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  • Writer's pictureFernando Da Costa

Afterpatch Review: Blade Assault


Developer: Team Suneat

Publisher: PM Studios, Neowiz Games

Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED


CHAINSAW LASER SWORD! - Introduction


June 2021 saw a game with a generic name captivate me. It went by Metal Unit, and it's the very definition of a hidden gem. I fondly recall the days of staying up into the wee hours of the morning, slicing and dicing. I think it's fair to surmise that I was hopelessly addicted. Hell, it altered my jaded perception of the Roguelite genre. I had long been burnt out, and yet, that title revitalized my delight. As my stomach growled for a new feast, I tossed an email at Neowiz, the publisher of my prior obsession, for an offering, and they replied in kind.


After a quiet delay, Blade Assault would come to consoles. From trailers, everything about it, from visuals to gameplay, had me wide-eyed. It reminded me of my dearly beloved Metal Unit.

 

However, because it had been released much later than expected and because life decided to be harsh, it fell into my backlog. It seemed like a full review just wasn't in the cards, but then sudden strokes of inspiration barged on through. An analysis is happening, and it’s happening now.



NOPE, NO STORY HERE! - Writing!


To claim that there’s no plotline would technically be incorrect. It does exist, and it’s about revenge, but it’s also presented in the most benign manner. To be fair, that's acceptable for this sort of romp. As long as there’s a reason behind the massacre, no matter how slim it may be, that’s sufficient enough. The gameplay is the primary focus, but that doesn’t mean the writing should be flavorless.


Well, I hope your tastebuds weren't ready to be wowed. Between my homicidal treks, I saw nothing resembling spices. I did notice a few sprinkles of personality, but the attempts just weren't tasty.


OVERANALYTICAL MUCH!? - Writing


Now, not to be overly nerdy, but tiny missteps are keeping the quirkiness of the script from thriving. One such misstep is an odd reluctance to allow reactions a chance to breathe - everything is condensed. Lines of dialogue are puked out with varying reactions muddled together. Seeing it go from happy to sad to sarcastic within the same sentence is jarring. In the moments I should feel surprised, I just feel confused. As a result, immersion is hindered because of how unnaturally it reads. I admit, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it not being dull would have been nice.



Perhaps this will be a bold statement, but there doesn't seem to be much effort put into the writing. I say that strictly because after my initial death, as I approached the boss who defeated me, there was a brief exchange. In it, there’s a semblance of memory - they can recall killing me. I was ecstatic because it showed the drive to flesh out the world, but when I went on subsequent runs, that waned.


You see, after the third go, they were silent. It felt like the developers completely forgot about these cool little details midway. Frankly, the passion seemingly vanished. I’ve no idea why there wasn’t the desire to continue, but there wasn't, and that’s a shame. It makes me ask why toss in a cool wrinkle just to abandon it.


RUNNING THROUGH MOBS! - Gameplay


The battles themselves are hectic and often see a swatch of enemies filling the screen. I love this aspect because not only does it force me to stay alert, but the engagement it brings to the table is quite a bit - it helps that the buttons are responsive, too. Zero delays meant that I could tap away and slash at a fast tempo. As extra gravy to the potatoes, it wasn't difficult to discern incoming attacks, meaning I could dodge them efficiently and effectively.



You're probably thinking that based on what I've said above, I believe that Blade Assault does manage to capture the same magic that Metal Unit did, but you'd be wrong. The truth is that a chain of baffling decisions ends up shackling it inside a prison of tedium.


The first issue is balance. None of the upgrades are viable or will make runs easier. The perks I gain from items or weapons are minimal, so much so that I hardly notice a tangible difference. It won’t be until I stack multiple that maybe, just maybe, I see the fruits of those buffs, and I do, but they're also negligible. My strength barely feels stronger, and my defense isn't rock-hard. As a guy aroused by stat growth, I was pretty disappointed.


The second is the skill tree - it's abysmal. It isn’t because I found all the passives atrocious because a few are gems. Being instantly revived once is a game-changer. Let me tell you, I made liberal use of that because I got real cozy with the Grim Reaper during my session.


