A Little Look At…Xuan Dou zhi Wang

Xuan Dou zhi Wang (written 炫斗之王 if you want to go off Googling) is a new online-only fighting game from China. It’s also currently in closed beta, so please remember that anything below is subject to change!

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The game’s being developed by Jade Studio and published by Tencent Games – sounds unpromising doesn’t it… until you do a little bit of research and discover that Tencent Games have been running a variety of online games for a long time now and they’re a division of Tencent Holdings, a company that according to Wikipedia are worth about $38 billion USD and rank behind only Google and Amazon in the online business field.

It’s rather lazy but not unnecessarily wrong to say that Xuan Dou zhi Wang heavily draws upon the King of Fighters series for inspiration, but on the other hand KoF is almost twenty years old (!!) – to be honest I’d expect more games to have tried to emulate its appeal by now. It would also be unfair to the game to simply dismiss it as a simple knockoff too; the game’s just too good for that and I’ve got to say that in the time I’ve played I haven’t found a direct clone anyway. Besides SNK obviously find the attention flattering, if I’ve got my facts straight it would seem that Terry Bogard and Benimaru will be making a crossover appearance in Xuan Dou at some point - see for yourself!

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While the game is download-only and requires you to be online to play it’s not all about getting crushed underneath an endless procession of more experienced players – the game offers a selection of practise and single player modes and even gives out bonus XP and other small items for doing so!

XP, like in any RPG, is needed to level up: only this time you’re levelling up yourself. At level 20 you can create your own guild (or clan, if you prefer) and you unlock a new character, with another becoming available once you hit level 35. XP is given out for losing as well as winning, so there’s still a sense of progression even if you’re mashing buttons and have no idea how to use the character you’ve picked on a whim.

If you do want to play against a human opponent (and even someone as nervous about competitive play as I am does eventually) there’s plenty of styles to suit anyone. There’s regular quick 1v1 and 3v3 matches as well as player-created rooms that you can drop in and out of or simply spectate should you wish to. Room also offer another mode – 3v3 team matches, where everyone on the team is an individual person instead of two players picking three characters each.

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The game is currently designed as a dreaded freemium title, with an attached shop for purchasing new characters, outfits, XP boosts and the like. However at the time of writing everything’s purchasable using points earned through fighting (whether this is due to change or not is unknown) and with little effort and even less skill I’ve managed to earn enough points to permanently unlock a new character. I should mention at this point that players without the time/will/cash to unlock everything aren’t second class gamers and there are no restrictions on playing with or against characters you haven’t personally unlocked.

Characters and costumes have two prices – a “rental” cost and a permanent unlock. To unlock a character permanently you need somewhere in the region of 7000 points, an amount I’ve managed to build up fighting just a handful of matches over a week. If you want to rent a character and see how they play then 30 days time with them costs roughly 2500 points. Costumes are priced high (around 8000 points or more), but as these are vanity items it’s to be expected.

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The chances of this game going mainstream are slim to none, mainly because it’s PC only (a sensible choice for the home region, but not so great elsewhere) but that doesn’t mean it’s not one to watch – it’s a good game and a legitimate alternative to Capcom/SNK/Arc, and the parent company has the money and experience to support it long term. I can only hope an international release comes along at some point, the game deserves it!