KI Retrospective review

I’m a bit hesitant to start this thread, because these often degenerate into nonsense. But I’m honestly curious to see what people think. With the release on Steam and the 4k update for Xbox One X, I’m pretty certain this KI is done at the 3.9 patch. We may get a skin pack or two in the future, but I don’t see any substantial changes coming to the game from here on out. That’s not what I want, that’s just how I see it.

So, assuming that the game is now finished, how do people rate it overall? I’m hoping people can have a mature discussion about the game’s successes and failures and especially hoping that people will ignore idiotic comments instead of arguing with them and letting them take over the thread. I think KI has been a very interesting and enlightening experiment as a game and a release model and it’s worth discussing how it turned out in the end.

I will start by sharing my thoughts, for what they are worth:

KI finishes with 29 characters, 21 stages, an impressively varied soundtrack, an ambitious tutorial (that sadly is now out of date), a daring experiment in a single player experience (Shadow Lords), an amazing AI concept (Shadows) and a fairly standard set of gameplay modes.

Character design and gamepley - for a game that started out as something deliberately derivative, this version of KI has impressively unique gameplay styles for characters. There really are no two characters that play in an even remotely similar way and most of the cast has a lot of depth in how they can be played in the game.

Ambition and risk taking- From day one until now, MS and the two development teams at DH and IG have had ambitious ideas and been willing to take risks with the game. Not all of those decisions are popular with everyone (including me), but the fact that the game has been brave is a highlight for me.

Graphics - KI looks good. In 2017, after looking at Injustice, and Tekken 7 and everything else that’s out there, I still think KI looks good. There are some weak areas, but the lighting and particle effects are outrageous and I think the animations are as good or better than any other fighter. Every time I turn the thing on after a hiatus, I am struck again by how good it looks.

Development hype - one thing the season model contributed greatly too was maintaining hype for the game over a relatively long time, as new characters were revealed and announcements were made. I admit this has worn thin after four years, but looking at the totality of the game’s life, the character releases and announcements really were strong incentives to keep up with the game

Competitiveness and balance - KI is without a doubt one of the most well balanced fighting games out there. The tier lists are very vertically compressed and there are few if any truly horrible matchups. From my point of view, as a “casual” player who only occasionally enjoys watching a tournament stream I can’t really imagine them doing much better for game balance.

Netcode and online play - KI has the best online play of any modern fighter, and possibly any fighter ever. Everyone knows it and it’s more or less the gold standard against which current and future games will be compared. It’s as close to a miracle as I have ever seen in a video game.

Fun - KI is greater than the sum of it’s parts and it’s just fun. It’s fun to play, it’s fun to watch.

Failings (failings sounds brutal, but I’m not feeling up for creative euphemism):

Disjointed - one of the worst legacies of the season model is the disjointedness of the final game. We have a fantastic tutorial dojo for Season 1 which has not been updated over dozens of patches, two seasons and three years. It started out as a highlight and is now kind of dilapidated. We have three separate story/arcade modes for the three seasons of the game. We have 20 (ish, I’m too lazy to count) character specific stages and then 8 characters without stages. About half the cast have Ultimates. Maybe this would have been better if DH had not been purchased by Amazon, but I doubt it. One of the downsides of all the ambition and risk taking the team did during the course of development was the willingness to go in a new direction for story mode each season, and the new stuff always had priority over shoring up the old.

Half implemented ideas - Shadows AI is a fantastic idea. And with just a bit more polish it could truly shine. But it doesn’t truly shine because it’s buggy, it doesn’t work right and it’s hard to get into it. Shadow Lords is a flat miss with some people and although I don’t enjoy the mode very much it has huge potential. But it’s hampered by wonky menus, long load times, and an overall lack of polish, along with lopsided content for just a few of the season 3 characters. Shadow Lords 2.0 could be awesome. And on it goes. KI has a super dojo for S1, but no updates, no character specific training, no shadow breaking trial tool (like the one @infilament made in his spare time), no instinct tutorial for each characters instinct, no online training mode.

Retail confusion - from the beginning KI had a confusing pricing structure and it only got worse over time. Versions and packs and individual purchases and now post season content (free to some, not others). It’s the downside of the games long lifespan.

Overall I would give KI a 9/10
I’m still a huge fan of KI. I think the game is by far the best in the Killer Instinct series, and it’s still by far my favorite Xbox One game. I don’t have any regrets about the time and money I have devoted to the game. Yes, it’s far from perfect but I don’t see any other fighting game (and I’m a big fan of fighting games) that even comes close to accomplishing what KI has accomplished. If there is no sequel to this game, I certainly hope MS or others take the lessons learned in the development and apply them to future fighting game properties.


