Killer Instinct Ultra Edition owners got an early taste of KI Season Two last month when the elaborate changes to the Season One characters hit, alongside a sneak peak at TJ Combo. Now the season has officially released, with TJ Combo available to everyone and Maya joining him, but that's not all you can expect from the new season of Killer Instinct. Over the next few months the developers at Iron Galaxy have quite a bit planned for its blossoming fighter.

More Characters

First and foremost, Killer Instinct fans can expect one new character every month until all eight (or nine?) have been released. There are four returning characters and four brand new ones. The returning characters are TJ Combo, Maya, Riptor and Cinder, while the new characters are an ancient Babylonian sorcerer, an avenging ghost, a battle-hardened war golem and Aria, the mysterious boss of Ultratech. We have Combo and Maya, and at the moment the current release schedule has the sorcerer coming in November, Riptor in December, Shadow Jago (with a unique moveset) in January, the war golem in February, the avenging ghost in March, Cinder in April and then possibly the release of Aria in May or when the revamped story mode hits.

The season two launch trailer showed silhouettes of the additional characters, but we know little beyond the facts listed above. Going by the silhouettes, Cinder is no longer simply a flaming man. His hand looks more like that of a beast. Riptor is also more raptor-like than he was in the original Killer Instinct, and she's now a cybernetic dinosaur instead of the DNA experiment she was in KI1. The Babylonian sorcerer was shown briefly at the end of Maya's trailer from a few weeks ago. The avenging ghost appears to be holding a weapon of some sort, which is most likely a spear. Finally, the war golem is huge and looks almost tree-like in nature.

Beyond these scant details, we know that one of the brand new characters is extremely difficult to master. This is more than likely the war golem, but it could potentially be the avenging ghost or even the Babylonian sorcerer. In addition, the final two characters from the classic KI games, Tusk and Kim Wu, have been all but confirmed for Season Three. While this isn't complete confirmation of a third season, it's expected to release in late 2015 with eight more characters, including at least one guest character from another franchise (Battletoads anyone?).



New Ranking System

At the Evolution Fighting Game Championships, the Iron Galaxy development team held a panel. During the panel, it was revealed that the company had been looking at Starcraft and the ranking system in that game as a potential change to the existing KI ranking system. The Season Two trailer now confirms that a revamped ranking system will arrive before Season Two comes to a close. We don't know for sure if a Starcraft-like ranking will be implemented, but it seems like the logical choice given the Evo comments.

Starcraft's ranking system is divided into leagues based on player skill. Before you start league play, you must first play five matches. This allows the system to determine which league to place you in, then you can move up to the next league or down to a lower league based on your performance. Players must maintain a 50 percent win rate in their league to stay in that league from season to season. Throughout a season, you won't always play people within the same league. You'll play against people in higher or 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 at the end of the season. Seasons generally last one month. There's also a practice league which new players can play in for up to 50 games before playing games to determine which league they'll fall into.

It wouldn't be difficult to implement this kind of system in Killer Instinct. It's also highly probable that with this new system, each character will have a separate rank. At the moment, your rank is based on your gamer profile. For example, Maya just released, but if you jump into ranked play with her, she will have whatever rank you had before Maya was released, just like the rest of your characters. It's likely that the new ranking system will offer different ranks for each character, so picking up a new characters starts you at the lowest rank or forces you to play a set of matches to determine which league you should be playing in. This makes it much easier for players to pick up new characters and play them in ranked matches without fear of dropping in the ranks.

Stage Ultra Combos and New Modes

Stage-based Ultra Combos have also been added in Season Two. At the moment, only TJ Combo's stage features an Ultra Combo, which must be performed on the far left side. Each character has a unique Stage Ultra Combo notation. You perform a Stage Ultra just like you would a normal Ultra Combo. The opponent's health much be in the "danger zone,” and you must start a combo, ending it with the Stage Ultra command. More Stage Ultra Combos are expected to be added throughout the season.

In addition to Stage Ultra Combos, new modes of play will also be added as the season progresses. We expect both single player and multiplayer modes to be added, including a revamped story mode. At the moment, no details are available on what these new modes may entail, but expect full details in the months to come.

We'll have more information on Killer Instinct Season Two as each new character releases in the months ahead.