When Microsoft first announced a new Killer Instinct title at E3 2013, many people were caught off guard by the new distribution method the console giant chose for the returning fighting game. Instead of a full game with two dozen characters for $60, KI would be a launch title for the Xbox One that would release for free. The free version offered one rotating character and access to all single player and multiplayer modes. For $20, you received all eight season one characters, and for $40 you got a few extra bonuses such as the original arcade version of Killer Instinct.

With season two of KI, Microsoft and Iron Galaxy are sticking with a similar plan, but raising the bar a bit. Unfortunately, with the Amazon acquisition of Double Helix Games, Iron Galaxy wasn't allotted the development time most new fighting games receive. Just like Double Helix before it, the company has a very short period of time to pick up where Double Helix left off, keeping fans happy while still pushing the game forward.

New System Mechanics

TJ Combo introduced us to the Aerial Recapture mechanic, and it seems as though that will extend to the entire cast in the form of Air Combo Breakers and Air Counter Breakers. No longer will you be stuck at the mercy of Sadira's aerial shenanigans or Jago's juggling prowess. If you anticipate Sadira is about to press Heavy Punch during an air juggle, you can break the combo. However, she can also use a Counter Breaker in the air, slamming you back down to the ground and essentially starting her combo over. It seems as though new characters will introduce other new mechanics to the game system, but we don't have details on what to expect.

Characters

We have some confirmed information about season two, as well as some speculation as to what you should expect when the new season begins later this year. First and foremost, the season is confirmed to consist of eight new characters. Some of those characters have already been revealed. We know TJ Combo and Maya will return from the first two KI titles. In addition, we know that Aria, the boss teased at the end of the season one story mode will also make an appearance. That's three of the eight characters.

When we discussed season two characters with Iron Galaxy at E3, it was made very clear that fans probably shouldn't expect all of the remaining KI and KI2 characters to make their debut by the end of season two. It's very likely (although not confirmed) that at least one or two of these characters will be held off for the unconfirmed season three. With TJ Combo and Maya confirmed, and what seemed like Cinder teased at the end of Combo's reveal trailer, that only leaves Riptor, Tusk and Kim Wu from the original games. Of those three, Riptor is the biggest season three draw, so our best guess is that Riptor won't make the cut in season two.

Modes of Play

Iron Galaxy has been pretty tight-lipped about what to expect from season two in terms of gameplay modes. All that's really been said is to expect more than what we received in season one. That probably means a revamped story mode, better online modes and more single player modes.

At the Evolution 2014 KI panel, the developers discussed how StarCraft and other games handle online multiplayer and how the team is looking in that direction for KI season two. It was also mentioned there would likely be a place for lower level players to enjoy ranked, as well as a place for the hardcore elite to play their epic matches. We expect a ladder-like system similar to StarCraft that has leagues based on skill level. This would be one of the first times something like this has been done with a fighting game, and would be a welcome change.

If we take a quick look at how StarCraft online multiplayer works, we see that it's divided into leagues based on player skill. You first place five matches so the system can best determine which league to place you in, then you can move up to the next league or down to a lower level league based on your performance. In general, you must maintain a 50 percent win rate against players in your league to stay in that league. However, you don't always play people in the same league. You'll play people in higher and lower leagues, and if you can maintain a 50 percent win rate against players in a higher league, you may be promoted to that league.

Additionally, there's a practice league. In this league, new players can participate in up for 50 games before playing games to determine which league they'll fall into. It's somewhat safe to assume that Microsoft and Iron Galaxy are looking at multiple leagues or some sort of player division for Killer Instinct where your win percentage against players in other leagues determines if you should move up or down between leagues.

Season One Adjustments

While it's unknown exactly how far Iron Galaxy will go with making adjustments to the season characters, the development team has confirmed that at least Fulgore will receive some changes. Whenever changes are discussed, the team is quick to point out they are referring to buffs, not nerfs. Most notably, it seems as though Fulgore will get an adjustment to his Reactor meter and made more accessible to novice players.

It's also been mentioned that some of the new additions to season two will have an impact on the season one characters. We don't yet have details on what that means, but rest assured changes are coming. In addition, the developers made note of the partially negative response to the classic costumes in season one, stating they would do a better job with season two classic costumes. However, it's widely assumed that we may see adjustments to the season one classic costumes in the process.

Season Two Launch

At the moment, we don't know exactly how many characters to expect when season two launches in a few months. We do know that all eight characters will not be seen at launch. Just like with season one, we'll see a few characters when the season launches, then more will come in the months that follow. Based on what Iron Galaxy has shown so far, and looking at where Double Helix was at this point last year, it's a fairly safe bet we won't see more than four or five characters at launch. It wouldn't even surprise us to see three characters at launch.

No matter how many characters we get at the launch of season two, Microsoft stated that we'll know most of the characters before season two hits. Either way, keep your eyes on Prima Games as we continue to bring new information on Killer Instinct Season Two as it becomes available.