While there have been issues, KI has never been NOT fun for me. The main reasons for playing a game: looks, sound, fun… have always been the best in the industry imo.

I would give an 8/10.
If they had just slowed themselves down, and given each update about 50% more time and effort, we might not have had any bad (or gamebreaking) experiences at all.

I know that complaint may be a money issue, and/or stem from higher up on the ladder than IG, but as a consumer, i have the right to judge however i feel.


I don’t know how much I can say about this current incarnation of KI, because I didn’t had any real issues playing it and getting pissed for what ever dumbass reason to get turn off by it. In three years of playing this, I kept finding myself always wondering what else is there for this KI to do and implant to make a better experience, and for every new idea, either if it was a new mode or characters joining the roster, I couldn’t been much happier seeing the growth in this to where a new legacy is about to be forge in fighting games.

I loved the whole diverse roster, for its depth and uniqueness in where every character is different in not just by looks or species, but in their fighting styles that required a different approach to be played. Plus, aside something like Super Smash Bros, I relish a cast that is composed of different types of humans and monsters.

Soundtrack is amazing to listen, the slick guitars, electronics, and traditional instruments all compose so well together to where I probably won’t stop listening this until I’m dead.

Plently of options to go at and experiment with, but most of time (which I sadly don’t have sometimes), they’re only good for a short period and probably do need a little more tinkering to offer something to make up for each experience. But nothing truly falls short, they have done what they’re specifically design to do.

And lastly, the graphics do look really solid and while it might get outdated soon, it isn’t that kind of game where it needs a new engine. It still manages to keep up with frantic pace and play very well where a new engine would probably be unnecessary anyway.

So as of right now, this is the ideal fighting game; while not perfect, to have come out in a time where there’s barely a selection of fighting games aside from the big names like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Super Smash Bros, etc., and add something to expand the genre. And on a personal note, I’m greatly pleased to see a game that existed at a time where it would’ve been forgotten when we’re all younger, and it now has a chance to reclaim its name again. Its a 8.5/10 for me.


It’s great but nobody gives af.


I pretty much completely agree. While it may go underappreciated during its time, I think many years from now this Killer Instinct will still be played and remembered as a classic gem. Maybe even moreso than its 90s predecessors.


It’s a bit off topic but I was a big fan of both KI and KI2/ Gold. But those games don’t hold up well at all. All graphics (which now look awful) and not much gameplay.

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  • world class netcode
  • perhaps the most balanced FG I’ve played (systems being hard to optimize in practice helps a lot here)
  • best soundtrack in a FG
  • gameplay is really top notch, I think it will be a long time until we see a game with as many important decisions to make per second as KI. Other games will have crazy characters but KI is really unique here
  • has 2p rematch
  • pc port is well optimized (although stick support should be better and teredo issues suck)

It sounds kinda crazy to just say “yeah, great music, gameplay, netcode, balance” but that’s really a crazy accomplishment.


  • the game ends on a graphical downnote: S3 is the worst looking version of KI imo due to the lighting change, several questionable character faces, characters like eagle that animate very poorly due to low budget, and a very disparate art style that makes the game look actually kinda garish at times
  • huge, inexplicable missed opportunities for cosmetics and other non-character DLC: it seems the game was built for colors, costumes, and announcer packs, and KI was such a unique game to leverage all of that well, but then they just… never did any of it. The return on their investment to make this stuff would have been huge, and I’m actually pretty mad that there are no legacy FGC announcers, jago costume that looks like ryu, etc.
  • buggy on average: fighting games are notoriously buggy but KI saw a lot of game-breaking stuff over its life. hopefully the final patch (if this is indeed it) leaves the game in a good spot

I’m pretty vocal about KI’s shortcomings, and I would also agree with Andy’s list but won’t add them here for brevity, mostly because all of them seem fixable with a bit better intel given to the people who decide where the budget for the game goes

Also this post is about the game itself, not the community around the game

I’d give it a 9/10 probably. You’d think this might be higher with my list of pros being so strong, and what is there is really good, but it’s “Missed Opportunities The Game” in a lot of ways for me. In fact sometimes it feels like the game succeeds in spite of itself, that’s just how good the fundamental gameplay loop is and I wish more people (both in the FGC and in the Microsoft board rooms) could see it.


8 skulls out of 10.

