Mario + Rabbids creative director Davide Soliani says the best compliment he’s ever received for Kingdom Battle is that it helped someone fall in love with even more tactical games.
“We tried to make people enjoy tactical games, even if they were initially afraid of it [trying them.] We made it more colourful, almost chromatherapeutic, more inviting.”
So now, with Sparks of Hope on the horizon, he’s looking to open the doors even further. Soliani wants Sparks of Hope to still be a gateway to the genre for new players, but also to properly challenge those who have grown into tactics experts.
The most obvious way the Sparks of Hope team achieves that is with difficulty settings. After the tutorial, Beep-0 asks the player how hard they think their mission will be, and invites them to choose an easy, normal, or expert difficulty level that can be re-adjusted at any time in the menu.
But there are other, smaller ways Sparks of Hope invites a slightly more customizable difficulty. As we mentioned in our preview, it’s easier to work out levels with all the enemies roaming the map, sidequests, and secrets, so if you’re struggling with a story battle, there are ways to get through. But you’re also more than free to progress through the story for a more challenging experience, and return to the extra missions you’re interested in later.
Soliani says the difficulty systems were inspired at least in part by his love of indie platformer darling Celeste, which is notoriously difficult but also includes a number of options to toggle specific challenging elements on and off, including the ability to just play the protagonist. make, Madeline, invincible.
Mario & Rabbids Sparks of Hope Screens (Nintendo Direct – September 2022)
“I think in the past I’ve talked to the people who had a child and they played the game together,” Soliani says. “And sometimes it was too hard for them to move forward. And then I say, “Okay, but if someone just wants to enjoy the game for the story, why not?” So today, by acting on the difficulty, you can also be invincible and play the whole game and join the story, the visuals, the humor without challenge.”
But at the same time, he adds, many people in the Mario + Rabbids community were already giving feedback that the game should be even harder. So Soliani and Ubisoft obliged them as well.
“I think you can really tailor the experience of these types of games to the type of player you are. So we said we really need to open up to our player and make sure they can enjoy the game the way they want to. They want more effort, go for it. They want something easier, go for it.”
We’re yet to see how wild that challenge can get, but we were able to explore some of Sparks of Hope’s much broader tactical capabilities in our preview of the game. You can also see more from our interview with Soliani, including why the Rabbids are talking now and what Nintendo character Soliani (as a fan) would like to see added to Mario + Rabbids in the future.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.