'Killer Instinct Anniversary Edition' celebrates 10 years with Xbox Series X|S upgrades and a new balance pass, with plenty of nerfs and buffs

Glacius fights Sadira
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Killer Instinct is a 2013 fighting game that launched alongside the Xbox One. 
  • Developer Iron Galaxy took over the title in Season 2 after launch, providing balance passes and new characters for years. 
  • Iron Galaxy has a livestream on the game's 10th anniversary detailing Xbox Series X|S upgrades and a balance pass, years after the prior update arrived.

Killer Instinct is coming back!

As shared earlier this year, developer Iron Galaxy is working on a 10th anniversary update for the 2013 Xbox fighting game. This update is coming years after the game's seemingly-final patch, and will include a proper Xbox Series X|S upgrade and a balance pass for the extensive rosters of fighters. You can watch the stream on the Iron Galaxy Twitch channel, which is slated to kick off at 4:00 p.m. ET today.

I'll be covering the stream, updating this article with details as shared by the developers. 

To start things off, James Goddard, design director on Killer Instinct at Xbox Game Studios Publishing, showed off the new color scheme for the season, which is meant to hearken back to the days of Killer Instinct Gold through a striking purple and gold theme. You can take a look below: 

Killer Instinct 10th anniversary gold and purple theme

Going full circle. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition is being replaced by Killer Instinct: Anniversary Edition. This brings a bevy of changes, with Steam getting a free-to-play version of the game just like on Xbox and Windows 10. The free-to-play version will also now rotate characters weekly instead of bi-weekly. 

Adam Heart, lead combat designer at Iron Galaxy, added that the team has tweaked the UI, making it look nicer on modern displays since 10 years have passed since it was first released.

Heart also noted that outside of some minor bug fixes, 10 characters (including Sabrewulf, T.J. Combo, Kan-Ra, Riptor, Cinder, Arbiter, and Kilgore) were not adjusted for this balance pass, and have been kept at the same strength. 

Launch character Jago has been buffed, seeing a 10% walking speed increase in order to help make him maneuver in fights more efficiently. Glacius' Puddle Punch move has been tweaked, as it's still effective, but a blocking player can then hit him slightly faster, requiring more careful though. 

Thunder's follow-up attacks, which used to be possible even a frame before reaching the floor, now have to be committed to a fair bit earlier, with the example given on-stream of the moves not working when falling past Sadira's head. Thunder now moves 20% faster however, increasing the danger posed closing in on an opponent. 

Break some faces (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Sadira gets one change, but it's huge: She moves 20% faster, and considering she was already one of the quickest members of the cast, she's now positively zooming around. Orchid gets a buff to her Jaguar, which adds 15 frames of stun and better sets up a foe for being juggled. Meanwhile, her medium slide goes farther faster, reaching almost the point of the heavy slide. Her new heavy slide goes ridiculously far, traveling almost entirely across the screen when fully zoomed-out. 

Spooky scary Spinal moves around 20% faster, though the team notes his moveset was solid, so this is just meant to better set him up for attacks. Fulgore has also been heavily tweaked, with his Blade Dash far easier to block. 

To open up his options, Fulgore's cancels have been opened up, meaning players need to think more about attacking a blocking opponent. His eye lasers are also easier to counter, with a window of almost twice as many frames. While he's not being tweaked outside of a lone bug, Heart noted amusingly that a bug with T.J. Combo was caused by a single line of code that no one knows the origin of. 

Aganos has had some unbreakable combos weakened, giving an opponent more of a chance to fight back and get out of the unrelenting assault. His wall bash damage has also been reduced to 40%, meaning it's still heavily-damaging but not quite as absurdly overwhelming.

Time to re-learn the ropes. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

ARIA's movement has been tweaked, with some changes to how she jumps and pushes away from opponents in a mix of tiny nerfs and buffs. When her drone is flying back, it's no longer invincible, adding another layer of strategy and opportunity for anyone facing her.

Kim Wu walks 15% faster forward and backward, enabling her to better play "footsie" with other characters. Her jump has also been boosted, being around the same as Jago's. All normal versions of her Dragon Kick now ignore armor, a change explicitly meant to keep her from being at a horribly lopsided disadvantage against Aganos. 

Tusk's berserker cancels have been adjusted, allowing players to get more of those cancels out at a time. There were some other minor hit consistency changes made for Tusk, as well.