Most of the pros (soundtrack, netcode, balancing etc.) has been covered by many forum members.

The cons.
Lighting, the terrible Character Dossier drop-rates, Cinematic Lvl. 4 Enders and lack of overall recognition.

Maybe Killer Instinct is on it’s way out.


I’ve been under the impression the game is done since they started handing out all of the content made after the definitive edition, to the definitive edition owners.

There’s no reason to hand out all of the skin packs and characters for nothing unless they don’t plan to make any more content. Unless for some reason they intend to keep giving everything free to them… Not that I feel entitled or anything but if this is the end it would be nice to have all of that content given to the rest of us who’ve supported the game since launch too. I mean, I’ve spent over $200 on this game and it would cost me more now to buy all the missing skins than it would to just buy another copy of the game. : P

That aside, if the game is considered complete… I’d give it a high rating. Overall the game is fantastic and I love it from top to bottom. Though it looses points for not being complete. Never giving the homeless characters stages, never doing the season 1 stage ultras, never giving the promised accessories for Shago, never giving us any of the remixes from the survey, only giving half the characters ultimates… My point being there is a lot of promised or implied content that was never made good on.


Man, I might be the only one but I love the cinematic level 4 Enders…


It wasn’t even necessary to even include them imo.

You’re not the only one.
The sad thing for me is I was one of the first ones to be skeptical of them because I was concerned that the way they changed angles so rapidly I felt like they might have been more disorienting than neat. Turns out I was gladly wrong about that one.

For me, I would just have to echo the OP. You touched on about every pro and con I could reasonably thing of.

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Don’t forget the changes to the shadow effects.

I still miss the old shadow effects, it was an unwelcomed change imo.

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I was never a fan of the original shadow effects, they were weird smeared, muddled, dirty looking paint-water smudges. I greatly prefer the new purple VFX, its a nice rich visual that unifies the whole shadow energy theme. Though I might be a little biased as my favorite color is purple. :stuck_out_tongue:

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One of the cool things that was lost with the shadow change though is that if the move you performed had enough distance to it, like Jago’s wind kick for example, it would leave a trail of duplicate Jago’s as you flew across the screen, much like how the shadow moves did in KI 1 & 2.


The change in Shadows is not something that greatly affected the game to me. While I agree that some cool moments were lost, I also find it MUCH easier to tell what is going on in a lot of the shadow moves with the purple backgrounds. Spinals Shadow Soul Sword, for example, just looked like a mess.

I agree with this one especially and the balance as well.

While I enjoyed shadow lords, (It’s flawed but not bad from my experience)

I agree with this to.

I remember be so excited when I first heard KI was coming back. MK and KI where my two favorite games in my youth. I loved the darker tone and interesting array of characters it had.

However, once I heard the new KI was going to be a season based DLC game, my excitement began to wane. Games like this, especially fighting games, always feel incomplete because you’re always waiting on new content. And the fact that over time, not every character received the same treatment - arenas, ultimates, etc. - now it actually is incomplete and looks to remain that way.

It also bothered me that Microsoft was so intent on KI being a teen rated game. I feel the game would’ve done much better with the nostalgia crowd if it could’ve maintained the same features it had back in the 90s, such as No Mercies. This KI simply ended up being too tame for me. I love fighting games with finishing moves, and this KI just didn’t deliver, even for Teen rated standards (Fulgore not having his machine gun morph still hurts my soul). Games like MKvsDCU and Injustice have given us far more creative finishers and supers while still keeping it teen rated. And off-screen stuff is just unacceptable for me. Video games are a visual medium, and I’m paying to see stuff happening on my screen. If I wanted to imagine what was happening, I could just go read a book.

Most of the characters re-imaginings I was fine with. I think most of them look pretty good, although there were some characters I think we could’ve did without, and the dev team could’ve focused on other aspects of the game.

As far as gameplay, it felt like KI. The combo system the franchise is known for remains intact, so no complaints in that department.

And the bugs. OMG the bugs! I read the forums, and it’s a shame how many people still have issues simply getting the game to start. That’s truly unacceptable. I’m also one of the poor souls who lost all there data several times when DH was developing the game. It was such a turnoff for me, it felt like there was no point in the playing the game, and I don’t think my interest ever really recovered after that. I’m an adult with a family, job, etc. I don’t really have time to put such an investment into a game just to lose it all over and over. I’ve never been afraid to boot up a game before, wondering if my save was going to be there or not. (I also blame Microsoft a little for this for not giving us a decent way to manage and maintain our save files.)