What I truly dislike is the restrictive nature. I can only choose a single one along each branch. If some within that same row can realistically amalgamate beautifully, that doesn't matter. I can only move upwards, picking the creme of the crop within each column. While I admire the attempt to introduce some experimentation, making it this damn limited is foolish. What’s worse is that nothing meshes. It's so disjointed that it’s ultimately useless.



UNLOCKING EXTRAS! - Gameplay


While the default character is a rambunctious boy who wields a laser chainsaw, I can unlock others - that was a nice discovery. I thought it would add interesting variety, too, and, well, it doesn't.


Sure, depending on who I use, their weapon is different - from a bladed whip to a pair of mechanical arms. It helps to make their fighting styles distinct, but that’s the extent. All four channel the same horrible skill tree, and that’s pretty dumb. Not only does it call back to my comment about a lack of effort, but it’s wasted potential. Switching who I am has no purpose because, at the end of the day, the variation is disgustingly minor.


The third problem is the challenge - Blade Assault somewhat has that thanks to a neat mechanic known as Assault Level. It’s precisely as the name suggests and is represented by skulls. These fill if I'm too sluggish at murdering, and once they're full, then a handicap against me is laid out: later foes explode after they die, they may see an outright strength increase and more. The higher the Assault Level gets, the steeper the difficulty. It gets really damn gnarly, so beware, as dying is almost promised.


Fortunately, I’ll meet a hacker capable of lowering it, which is super helpful. Here’s the catch: it costs currency that’s not only tough to gather but also used for a ton of stuff; thus, another major gripe is born.



Finally, it's known that I'm the weirdo that enjoys grinding. It’s cathartic, and it’s in Blade Assault, but I can't say I'm excited about that. Let’s revert to my complaint about balance. Since there’s one universal form of funds, I had to prioritize. I couldn't afford getting every form of goodie on offer while also lowering the Assault Level, meaning I had to begrudgingly allow it to routinely peak to the tenth degree.


It gave humanoid beavers special attributes up to their buck teeth. It made combat seriously harsh. What ticked me off most was how I couldn’t give it that old college try until I bought everything available in-game first. Then, and only then, could I start to invest in making life easier. That’s fine and dandy, as there are successful examples that do the same, but the stark contrast there is that those aren't a slog.


I also can't begin to explain how much I dislike that, before beginning a run, I must succumb to the notion that death awaits. It isn’t ever a question of if I’ll survive and win. Until I freed up the cash, I had no other option but to take it. As a result, the exhilaration I wanted never ended up materializing. I was just going through the motions.



JUST CHUGGING ALONG! - Performance


No one would think the pixel art style to be a strain on the Nintendo Switch. I’m not exactly a developer, but I imagine it's less of a burden than 3D models. Imagine my shock then when I saw that Blade Assault struggled, usually stuttering whenever I'm locked in a fight with a group of monsters. The preceding slowdown isn't easily ignored either, which while it may not cause unjust deaths, it does get frustrating. Several months have passed since release, and still, there's no fix. Optimization isn't up to par, and the future doesn't look bright.


PRETTY PIXELS! - Presentation


As an old dude, both my knees buckle at the mere sight of sprites. Toss in exceptional backdrops, and we got ourselves a winner. There’s a great amount of detail in the environments, and I enjoyed the neon. The lighting effects are cool, but that makes me wonder if it’s the cause of the performance issues.


As far as the characters go, it's mostly good with a morsel of bad, which fully lies at the feet of the main protagonist. If I set him beside the others, he looks less refined for some reason - maybe due to his weird lean. The animations are good, though, and yeah, everyone else is adequate, but he's, I don't know, odd. It’s nitpicky, and frankly, the designs as a whole are splendid.



AND THE ASSAULTING VERDICT IS...


I did Blade Assault dirty by comparing it to Metal Unit, assuming that the loop would be identical. The poorly implemented skill tree is a dud, as it never felt like I was progressing. It tries giving a sense of experimentation, but thanks to the minimal stat boosts, it just feels redundant. The unlockables are decent, and I’m a fan of the extras, but they all lose their appeal quickly. While the protagonist has an arsenal of weapons, the others don’t, making them look half-assed by comparison. That alone has the stench of the lack of effort I've touched on repeatedly and why I can't really suggest buying.


BLADE ASSAULT IS NOT RECOMMENDED!


Special thanks to the Publisher for the review code used for the purposes of this coverage

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