Title: Rivals of Aether
Platform: Xbox One, Windows, Steam
Reviewed on: Windows
Players: Single player, Local Vs 1-
Written by Bad Demoman 29th September 2015
As some of you may know, I'm a massive fan of Smash Bros. I've played every iteration of it and I've even entered a couple tournaments and done absolutely horrendously. Unfortunately, as popular as it is with the competitive crowd, Smash isn't a game that tailors itself to that particular scene. Sakurai seemed to take downright offence to the idea of competitive smash in Brawl with the addition of things like tripping. Smash 4 has since appeased this need to an extent, with balance changes being implemented through patches. Dan Fornace's Rivals of the Aether, however, was designed with this competitive element in mind. Will it Smash the competition, or get knocked out by it’s established predecessor?
Inspired by Smash itself, Rivals of the Aether does a lot of things that Smash wouldn't. As a Ganondorf player, I understand that the fact that all the playable characters in Smash 4 are established Nintendo characters, with attributes they need to stick by. Ganondorf, for example, makes sense as a heavy hard hitter with little in the way of mobility, but this limits him very much so. Aether has no such obligations. Most of the characters have mechanics and moves that you don't really see much like in Smash. Kragg really doesn't conform to any of the conventions you'd expect from a Smash character -
Every character has a unique way to play and no two characters feel similar at all. Very few of the characters are even analogous to ones in Smash (with the slight exception of Zetterburn, who seems heavily based on Wolf). Maypul has the ability to mark an enemy, changing the properties of some of her attacks, while Orcane can lay puddles around the map in order to enhance the properties of his attacks, giving them extended range and increased power or to teleport to. Both of these leave you with an interesting choice – Maypul and Orcane have extremely strong recoveries, but only when they have their own respective special abilities on the map. Do you stun someone with a mark on them as Maypul for some extra damage, or lasso yourself to them to get back on the stage? Do you boost a move to attempt a kill with Orcane, potentially leaving you no way to get back on the stage? It enforces a thoughtful and planned out approach to what you'll do next, while in Smash sometimes it seems to be a matter of learning what your characters best move is and executing it well.
While execution is still essential in Aether, it's less of a chore than Smash. In execution heavy Smash games like Melee, you'll need to master a multitude of difficult techniques like L-
Unfortunately, Smash has the benefit of a massive roster to select from. Some may see this as a positive as you don't have to learn what a ton of characters do. Aether can feel slightly repetitive and limited by its diminutive six character roster though. It's been confirmed that two more characters will be entering the roster, and in all fairness the characters feel unique and well designed enough that this isn't too much of a problem. It lets you focus on learning a small handful of characters and learning the game itself much more. The unique design leads to a bunch of characters that are a hell of a lot of fun to play, since they all have clear objectives and ways that you’ll use their abilities to best your foes. I found myself, after a few hours of playing, enjoying every single character and playing them pretty much equally, both in time spent and skill. It really alleviates any monotony that the small roster may have induced otherwise.
Rivals of the Aether is a welcome change to Smash. That’s not to say that Smash isn’t a great game -
Rivals of Aether currently has a tentative release date of early 2016, but is currently available in Early Access on Steam and is planned to be available on the Xbox Game Preview Program on an unannounced date.