Overall, for the time I spent with KI, I’d give it a 5/10. The game has always looked great, and it was really fun for a little while, but ultimately the bugs, lack of cohesion, and constant waiting for new content killed the experience for me.

My TLDR here is 8/10.

I agree with most of Andy’s points. What I would add as something that truly impressed me was the value proposition KI provided buyers when they ported the game to PC. They did something I as a gamer haven’t seen with any other developer. They made the game crossplay/crossbuy. I think it’s one of the most under looked features of the game. I’m a PC gamer 99% of the time the only time I turn on my xbox is to use it as a media center for netflix and what not. I literally only bought the console for KI when the game dropped. So when they released the game for PC and I didn’t have to spend a penny I was truly impressed. And in addition to that they didn’t segregate the PC/Console communities. There are certain genre’s (FPS mainly) where that segregation is necessary you simply can’t use a game pad and compete with mouse+KB but for fighters the playing field is even. Anyways I digress, just kudos to MS/IG for not nickle and dimeing PC gamers after the port, they very well could have and it wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary.

Now onto the shortcomings:

I’m 100% with Infil, this game is a tail of missed opportunities. I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment of DLC for costumes and skins. The game appeared to be built for it, it’s a super easy money grab that doesn’t effect gameplay balance, literally every contemporary fighters has some focus on it. Why on earth did KI neglect it so much? It just doesn’t make any sense to me unless they truly felt the development costs would not yield solid ROI but that begs to question why does literally every other fighter do it these days and why do I feel like I’m not in the minority in chucking money at these other fighters for costumes?

The other glaring missed opportunity to me is the lack of official support for an online tournament scene. I think IG/MS made solid effort in supporting the game offline and should commended for that. But at the same time I think that’s old fashioned thinking. We have definitively the best netcode of any fighter and it seems like they didn’t take advantage in showcasing that netcode. 8bit did a great job with the online tournament scene for a while, but it would have been great to see some real official support of the scene and what that might have looked like for the success and popularity of the game. Again this is something we’ve been seeing WB/NRS do with their latest titles and while their titles are not the most popular titles competitively there’s no denying their success from a raw sales perspective.

To conclude while I give the game an 8/10. That’s the best score I personally have for any fighter. For me 10/10 is perfect this game is not that and 9/10 is close to perfect but there’s simply too many issues to merit that classificationl. However it’s the most fun fighter I’ve ever played and I truly love the game.


When I first heard that the new KI would be season based, offering a relatively confusing “free to play / world’s most generous demo” model, I was less then enthusiastic about the return of a series I loved and had wanted to see come back for a long time.

Fast forward to the end of season 3, or post-season 3, whatever you want to call it, and I have to say that this has been one of the best fighting game experiences I’ve ever had. I say experience because like many others, I’ve been with this game since Season One was first announced back at E3 2013, through the initial six characters that were released, through the uncertainty over the new developer and so on and so on.

But I’m not going to grade this game on a personal level. I’m going to grade it on its successes and failures as I currently see them:


-Ambition: Number one with a bullet. This game, from day one, has tried different things, from unique modes to compelling characters, cross play / cross buy, the seasonal model, putting a rogue-like mode in the game, the whole Shadow Lab… Regardless of how much you think everything came together in the end, I don’t think I’ve seen a fighter take so many chances, try so many new things, and do many of them as well as this game.

-The Characters: Some might say Tekken 3 was as ambitious, especially with it’s many varied modes, but when it came to characters, there were tons of near-duplicates. Not so in KI. Every character plays differently, every character has a ton of depth underneath the surface, and the sheer amount of flash, style, and near craziness a player can pull off with even a minimal level of character knowledge creates, for me, one of the most purely fun rosters I’ve seen in a long time. The fact that it’s so incredibly well balanced is a testament to both the team’s creative abilities as well as their in depth knowledge of the genre.

-The Netplay: I won’t dwell on this much as others have already mentioned it, but when your coding becomes the gold standard for an entire genre, it’s safe to say that you’ve done something really, really well.

-Shadow Lords: It’s not without its flaws, such as some uneven AI levels, lack of incorporation of the whole roster, lack in greater variety of unique missions for every character and perhaps some rewards that could’ve been better as well. But the unique rogue-like structure, the substantial number of items and guardians and how they effected the gameplay, the unique missions it did have… Even if it’s a dry run for something even better down the road, this still provided a wonderful single player experience with a ton of replay value.

