At first glance, it would be hard to finger Rise of Incarnates as a game from Bandai Namco. A free-to-play PC-exclusive online multiplayer game, it's the embodiment of a publisher looking to diversify their portfolio and invest in new business models. Developed internally at Bandai Namco, the publisher is positioning the game as a 2v2 online battle arena title "from the creators of Tekken and Soulcalibur."
But this isn't like the company's previous free-to-play efforts, Tekken Revolution or Soulcalibur: Lost Swords, which adapts familiar fighting gameplay into the F2P model. Instead, the game has more in common with Gundam.
Incarnates will have two teams of two fighting each other in a post-apocalyptic world, with New York being the first confirmed stage. (Future stages will include Paris, San Francisco, and London.) All playable characters will be rooted in some sort of mythology, whether it's Ares, Lilith, Mephistopheles, or the Grim Reaper. These disparate entities battle against each other to see which god reigns supreme.
Your chosen Incarnate will be able to jump, float, and glide through the arena, boosting forward to get close to the enemy. Although these may be humanoid characters, they move more like mechs. Through some hands-on, it appears the game is all about managing your distance with the opponent--and exploiting any vulnerabilities. Combat is rather simple, with players given short and long-ranged attacks. However, the interplay between the two players should add depth to the affair.
The learning curve may be high, if only because the game doesn't fit into the typical blueprint players may expect. It's far removed from the fighting games that Bandai Namco is known for, and it's certainly not a MOBA either. That makes Rise of Incarnates a rather unique addition to the increasingly-crowded F2P market on PC.
The game is due for release on PC in the latter half of the year, and the business plan hasn't really been decided upon. Given the premise, it wouldn't be surprising if it adopted a model not unlike League of Legends, where freely available Incarnates will be rotated, but players will have to pay to access specific ones. Cosmetic items and boosters will undoubtedly be sold as well.
In addition to embracing PC free-to-play, Rise of Incarnates also embodies another buzzword: transmedia. Bandai Namco plans on releasing an ongoing web comic series that gives the back stories of the titular Incarnates. According to Bandai Namco, Incarnates are:
humans that command untold mythical powers as they vie to avoid tragedy and reshape the course of their world. Due to their special abilities, Incarnates are both feared and loathed by the general population while being persecuted by the authorities that want to harness and use their power for their own nefarious needs. One day, a mysterious voice calls out to the Incarnates telling them the only way to avoid certain destruction is to destroy the "Sovereign of this era." It is here that the battle for dominance amongst Incarnates begins and the fate of life on Earth hangs in the balance.