The game picks up with the Rabbids leaving chaos all over the Mushroom Kingdom when a new type of creature comes falling out of the sky to start the next set of events. The new creatures are a mix of Rabbids and Luma, called Sparks, that play an important part in saving the world [see the title] and in the ways you can play the game.
Gameplay is split into 2 sections, first is you and your party traveling the overworld, which has plenty of side missions and little tasks to unlock more planet rewards or coins which can be used to purchase new weapon skins or items. There are a few differences to the first game in that the enemies are also roaming about so you can avoid a fight if you want but if you get to close, they will pull a Liam Neeson in Taken on you and they will look for you, they will find you, and they will kill you; at least up until you get a certain distance away from you and they just go about their normal routine until they see you again. If you are looking for a fight though, pressing A while close will make your character perform a dash that will initiate the second part of gameplay. This also applies to the enemy as they only need to charge a single character in your party for them to initiate the combat.
Second is the tactical combat where your party uses their weapons and abilities to try and fulfill the win requirements, which can be a variety of things like kill all enemies or survive for 10 turns while more and more enemies spawn in. Where it differs slightly from the first again is that you can run in the designated move area of your character, instead of moving in a block pattern. This does quite a bit as you can look around the environment and spot details that you would not normally be able to as it locks you in a certain point of view. Before the rounds start you can also survey the landscape and identify the enemies and start preparing what Sparks you might require.
This also considers the environment as certain cover can be destroyed after taking some damage to reduce it to either partial cover or even nothing if the attack does sufficient damage in one go. If you have stunned an enemy small enough to pick up, you can toss them over the side of the map for an instant kill or used against remaining enemies like stunning a Bom-omb and then chucking it at a pack of enemies taking cover behind the same box.
The actions in the tactical phase can be to attack the enemies in range, use an item to heal or deal damage or using one or both special abilities unique to each character and accompanying Spark. One aspect I do like of this is that the character can still perform abilities or items even after they have attacked if it does not involve moving again as attacking will lock the character into place. This should allow you to place your characters as you need them before doing anything like attacking, like a group heal from a support and then moving the melee character with more health into the front lines to dish and tank some damage.
The Sparks work identical to element attacks in other games where they can resist attacks from the same element type or enhance the normal attack with said element to attack the enemy weak point for massive damage. Some of the elements also inflict status ailments as well like the fire Spark can set enemies on fire in which case, they will dart around the map taking damage and if hitting any other enemies or allies, with no resistance, will also be set on fire and repeat the process until the fire goes out or the enemy’s health hits 0. They are normally found by completing certain story missions or part of the side quests as rewards.
Another returning aspect is being able to level up the characters and upgrade them to match your play style with my only gripe being that all the ability trees are pretty much the same with minor differences between them so there is no need to prioritize anything as you will get plenty of level ups to get them all eventually. The game also allows you to customize your weapon’s skin but that is it. There are no different weapons that can used as each character has there set one and just the appearance can change. The damage per character is worked out by the level with some having a damage boost skill.
The planet rewards you can collect are just basically another of the games collectables that can be used to purchase new weapon skins from the vendors. These are normally found by completing certain missions or side quests. As per every Mario game, you can collect coins that can be used to heal the characters or purchase items from the previously mentioned vendors that can used in battle. The coins respawn every time you enter and leave building so you can very easily collect quite a bit so there is no need to horde them for rainy days.
Overall, the game is a lot of fun, but Mario fans might be put off by the tactical aspect of the game since it differs from Mario’s normal outings. The game is not to difficult and once you get the hang of the abilities, you can start strategizing which is the best method to go about securing a win. Unlike some of the other tactical games like XCOM, once a character has reached zero, they are just out for the remainder of the level and will not lose them forever.