Not intended to be a direct sequel to the original Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope offers an expansion of cosmic scope, with fully explorable planets and freer movement, even in its tactical battles. In a way, it’s Mario Galaxy to the original Mario World (and not just because Rabbid Rosalina joined the characters).
Speaking to IGN, Creative Director David Soliani and Producer Xavier Manzanares talked about why and how Sparks of Hope is striving to be so much bigger than its predecessor, as the cast of characters alone has tripled compared to the first game.
“Our first thought was that it would be a spiritual sequel to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, but we’re not designing it as a sequel,” Soliani explained. “The team is back: the Rabbids, Peach and Mario are back, but only Mushroom Kingdom It wasn’t enough, so the entire Mario + Rabbids world was expanded on a cosmic scale.”
The idea is not just to make more Mario + Rabbids, but to expand what this game can be, and that’s especially evident in how the game is designed. Instead of a mostly linear set of regions with battles scattered in them, you’re now traveling around completely separate planets, each fully exploreable with people to talk to and secrets to uncover.
“We planned to present a lot of planets, each of which is completely different, has its own story and personalities,” Manzanares said. The idea is to make each planet different from the other, offering its own variety of experiences. “The way things work is you get to the planet, you explore it, and you can go anywhere you want on the planet. So we worked a lot on how much control we give the players, based on what they want to do, between activities, whether talking to Unplayable characters, solving puzzles, or fighting battles.
Of course, tactical combat remains the core of the game, but even that has changed dramatically. Battles on planets are now transported to different arenas, and the XCOM-like network in the first game has been scrapped, making your battles now much freer, a bit like Divinity: Original Sin.
On this issue Soliani explained: “As I was saying before, even if this was a spiritual sequel, we never designed it as a sequel, but rather a new direction for the tactical genre. So we aspired in this game to push the tactical boundaries further, to provide a combat system Completely revamped for our players. That’s why we’ve fundamentally redesigned the old combat system with a focus on the fluidity and action provided by the ability to move heroes in real time.”
The result is a game that Ubisoft hopes will continue the grotesque and beloved legacy of Kingdom Battle, but opens up entirely new ideas and ways of thinking about the game rather than repeating the same tricks, just as the main Mario series has done over and over again over the years. We look forward to seeing that for ourselves when the game launches in 2022.