When I got my first Android device in 2011, I was appalled by the dismal state of the Android Market (as the Play Store was known back then), and particularly by the games available — and even though I managed to keep from tweeting about it, I can’t deny that I experienced some iOS envy whenever I had to kill time and only had my smartphone on me.
Fast-forward to the present day, when we’re spoiled for choice with quality games boasting high production values and premium IPs — yup, life is good for gamers on planet Android. We’ve seen a lot of great releases over the past year, and Bladeslinger is a shining example of the quality we’ve come to expect from paid titles. This third-person adventure brawler has garnered a lot of interest since it launched, and today we’re going to take a look at what the hype is all about.
The Story So Far
Bladeslinger sees you strapping on the well-worn boots of William Glaston, an all-round badass who returns to his hometown of Hammer’s Peak after years out at war, only to find it taken over by evil forces that have turned its population into bloodthirsty monsters. In his search for answers, William must fight off all kinds of deadly foes, collect mystical charms and uncover secrets that will help piece together what happened to his beloved town.
From the get-go, Bladeslinger looks absolutely incredible and makes good use of the high-end hardware it requires of devices — the environment is richly detailed with great textures and lighting, and draws you in as you advance through the six chapters that make up the first episode (which is what you’re paying for right now). Even the inventory and upgrades menus look great and are easy to navigate, which I don’t get to say often enough about most high-end mobile games.
The story is set in a rural town which is not unlike those you’ve read about and seen in classic Westerns, albeit devoid of a human population. The monsters of Hammer’s Peak are fearsome creatures, and come in a variety of grotesque shapes and sizes — a refreshing change from the recent string of unimaginative zombie games we’ve been subjected to. The characters are modeled well, and discovering new enemy types and NPCs is quite rewarding. I also enjoyed the game’s depth of field feature, which added to its immersiveness, if such a thing exists. What I didn’t really care for was the combat camera which seems to have a mind of its own at times, but this isn’t a huge issue as you’ll get used to its quirks after losing a few bouts.
Controls — Because There’s Something New Here
I bemoan most high-end games’ lack of physical controller support, because they’re losing a wonderful opportunity to get players’ thumbs off the screen and onto comfortable buttons and triggers. Bladeslinger disappoints on this front, but tries to make up for it by offering two control schemes, the first being the typical two-handed layout, with virtual analog sticks to move and look, and attack/dodge/block buttons on either side of the screen. The second scheme, appropriately named Expert, is completely gesture-based, requiring you to swipe and tap with one and two fingers to attack and move around. Although you can switch between schemes whenever you like, the game requires you to get good at fighting very early on, so you’d be better off choosing a control scheme and sticking with it.
I didn’t really enjoy the gesture-based controls, so I stuck with the traditional layout, which is actually very well implemented here — combat buttons show up only when needed and are very responsive. When fighting, William can dodge, block, punch, shoot and slash, and while this sounds like a lot of actions on a touchscreen, it’s very intuitively laid out so you can dish out pain however you deem fit.
Bladeslinger has two modes for you to get in on the action — Arena mode has you fight wave after wave of monsters to earn in-game gold, and Story mode takes you through the Bladeslinger’s journey. Playing as William, you’ll explore Hammer’s Peak in all its dystopian glory, sparring with ‘corrupted’ townspeople as you go along. Each chapter explores a different environment, which, although grand in scale, are mostly linear and don’t allow for much exploration besides finding your next fight or gateway.
Taking on a single monster at a time is easy, but soon enough you’ll find yourself tackling more than one simultaneously, which makes for increased difficulty and forces you to employ strategies to fend off attacks, slay the uglies and manage your limited health. In such situations, you’ll notice new on-screen buttons to quickly evade or go after an enemy, which, combined with the array of attacks you can launch, make for some very satisfying combat indeed.
Larger enemies make appearances from time to time, and force you to change up your strategy based on their movement and attack styles, as well as the locations you encounter them in, such as the quick and far-reaching reaper who generally comes at you in closed spaces and the hulking Barman, whose close-range swipes are best avoided. Whether you choose to constantly dodge and shoot from afar or get up close and slash your way through these hordes, you’re in for a rollicking good time with Bladeslinger.
Defeating monsters earns you gold, and as you progress through chapters, you’ll be able to collect pieces of magic puzzles which unlock new parts of your environment, and Spirit Stones, which you can buy upgrades with. You’ll need to keep a close watch on your health, as you can’t chance upon it within levels, but can buy medicine in the inventory screen with gold that you’ve either earned or bought via in-app purchases (and the same goes for most weapon/skill upgrades too). While you might consider resorting to in-app purchases for upgrades and health, you could probably skip them and fight in Arena mode to simply earn what you need.
Should You Buy It?
I loved the combat sequences in Bladeslinger, because there are so many different ways to take down your opponents — I seriously recommend upgrading your punch and gun as soon as you can, so that you can perform both mêlée and ranged attacks depending on what the situation calls for. Special upgrades (one-time or infinite) allow you to deal more damage and in novel ways too, so you probably won’t tire of fighting till you’ve finished the game.
I didn’t care much for the story or for the repetitiveness through the game — there isn’t much to do in Hammer’s Peak by way of exploration or solving puzzles, which I think would’ve made the title more memorable and engaging. I also encountered a few major bugs while playing this on my Nexus 7 running Android 4.2.2, which I learned, halfway through the game, is known to face issues, such as crashes and a gold counter gone loopy. Hopefully Luma Arcade will release a patch to fix this soon and I can go rescue Hammer’s Peak, or what’s left of it.
Bugs aside, Bladeslinger is a great-looking brawler that you’ll definitely get a kick out of — it raises the bar for what games can look like on Android devices and manages to make fighting on a touchscreen fun. If you want to kick ass and take names with guns, swords and fists, this is a title you shouldn’t miss.