I played Under Night In-Birth with rollback and it was glorious

Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes ran an open beta this past weekend, giving everyone their first chance to really put the game through its paces and, most importantly, see how well the netcode holds up. In the case of the latter, I’m happy to report it’s superb. Game’s looking great!

Having played a ton of Under Night on delay-based netcode for the past few years, it felt so good to finally have a more stable experience. I played hundreds of matches and only had a handful of cases where the rollback was clearly visible and only one actually unplayable match. I played someone in Australia (I’m on the west coast of the US) and it felt good. Before that wouldn’t be playable. Makes me hopeful that it’ll be able to handle just about any distance without much issue.

Biggest draw of the beta is that two of the three new characters were playable. Kaguya is a very agile character wielding two pistols, giving her a good deal of versatility at close and long range (multiple fullscreen projectiles in this case). And Tsurugi is a rushdown character who uses a large shield, which lets him pass through attacks unharmed if you time some of his basic attacks correctly. Can also plant his shield to assume a stance that blocks almost any attack (except those that have to be blocked crouching) and advance while doing so. Both seem very cool. Didn’t play either of them myself (not great at learning how to play someone new without some sort of direction; plus I was more interested in seeing what was new with my main), but the sets I got in against them made a good impression. Will definitely give them a shot in the full game.

As for the game itself, it feels… faster. It’s never been a slow game, mind, but it feels like the tempo has been noticeably increased. Minute-to-minute action moves at a quicker pace than before. Offense and defense both are more aggressive — in part due to the changes to Veil Off and Guard Thrust (the former is much faster now making it a way stronger reversal, while the latter is less costly and easier to input), which led to pressure being a bit harder to apply since you could easily be pushed back now. But everyone’s play felt more aggressive as well. Maybe it’s just because it’s new and we’re all just mashing a bunch, but it definitely felt different in the moment.

Offense is definitely stronger, though. One of the new systems, a state called “Celestial,” grants a significant boost in damage and gets you access to tons of meter to spend. It’s basically a stronger version of Vorpal, the state you enter upon winning the GRD Cycle, the tug-of-war style metagame that is the core of Under Night. If you gain seven or more blocks of GRD when the timer at the bottom of the screen fills, you enter Celestial and instantly get 12 blocks along with a large damage boost. Twelve GRD blocks means you can instantly use all the EXS meter you’ve built up on EX specials or a super, cash out with Chain Shift, and then immediately get it refunded to use again. It’s an addition that greatly increases the importance of watching and playing around the GRD Cycle since it can provide a more significant power-up now.

Didn’t see Celestial come up too often in the sets I played, but the few times it did, it fucking hurt. There was one instance where I went from a strong life lead in one round down to a quarter of my health in an instant because I made a single mistake while the opponent was in Celestial. Under Night’s always been a pretty high damage game, but now it can be downright lethal — especially under the right conditions. I don’t expect 10k damage to be a realistic scenario in an actual match, but that the potential exists at all is a good demonstration of how powerful Celestial can be.

The new defense option — “Creeping Edge,” which is basically a forward dodge — seems interesting. It can only be used when you aren’t in blockstun, which makes it suitably high-risk given how easily it can be punished if you choose the wrong moment to use it. It’s vulnerable to throws and doesn’t seem to put you at an advantage upon a successful roll (or at least is dependent on what move you’re rolling through), so it feels primarily like it’ll be another way to escape the corner or get through long-range pressure a bit easier. But when it works, it works. Caught some opponents off guard a few times. Seems like it could be pretty strong under the right circumstances. Gonna be interesting to see how it changes the dynamics of certain matchups.

It is still very much Under Night, though, which is the ideal outcome. Glad to see them continuing to build off the existing foundation further. Under Night was already basically perfect on a design level. The new mechanics and system changes seem like good ways to shake things up without abandoning the core ideas that make it unique. Very much looking forward to playing more when it’s out in January.

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