Ubisoft blends Mario, Rabbids, Advance Wars and Far Cry into a single turn-based strategy package that is fresh and surprising and very well made.
When the game was announced, it probably wasn’t just the game’s developer who was crying. The game, which was already rumored before the reveal at E3 2017, seemed like blasphemy. An unholy marriage that was born out of the desperate desire of Nintendo to rekindle a relationship with Ubisoft. This game could never be good…could it?
Well, spoiler alert, it is good. Very good in fact. This game breathes the polish and quality you’d expect from a Nintendo game. But remember, this game might star Mario, but it’s not a Nintendo game. This is a Ubisoft game, yes that Ubisoft. While the marriage between Mario and the Rabbids might seem unholy, it’s not that strange if you look at the Rabbids’ history. They were introduced (exclusively at first) on the Wii and were one of the system’s third party highlights. So, the Rabbids have been tied to Nintendo since their inception. While this might be a what-came-first-discussion, I think this game is so good in fact that it didn’t need the Mario branding. The game doesn’t really utilize the Mario games’ characteristics outside of the Mushroom kingdom setting. But perhaps Nintendo’s involvement is what made this game so good, so without it would it have been this good? Who knows, but we do know that what we have is a cracker of a game.
What makes the game intriguing is the combination of genres that this game entails. The Mario & Rabbids gameplay (as far as there is something like a default gameplay for a Rabbids game) is actually very limited. It’s other games, like Far Cry and Advance Wars that provide a lot more input. The game’s tactical gameplay is rooted in Advance Wars. But it expands on that core by adding things like tackles and team jump actions, adding a certain lightness that suits the game’s setting very well. The styling of the game’s enemies brings Far Cry into the equation. All of these elements are beautifully mixed into a single delightful package.
There is very little wrong about this game and for this review’s purpose, I want to name them even though they pale in comparison to the game’s strengths but I want to get them out of the way at the start. The game can suffer some occasional slowdown when rendering the game’s beautiful world. Since this is a turn-based game this isn’t exactly a problem but it was noticeable nonetheless. From a challenge perspective, this game is probably on the simple side for the hard core turn-based strategy gamers out there, for the lesser gods, I think the challenge is set very well and definitely not too easy. But with a light-spirited and truly funny game like this that is to be expected. The game’s biggest flaw, however, is the absence of a proper co-op mode. While the game has a multiplayer mode I would have really loved to see an option to play the main game with 2, 3 or 4 people. Perhaps an update down the line might remedy this, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.
The game’s main content comes from the game’s story mode with kicks of with a rather beautiful (but non-skippable) intro sequence that lays out the background to the game’s odd setting. It explains why the Rabbids are present on both sides of the arenas. While the story won’t win any rewards it’s definitely entertaining enough to be worthwhile.
The game has you teaming up with some familiar Mario characters and some of the Rabbids
cross-dressing cosplaying as Mario characters. In teams of three, you take on turn-based challenges. These challenges usually involve beating enough of the opposition or reaching a safe zone with at least one of your team still standing. Each battle is assessed and the better you do the more coins you collect. Along the way, you can unlock new characters and new abilities for those characters. Unlocking abilities for characters is handled through a skill tree making it important to perform well because improved abilities can be crucial to getting a perfect score on your next battle thus potentially giving you more points to spend on skills. Rince and repeat.
All these battles are linked through an overworld that has a lot of secrets of its own. Exploring this world not only provides a nice change in gameplay it’s practically a game on its own. There is so much to discover that may spend more time here than in the actual battles.
The presentation in this game is spot on. The game renders a beautiful and detailed world bursting with color and detail. Apart from the occasional heavy-battle stutter, everything runs smooth and without a hitch. Both Mario and the Rabbids may have never looked better. What’s perhaps even more impressive is that the audio, and especially the music is on par if not better than the visuals. It captures not only the quality but also the charm of Nintendo’s tunes and will have you humming them for days.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a surprising game on many different levels. Not only does it add turn-based strategy to the Switch – and Mario for that matter -, it does so with tons of polish and attention to detail. All wrapped in delightful package that make it highly recommended and an addition to the Switch’ young but growing library of games.