Blade & Sword Review

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Publisher: Whiptail Interactive
Developer: Pixel Studio


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 266 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 4 MB video card, 1.4 GB HD space

In Ancient China, amidst a war between two empires, a malicious Wizard Wen executes one dying Emperor's last wish – to open up the boundaries between the Human, Beast, and Demon realms, thus making the world he's leaving behind unlivable for all. Only a true hero can step up to the task of protecting the humans and defeating the beasts, demons, and the Wizard Wen. China is hoping that hero is you.

Rating:
Carrie Gouskos


Blade & Sword is a Diablo-style game that takes place 3000 years ago in China and uses a martial-arts-centric fighting system that barely rescues it from having the subtitle "Diablo clone" stamped on the box. Despite striking similarities, down to the very last red/blue health/magic indicator, Blade & Sword focuses on a few unique aspects that makes it worth spending some time with, although ultimately no better than the original game that defined this genre.

While most Diablo-style games are considered action/role-playing games, Blade & Sword focuses less on the Role-Playing aspects and more on the depth of the attack system. This could garner appeal with those disinclined toward micromanagement, but immediately sets Blade & Sword at a disadvantage compared to deeper games of the same genre. Character choice is one area in which Blade & Sword offers the bare minimum, although each character is distinct. The triumvirate of selectable characters consists of a Long Swordsman, which in Chinese must mean "the most balanced character" and two polar opposites, the Great Blade Warrior also known as "the slow but strong male character", and Twin Blades, "the token small and agile female."

The developer makes up for its predictable characters with completely unique special move sets. There are four areas in which each character can be trained. In each, the player can unlock four maneuvers, including one Super Attack. (For those of you who would like to leave your Math nightmares in school where they belong, that's sixteen moves each.) The long swordsman's move sets are Multiple attacks, Combination attacks, Impact attacks, and Chi attacks. The first three have greater effectiveness depending on the type of battle, while Chi attacks materialize Chi (which is similar to magic) in varying forms to take down enemies. The Twin Blades character's moves have completely different names, and are almost different in effectiveness. Move sets like Wind-Rider and Dash Attacks emphasize her character-specific strength with quick combos. Similarly the Great Blade character move sets take advantage of his strength, with powerful maneuvers like the Dragon Bisector that lifts enemies up into the air and cracks their backs on his head.

Create Customized Move Sets or Just Throw Stuff From Your Belt


While the move sets are the bread and butter of the fighting system, there are still plenty of a la carte attacks. The left mouse button performs a standard attack that can be interspersed with the right mouse button's special move sets to create an effective onslaught. There are also a number of projectile weapons in the game that are relegated to a separate inventory location called the "right belt." Up to six different projectiles can be assigned to the belt, which is hot-keyed to the F1-F6 buttons, and turns out to be a useful dynamic. There are attack scrolls which can be used like the projectiles, most of which harness some element of nature (your standard fire, water, air, and freeze) against your enemies. Other, more powerful scrolls exist that can summon "Celestial" fighters to aid the protagonist. There is also a left belt (who wants to be a lopsided hero?) that can contain any of the healing items that you purchase at shops or pluck off of dead bodies. The healing items restore all of your vitals, health, stamina, chi, and even your life.

None of Blade & Sword's production values will be unfamiliar to seasoned veterans of Diablo-style games, but some aspects of the fighting system demonstrate originality. The move sets can be mixed and matched in order to create up to four "combos" (essentially macros) that help prevent the carpal tunnel encouraged by rapid pressing of both the mouse buttons. Also, the alt button allows players to block attacks in exchange for stamina points. Since using up stamina prevents you from running as well as from blocking more attacks, it's one of the more important gauges (other than health of course) to keep an eye on. Thankfully, both the Stamina and Chi meters automatically refill on their own, so if you're stuck without the proper potion, you can almost always back off from the fighting and wait until you're better prepared. If your danger is so great that it can't be remedied by hiding in a corner, there are always homing pearls which will instantly warp you back to your starting point, where everything can be refilled before you take the warp back to your previous location. Homing pearls are an extremely convenient way to restock without having to run all the way back home. Just don't forget to keep your homing pearls in stock before you use them all!

No Shopping Trips in This Game


Blade & Sword is hindered most by the lack of environmental and enemy interaction that is a staple for this genre. Gone is the looting that lets you pore over an array items (and their statistics). In fact, there is no way to change your armor or standard weapon at all, which would have added another strong dynamic to the martial-arts fighting element. Blade & Sword replaces weapon and armor upgrades with gem embedding, where the currently equipped items can be bolstered with gems that you have found among your travels. This is partly redeems the dearth of item variety, but equipment is ultimately not as interactive as I'd like to see.

 

Blade & Sword has at least one thing going for it – it shipped at a $30 price. Beyond that, while there are enough missions, side missions, and fighting choices to keep anyone happy for a while, Blade & Sword lacks the variety and critical choices that make gameplay truly deep. Despite the wealth of move sets, they can be unlocked to almost every level, and the player is not forced to choose which style he/she wants to train in primarily, since they'll all be available too easily. There is nothing to encourage replay and there is no multiplayer. Had something been included to give the game more depth, Blade & Sword would have fared a lot better, but the martial-arts system is not enough to set it ahead, and you're going to be happier playing Diablo II.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 6, 2004 7:54 PM.

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