Come for the Mutants, Stay For The Man-Eating Plant
HIGH Fast action, precise controls.
LOW Enemies are damage sponges to the point of absurdity.
WTF Why are Jenny’s feet so pointy?
Sometimes a game doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad title, per se, but it just isn’t going to stick long-term. Blade Assault — a title that I thoroughly enjoy for its fast-paced just one more run style and find also incredibly frustrating due to its grind and lack of transparency is one such title.
It’s a perfectly cromulent.
Blade Assault starts players in the role of Kil. He’s standing up to the military regime of Esperanza for… reasons? According to the game’s description, the military is corrupt and the Big Bads sure seem unpleasant, what with imprisoning our hero and throwing him off a building and all. After somehow surviving that, Kil joins the resistance to continue the fight alongside companions who have deep-seated (but vaguely defined) reasons for wanting to kill monsters and smash the patriarchy. They also hang out in a jazz club, but none of them really like one another? Or something?
Look, it’s all a bit hazy and I wish it weren’t because I’d really love to know, well, anything about this world. Instead, players are thrown into the action time and time again. Are we even the good guys? It’s unclear.
In terms of gameplay, Blade Assault is a 2D roguelike platformer featuring tons of combat and a wide variety of cool weapons and upgrades that allow one to smash monsters in increasingly interesting and brutal ways. With a name like Blade Assault, one would (correctly) assume that melee combat is the primary means of interaction with foes, but characters also have access to lethal ranged weapons such as poison-coated kunai and flamethrowers, which are satisfying to use.
So far, two companions can be recruited to Kil’s cause (with a third to be added in a future update) — Darcy, the katana master comes with air dashes and projectile slashes galore. Then there’s Jenny, the assassin with a chain sickle and ability to inflict tremendous poison damage. Jenny is my main, and using her feels almost like a cheat code with the right powerups due to her incredible reach and tremendous speed.
She, Darcy, and Kil all have access to secondary attacks such as rapid fire, special dash attacks, and alternate projectile weapons like shuriken which are limited by cooldown times and energy point requirements to prevent constant spamming. Additionally, characters can unlock fourth and fifth powers as they progress through levels. For instance, characters can be accompanied by automatic homing frost spears, perform a fire uppercut attacks, or use special healing abilities.
Every run starts in the jazz club, where one can equip new gear or add modifications/permanent upgrades to existing gear by spending one of the many currency types. The game doesn’t do a great job explaining how all the different currencies work and what they’re used to purchase, but it does become second nature after a while.
Entering a teleportation portal takes our character to the first location where they must defeat all enemies and then activate another portal that brings in more of the same enemy, but with more health and usually a shield. This second phase is timed in a unique way, as taking too long to crush foes increases the overall “Danger” of a zone. This means enemies may do more damage, have more shields, or even regenerate health — really enjoyable when facing bosses who are already damage sponges. After defeating everything again, the level ends.
Playing through the early sections (especially after unlocking some permanent perks) is a bittersweet experience. On the plus side, it’s awesome to smash through early enemies and feel powerful — absolutely decimating early bosses is unmatched. On the other hand, after a few runs it all feels perfunctory and crushing those foes seems like treading water before the real challenge of later stages begins. Luckily, the combat is peppy due to responsive controls and fast action — it almost makes up for it. Runs are generally short (around 30 minutes or so) but it’s a grind nonetheless.
Clearing a stage allows the player to pick an upgrade upgrade to their weapons, generally in the form of fire, electric, or frost damage. They may also unlock health/energy upgrades, or bonus stashes of the aforementioned currencies. These upgrades only last until the end of a run.
Between levels, the player is taken to a hub to spend their hard-earned coins. Then comes a boss fight, at which point players will lather, rinse, and repeat this process against harder enemies until evil is vanquished or the character is killed, which sends them back to the beginning. Since this is a roguelike, most of the player’s status gets wiped, but they can save some currency types that can be used for permanent stat and weapon upgrades. Progression is fairly quick, so characters gain strength and additional health rapidly, but the game counterbalances this progression by making enemies take longer to kill, especially in those later stages.
While this is fairly par for the course when it comes to roguelikes, in higher levels even regular ‘pushover’ enemies can take an absolute pummeling before falling, and their attacks make the game feel almost like a bullet-hell. It does get tedious, especially because there’s little enemy variety and only two or three variations of each level, all of which will be experienced many, many times.
Blade Assault is kind of like its protagonists at the beginning of the game in that they’re both unwelcoming and it’s a bit of a chore to find the good stuff buried within. Those willing to put in the time and practice may find a rewarding experience, but there are plenty of other games out there that provide far more memorable action than this.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Team Suneat and published by NEOWIZ. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 13 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: At the time of review, this game has not been rated by the ESRB. The game features hyper-violent action against myriad humanoid foes. Most monsters encountered are fantastical beasts such as mutated giant animals or plants, but there are also human opponents and undead humans. While all of the enemies are cartoonish in nature, there is a ‘bleeding’ effect that can be added, which makes damaged foes spurt blood. This is more comical than gory, but it may be inappropriate for younger players.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available. Heads up, there is a lot of flashing during battles. Coupled with the rapid pace of combat, this could have an effect on players prone to seizures.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. All in-game dialogue is text-based, and all audio cues have a visual component. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls. The caveat to this is that movement is locked to the d-pad of a controller. Movement keys can be changed if playing using a keyboard.