Multiversus is a brand new platform fighting game featuring crossovers from several Warner Brothers properties. A few weeks ago I was invited to play in the Multiversus closed alpha. While I expected to like the game, I didn’t expect myself to fall so in love with it. While it’s recognizable and nostalgic crossover roster will help it a lot, Multiversus features many smart decisions that will make the game a huge success in the long run. So what features does Multiversus have that other fighting games right now don’t?
Free to Play
One of the biggest problems facing modern fighting games is smaller player bases. Let’s face it, fighting games are mechanically intimidating. Not a lot of people want to take the risk of spending $60 on a game that has a steep learning curve just to be able to compete. Not to mention that most modern fighting games are pretty devoid of enticing single player content. With free to play games like Fortnite, Rocket League, or League of Legends dominating the multiplayer space, and more like Overwatch 2 on the horizon, $60 games that have less or similar amounts of content will ultimately end up with significantly less players.
Multiversus feels like one of the first major fighting games to opt for free to play in recent years. Brawlhalla is the only other notable case, and that game is both wildly successful and has a large player base. Giving more people the ability to try your game will ultimately lead to more people playing it consistently. There’s a reason so many of the most popular multiplayer games right now are all free to play. Frankly, Fighting Games need to get on the same page.
Cross Play and Cross Progression
Cross Play is a huge plus for any game. The ability to play with friends, regardless of platform, will always help a games longevity. Most fighting games don’t have cross play at all. Some games, like Guilty Gear Strive, only get it over a year after launch. Multiversus features an entirely functional cross play in its closed alpha. I played on PC and was able to play against PS4 and Xbox players with no issues at all. Beyond being able to play with friends on different platforms, cross play will also widen a game’s player base in general. While a lot of fighting games struggle to maintain a large audience after launch, cross play allows player bases to double or even triple by uniting the platforms.
Cross progression is another nice bonus. It allows players to carry over their progress between platforms if they desire. Not forcing players to start over every time they play the game on a new platform is a great quality of life feature. When I got a PC for the first time, I found myself hesitant to reinvest in Multiplayer games I had on console simply because of the thought of having to restart all my progress and losing all of my cosmetics.
Rollback netcode is the Holy Grail of Fighting Game online and here’s why:
The standard and easier to implement netcode for online play is called “Delay Based Netcode”. Delay based netcode functions by waiting for both players inputs to send to the server, and then sending those inputs to the other person before progressing the game. If you’ve ever played Super Smash Brothers Ultimate online, you are probably familiar with delay based netcode. You can tell a game is delay based if you can notice input delay between hitting a button on your controller and seeing it appear on the screen.
Rollback Netcode is a little more complicated. Essentially, it uses complex algorithms to predict each player’s input. If the algorithm is wrong, the game will roll back to the correct inputs. (I’m not an expert on netcode, here is someone who can explain it much better). This means that with good rollback, there is no input lag. This is especially good for fighting games because of how precise inputs can be. Bad connection in rollback will lead to characters appearing to teleport rather than input delay or stuttering. Multiversus having rollback in its closed alpha already puts it ahead of so many fighting games that don’t use it at all (Dragon Ball FighterZ, for example).
Good online benefits all players. Since fighting games are built around precision inputs, rollback needs to be a necessity for these games moving forward.
Team Based Gameplay
Most fighting games will focus on 1v1 action. Platform fighters specifically usually allow for 2v2 matches, but none of them are designed for it specifically. One of Multiversus’ greatest strengths is the way it was specifically made for 2v2. Almost every character I played had some sort of ability that could be used to benefit team play: Buggs Bunny digs a tunnel on the stage that can be used by teammates to traverse the stage quicker, Steven Universe has shields that protect allies, and Finn can purchase buffs that affect his whole team.
It is incredibly refreshing to play a fighting game where players have roles. Support, Tank, and DPS might sound like standard roles in most multiplayer games, but fighting games have never had these before. These roles allow players with different strengths to excel in different ways and opens up what can be a more intimidating genre to more people.
Furthermore, the team focus makes playing with friends much more enjoyable. In traditional fighting games you can only play against your friends. The ability to queue up with a friend and play together on the same team makes the game much more likely to succeed with a casual audience. People want to queue up with their friends and just having the option will make the game appeal to many more players.
Multiversus has More Options and More Features
One thing that I found to be very nice was just how many options were available. The controls menu was comprehensive; controls were completely customizable. I love playing 2D games with the D-pad, yet almost every other platform fighter I’ve played restricts that option. I was happy to be able to play the game in ways that I find comfortable. This is just one of the many options Multiversus gives the player on how they want to play the game. Putting more options into the players hands is never a bad thing.
Perks exist in the game and allow you to change the way in which certain characters function. Some perks give you the ability to perform an extra jump, others allow you to deal more damage or raise your defense. The ability to customize your characters with special enhancements adds a ton of depth. Exploring different builds felt really fun and rewarding. It feels like something that could keep long sessions with the same characters feeling fresh.
Although Multiversus is a platform fighting game specifically, I think it represents the future of the fighting game genre as a whole. Free to play, cross play, and rollback are becoming more crucial to breeding large player bases. A fighting game can be mechanically incredible, but without players it doesn’t matter. Other multiplayer games have already started to implement these features, so why should fighting games be any different? I believe Multiversus has all the features that modern fighting games are lacking, and I hope it represents a new standard for the genre.
Multiversus launches later this year, and will have an open beta coming this July. If you want to see more fighting game content, check out this piece on what makes fighting games memorable.