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

It's time for the list everybody has been waiting for. Rash's wrecking ball adjustments include the complete removal of air armor. Wrecking ball moves have had their block stuns reduced to just 10 frames each. Six frames of recovery time have been added to the standing heavy kick. Six frames of block stun and hit stun time have also been added to balance the move. The cancel window for the standing heavy kick has been reduced and hit confirming the standing heavy kick is more of a challenge now. Corner and instinct damages have been reduced for the battering ram move. Wall splat range of Rash's wrecking ball ender now pushes half as far as it used to. After the nerf, Rash's wrecking ball ender is still considered one of the best wall splats in the game.

Rash's nerf list a page and a half long, and additional changes including a nerf to his throw, reducing the damage from 45 to 35. Every hit of Rash's ender types have been reduced overall by 1–2 points. Rash's shadow big bad boot was also nerfed dramatically. 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Gargos' light portal punch has been slightly reduced from 10 to 7, and all portal punch block stuns have also been reduced slightly.

General RAAM also only has one change. All versions of the crow rush now attempt to grab one frame after the run ends. This was previously set to five frames. This prevents the armor from the rush from ending before the grab takes effect.

Eyedol's wake-up self-face punch has had an increase in self-inflicted damage in order to change the mode, and rolls the dice to change the character's mode. Eyedol's shadow bolt strike is now fully invulnerable only to projectiles. Heart quips that nobody on the team remembers making the mode fully invulnerable in the past.  Mage mode's weaknesses are now better balanced.

Shin Hisako has had only one change. Her forward-moving spirit orb now moves twice as fast as it did previously. "She's a very rich character with untapped potential," said Heart.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Eagle is the last character to be released for the game, and had the least number of tweaks and adjustments. He's tuned more for zoning and less with lockdown now to be more in line with the original vision of the character. Eagle's bird now suffers 210 frames of recovery after sonic screech, limiting how often players can spam the powerful move. 

Absolute guard now saves players from being left wide open when blocking sonic screech and bird bomb. Bird bomb's explosion now has a larger hitbox and lands closer to Eagle, in addition to an increase in damage. Bird fling was also improved for Eagle. The team corrected an issue where the three kicks were not being checked for properly when players were using an arcade stick. It is now much easier to get the moves out in a reliable succession. All non-down directions for Bird Fling have been improved. 

Eagle's instinct mode was recognized as the weakest in the game and frequently felt like it got in players' way. Peck now launches airborne opponents into a juggle state, and the hitbox has been increased by 2x to prevent whiffs. Eagle is a bit better to play with, and less of a nightmare to play against following a string of nerfs and buffs.

The Killer Instinct Anniversary Edition is incoming

(Image credit: Iron Galaxy)

As the stream draws to a close, we get a run-down of the shift to Killer Instinct Anniversary Edition. On Xbox and PC, Killer Instinct Definitive Edition will be retired from the store. Players who own the Definitive Edition — which is currently on sale for just $13 — will automatically be upgraded to the Anniversary Edition when it is released. The Xbox Game Pass edition of Killer Instinct will also be upgraded to the Anniversary Edition.  

The KI Anniversary Edition will have a lower price of $29.99.

If you currently own the Definitive Edition, some mature-rated content that is included will not be included with the KI Anniversary Edition. This includes the Definitive Edition stand-alone app with developer interviews, concept art, and the Killer Cuts soundtrack. Xbox KI Classic 1 and 2 will also not be included in the Anniversary Edition. Players who own additional content for KI Definitive Edition will still be able to download that content even after the game is retired.

The update is currently in final testing, and no release date has been announced at this time. Full patch notes are incoming.

Killer Instinct Definitive Edition | was $40 $13 on Steam 

Killer Instinct Definitive Edition | <a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/577940/Killer_Instinct/" data-link-merchant="store.steampowered.com"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">was $40 $13 on Steam 

Killer Instinct is back with an all new 10th-anniversary edition update. Players who own the Definitive Edition of KI will get the Killer Instinct Anniversary Edition update for free when it is released.

Also available: <a href="https://click.linksynergy.com/deeplink?id=kXQk6%2AivFEQ&mid=24542&u1=hawk-custom-tracking&murl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.microsoft.com%2Fen-us%2Fp%2Fkiller-instinct-definitive-edition%2Fbvq3fl3201p8" data-link-merchant="microsoft.com"" data-link-merchant="store.steampowered.com"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">$13 (Xbox)

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

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