WWE Immortals is the game we have, not the game we deserve
WWE hasn’t always had the best track record when it comes to developing alternate realities for their superstars, but the new mobile game WWE Immortals has just about the best looking faux-roster of the lot.
We’ve been graced with Slam City, the (actually pretty great) Scooby Doo WrestleMania Mystery, the upcoming Flintstones crossover film, and the well reviewed but sadly never followed up video game WWE All-Stars. The couple of well-realized alternate universes that do exist within the WWE Universe have been mostly aimed at children. While those straight to DVD cartoons will rake in the revenue for the company, the older, nerdier and more adult crowd are left trying to get into Scooby-Doo and Flintstones if they want any real “reality bending” variety from their time sink of a pastime.
Then there was talk back in 2011 of a game called WWE Brawl which was being made by the now defunct developer Blue Tongue and published by the late, great publisher THQ. The game was reminiscent of Capcom’s classic arena brawler the Power Stone series in motion, and brought together legends and current superstars with some incredibly unique takes on their gear and special moves. The modern and mature attitude behind WWE Brawl would vanish into thin air sadly, until very recently.
Above: Footage from the abandoned WWE Brawl hosted on Fighter’s Generation.com
With sadly little fanfare, WWE Immortals was revealed as the first joint venture between the WWE and Netherrealm Studios. Netherrealm is very well known for their Mortal Kombat franchise, and their most recent game Injustice: Gods Among Us. Working with developer Phosphor games, they were able to port Injustice to the mobile devices in a free-to-play format. WWE Immortals features three on three battles between reimagined superstars including a Centurion Roman Reigns, Barbarian Big Show, Demonic Daniel Bryan, Grim Reaper Paige and more. And the best news is…they all look great. Where Slam City and the cartoons ask me to appreciate the goofy, Immortals is finally embracing the epic.
In the title of this article I called the game a re-skinning, and I still sort of mean that. The gameplay itself is so reminiscent of the port of Injustice, and the fact the game went straight to mobile only makes me feel like although a lot of time and energy went into the art direction, the gameplay is only embracing its WWE roots on the surface level. Combat is simple: tap the screen to attack, swipe to power attack, hold to block, and tap the “super move” icon to do one and tap to tag in teammates. That’s all. The super moves are where the animation shines in the game, giving each superstar a powerful looking variant on their signature moves from the ring, but aside from that attack and defense strategy is as simple as “taptaptaptaptaptap hold maybe taptaptaptaptap swipe for fun taptaptaptaptaptaptap special move i win”. For now at least.
The promise of additional content as I grind out the matches (the freemium special) isn’t enough to break the thin layer of monotony and lack of depth in the fighting engine at the moment. There’s enough superstars to keep things interesting (even with a few costume swaps in the mix), and they can be trained/collected through buying virtual currency and playing the game. Here’s where the full freemium rears its head, as buying the highest tier of character, the “King of Kings HHH”, will cost you fifty dollars of real world money if you want him al a carte. Insanity. The only other way to get him is unlocking him through grinding, or through a random character booster pack.
WWE Immortals should have been the big budget, risk taking title for the consoles that WWE Brawl was shaping up to be, but instead it came out a little stunted on the mobile devices. The free to play model means the game feels lightweight compared to a full price title, despite the production quality. The lack of attention in adapting the gameplay to the subject matter and not vice-versa is a little obvious which also hurts the overall feel of the game. The story is literally a massive plot hole, involving alternate dimensions and realities, HHH and Stephanie opening portals and booking these otherworld superstars in what appears to be unregulated strictly tag team fights. It’s very un-WWE.
Unfortunately it’s not easy to believe that this game would ever get the “reverse port” treatment and end up on consoles or PC. It has promise, it’s gorgeous, and as a mobile title it’s up there with the rest of the best available. Netherrealm didn’t stiff on the shine, but the meat is a little dry in this new title.
Bring back WWE Brawl, please.