-Graphics: From the unique stages that exploded with personality throughout each match to the bombastic particle effects and fluid animations, the game somehow manages to compete with many newer titles without looking out of place. There’s an overall quality layer and engagement with the player that’s greatly appreciated.

-Maturity: Some will see this as a minus, but when a game decides that it’ll try harder not to treat its women as flotation devices or it’s ethnic characters as flat, derivative stereotypes, that goes a long way for me. It shows an evolution in a genre that sometimes seems to be resistant to change. I love that they took the effort to talk to and learn from the Nez Perce and how that knowledge went in to a unique outfit for Thunder and the designs choices for Eagle.

-Sound Design: As much love as Mick Gordon gets for the new Doom, his KI tracks are so far above and beyond the music offered in this genre, it’s borderline absurd. The new team that handled season 3 did an admirable job as well, and I’d still put them above most other fighters out there. Couple that with how well MS, DH and IG have been able to use sound to allow the visually impaired to play and enjoy it as well as little touches like the theme playing in the menu and you have something truly special in this department.

-Gameplay: Last, but certainly not least, the actual moment to moment action is top notch. From the intricate risk/reward system of combo and counter breakers, to the thrill of pulling off combos using autos, manuals, shadow moves, and stylish level 4 enders, this game is simply a blast. Flipouts, staggers, recaptures, character specific mechanics such as Kan Ra’s sand, Aganos’ chunks, Kim’s dragons, Fulgore’s meter… There’s so much to learn and utilize in match that the options are dizzying, but never overwhelming. They’ve somehow managed to craft a game with an exceedingly low floor and substantially high ceiling. Absolutely superb.


-Story Delivery: While I love the effort that went in to the story (especially the overall quality of the writing itself as well as the detail in the backgrounds of each character), the fact that it was delivered in several different ways made finding out what happened, what didn’t, and the actual progression from beginning to end more difficult than it should’ve been for players.

We had multiple what-if endings in season one, cut-scene driven arcade mode in season two, shadow lords in season three, a novella plus a comic. I’m absolutely a fan of providing as much story as possible. That’s right in my wheelhouse. But when it comes in so many different forms and progresses in so many different ways, or doesn’t progress at all after a certain point, it becomes much more difficult to put all the pieces together. Again, the quality is there, no question, but the delivery of a cohesive narrative could be more consistent in the future.

Cohesion: Similar to the story, this is the overall victim of the seasonal model. As the teams were forced to charge ahead, certain aspects were left in the dust. Players that didn’t love the rushed season one retros or lack of colors or accessories on some characters were out of luck as the team was forced to charge ahead. Same goes for the odd stage ultra voices and the fact that not every character has an ultimate.

While the team seemed to be building each season as its own experience, players were still left to take the whole game together as one product and while many aspects were addressed, streamlined, improved upon etc, the fact that certain parts of seasons varied so extremely from other seasons created a somewhat disjointed experience at times, from the complexity of season two characters versus season one’s, to the aforementioned story delivery and retro item quality.

Lost Opportunities: I don’t want to begrudge a game for what it doesn’t have, but when so many fighting games are making money off of character outfits, skins and colors, it’s sometimes baffling that KI, which seems tailor made for this kind of experience, hasn’t been able to take better advantage of this possible revenue stream.

Maybe they didn’t think the cost would justify the expense, maybe they were too restricted by time or focused on other parts of the game, but players begged for more outfits for a long time and gold skins plus a few terror skins didn’t really satiate us. Same goes for new stages, retro stages, and other items. Maybe these will come in the future, but for now, it feels like there’s more that could’ve been done here that sadly wasn’t.


Killer Instinct is an exceedingly ambitious project; a four year odyssey of innovation, improvement and experimentation. The character design, sound design, netcode, and mode variety (especially Shadow Lords and Shadow Lab) are in the top tier of the genre, no question. For a game that never should’ve been this good given all it had going against it, Killer Instinct is a truly unique achievement for the teams that worked so hard to put out so much, so fast.

It’s not without it’s flaws, as the seasonal model that maintained interest in the game for so long also created a few issues for players in terms of cohesion and quality, but none of these issues are enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the experience.

Put simply, this game is flat out fun, from the gameplay to the characters, to the modes. It offers a ton of replay value and it does so in some surprisingly unique ways. I’ve played many fighting games, and I firmly believe that this is among the best out there. It’s why after four years, I’m still hoping for a 4th season, or a new game. Anything to keep this rejuvenated franchise going. I think that MS has a real winner here, and I’d like to see that winning continue.

Score: 9.8 / 10