Iron Galaxy taking over for the second season of Killer Instinct was the best thing Microsoft hoped for the keep the return of the series going. Fresh off their experience with Capcom fighting game ports and Divekick, their fighting game expertise shined in their efforts on more returning characters as well as unique newcomers. They also initiated new genre standards for online fighting games with ranked leagues and 2 out of 3 matches at Killer rank. It's not a surprise they're back at the helm for Season 3, as they manage to keep things fresh for both new players and folks that have been playing since the Xbox One's launch.
The first returnee in Killer Instinct Season 3 is Kim Wu from the second game. Her trademark style remained intact from her dragon kicks and the nunchuks, but her new toys will appease higher level players. Her new mechanic revolves around dragon spirits where she can gain those by ending combos with the Firecracker special or activate instinct mode. With spirits, she can parry attacks and cancel moves but while in instinct she can use them as projectiles. She has a general playstyle for casual players, but a higher learning curve out of the four new characters with her dragon spirits, which will suit tournament level folks.
The other returning character from Killer Instinct 2 in this new season is the swordsman Tusk. His sword has unique properties in which some of his moves pierce through opposing attacks. He is a slower yet hits a truck style of character and all about taking advantage of his special trait. However, I find him the less fun of the new cast so far.
Then we got the guest characters with Rash from Battletoads and the Arbiter from the Halo franchise. The crazy thing is that they're the characters I have the most fun. Rash was available to try out last summer for a limited time in beta form, but we finally got to see be more complete. Iron Galaxy did a great job integrating his personality and source material to Killer Instinct. It's cool to see the Battletoads homages with the speeder bike as his instinct mode, mashing the jab button like the classic beat-em-up for an easy combos and some of his enders. He also has great mobility with the wrecking ball that takes one hit of armor and his tongue that acts similar to Spider-Man's web zipping. If you prefer playing flashy characters, Rash is the one to pick up when you play this third season.
The developers also did some clever things with the Arbiter. Just like the Halo games, he can fire Carbine shots with the right trigger button (Heavy Kick) and throw plasma grenades with left bumper (3x punch). Plasama grenades do stick on opponents and Arbiter himself can be hurt from the blast radius unless he is shielded. He also has a command grab where he goes in camo to charge at foes stabbing them. There is also the shield mechanic also reminiscent of Halo which can recharge while in instinct mode, but can be activated normally by spending shadow meter. High level Arbiter players are gonna be all about zoning with limited Carbine ammo and grenades as well as finding nasty setups with those tools. In other words, you can play him as a hit and run type of fighter but also rushdown when the opportunity comes.
Besides the four new characters, Iron Galaxy also made some significant changes to the gameplay as well as balance changes for the characters from the first two seasons. The big change I noticed was that combo breakers don't cause hard knockdown anymore. That is big in the tournament scene and I couldn't instinct cancel right away for instance when I initiated the break. Also introduced when Shadow Jago came out was the stagger mechanic for the new cast. The stages also received new lighting effects and some of them look way better than their original versions. However, the most important addition for Season 3 is that the entire game is now out on PC with cross play and cross buy functionalities. We finally get to see the game reach out to more people even though it is only Windows 10 owners and it's free to play just like the Xbox One version with microtransactions.
Killer Instinct Season 3 is now off and running in a great way for both Xbox One and PC. The new characters are worthy additions especially the guest stars surprisingly and the gameplay changes are much needed as well. The improved visuals to the older stages make the game look way better than it was during the first season's launch. There's still four more characters to some in the coming months with newcomer Mira later this month and the return of Gargos next month. In addition, a new single player mode called Shadow Lords is also coming soon and more will be revealed before it's launch. Almost three years later, we still see the new Killer Instinct set new boundaries for fighting games and have unique characters that are fun to play as. Who of would expected this for a fighting game that was originally created by Rare and published by Nintendo today?