Mario + Rabbids creative director Davide Soliani says the best compliment he’s 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 [trying them.] We made it more colorful, almost chroma-therapeutic, more attractive.”
So now, with Sparks of Hope on the horizon, he wants to open the doors even wider. Soliani wants Sparks of Hope to remain a gateway to the genre for new players, but also to properly challenge those who have become master tacticians.
The most obvious way the Sparks of Hope team is doing that is with difficulty levels. Following the tutorial, Beep-0 asks the player approximately how difficult he thinks his mission is going to be, inviting him to select an easy, normal, or expert difficulty which can be adjusted again in the menu at any time.
But there are other, smaller ways that Sparks of Hope invites slightly more customizable difficulty. As we pointed out in our preview, it’s easier to get through levels with all the enemies roaming the map, side quests, and secrets, so if you’re struggling with a story fight, there are ways to move forward. But you’re also more than free to charge through the story for a more challenging experience, and return to any additional quests that interest you later.
Soliani says the difficulty systems were inspired, at least in part, by his love of indie platformer favorite Celeste, which is notoriously difficult but also includes a number of options to turn specific challenging elements on and off, including the ability to make the protagonist the protagonist. Madeline, invincible.
Mario & Rabbids Sparks of Hope Screenshots (Nintendo Direct – September 2022)
“I think in the past I talked to people who had a child and played together,” says Soliani. “And sometimes it was too difficult for them to progress. And then I’m like, ‘Okay, but if someone wants to enjoy the game just for the narrative, why not?’ So today, by acting on the difficulty level, you can also be invincible and do the whole game and join the narrative, the visuals, the humor without challenge.”
But at the same time, he adds, many people who are already part of the Mario + Rabbids community were of the opinion that the game should be made even more difficult. So Soliani and Ubisoft also indulged.
“I think you can really tailor the experience of this type of game to the type of player you are. So we said that we should really open up to our player and make sure that he can enjoy the game the way he wants. They want more difficulty, go ahead. They want something easier, go ahead.”
Exactly how wild that challenge can get is yet to be seen, but we were able to explore some of Sparks of Hope’s much broader tactical possibilities in our preview of the game. You can also check out more from our interview with Soliani, including why the Rabbids are now talking and which Nintendo character Soliani (as a fan) wants to see added to Mario + Rabbids in the future.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @patovalentine.