechanic on its own as attacking or positioning. The warp pipes only expand these options, with players able to run all around the map, dealing damage the whole way, move behind some cover, then fire, all on a single turn.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle so far looks like it’s set to deliver a unique experience within the Mario and Rabbid universes, while crafting a turn-based strategy game like none other. The simple mechanics build upon each other, such as techniques that get added late in the demo such as healing, overwatch, and more. A wide array of weapons also expand your options in combat, showing that this game might look simple, but offers a deeper strategy game than one might think.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle hits Nintendo Switch on August 29th.