An iOS fighter done simple, but right.
NetherRealm’s DC superhero fighting game has been turning a lot of heads lately. It looks great, and by most accounts is a fun and competent brawler. As is customary, this also means a watered-down iOS release. Although that’s not entirely accurate. Injustice: Gods Among Us certainly isn’t as robust or complex as its console counterpart, but it’s a solid hybrid of RGP, CCG, and fighting game that caters specifically to the mobile market.
The overall plot for Injustice: Gods Among Us is more or less the same as the console version. Some real bad stuff goes down and a bunch of DC superheroes and villains are left to duke it out. On the surface it’s a relatively simple gesture-based fighter. Players can either tap the screen for light attacks or swipe left or right for strong ones. Tapping on a character portrait will also switch the heroes/villains out, giving them time to heal up a little. There’s little in the way of combos aside from multiple light or heavy hits in succession but the more damage a character doles out and receives the faster they can fill up their special meter to unleash some pretty nasty attacks.
Underneath the spiffy visuals and various forms of hurting other people is an RPG-like leveling system that both boosts a character’s strength and health as well as enabling the use of more devastating specials. Where the CCG parts come in is with the acquisition of the characters themselves. Coins earned through fights can be spent on booster packs that contain one character of varying rarities (bronze, silver, gold) and some support cards.
While the fighting bits are admittedly rather simple, especially compared to the console alternative, Injustice does a fantastic job of offsetting that with the underlying complexity of the RPG and CCG elements. The roster isn’t as big as the $60 version but every single character, including their various alternate costumes, has their own special innate abilities. For example the bronze edition of Cat Woman can induce bleeding conditions and cause damage-over-time, while a silver Sinestro gains power (i.e. special attack juice) every time an opponent tags out. Special attacks can also be enhanced and unlocked by either paying coins or acquiring special upgrade cards. Finally, the support cards boost various attributes (+10% attack for Superman, etc) just by having them. And while the RPG elements are pretty light there’s still a very noticeable difference between level 2 and level 13 characters, even without factoring in their improved specials.
Of course when RPG and even card-collecting elements are introduced they often carry the unfortunate side effect of having to grind. Injustice isn’t an exception in this case. The amount of coins earned from match to match increases as fights get tougher but it can still take quite a while to save up the 8,000 needed to buy the lowest end booster packs, let alone the much more costly silver or gold ones. The enhancement cards that can be acquired certainly help, as does being able to combine duplicates of a specific character to create a more powerful “elite,” but eventually players will need to save up for at least a couple silver heroes (a level 1 silver is roughly as powerful as a level 10 bronze). This is also important because every fight costs stamina, and after a while players will need to swap out their favorite trio for another unless they want to simply wait for a recharge. Building up a stable of at least six adequate fighters is a must for anyone who wants to play for extended periods of time.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is an impressive iOS fighter despite its simplicity. In fact, that simplicity is part of the reason it works so well. Rather than force a bunch of complex control systems into a platform that honestly couldn’t handle it, they went with a much simpler and more accessible method that plays to the device’s strengths. That alone would have probably been enough to make it worth playing for the sake of curiosity but the added layers of character levels, special abilities, individual talents, and card collecting really come together to form an unexpectedly solid hybrid.