What’s Good About Blade Assault
Well, this is a bit of a first, huh? I’m writing about a game that I’ve been playing before its official release from Early Access and it was posted before the game’s release. The game in question for this week that we are talking about is Blade Assault, quite possibly the most “Me” game I’ve covered in this series. It’s a 2D Action Platformer Roguelike and if you are wondering what this game could do differently than other games of this ilk, then keep reading and I will show you.
The basic Premise of Blade Assault is that you are Kil, a prisoner with plot convenient amnesia, who escaped from the prisons of the corrupt flying city of Esperanza who joins the literal underground resistance to kill their leader in revenge. The story goes into a surprising amount of depth with the simple story and a lot of it comes down to the player characters. There are currently three playable with two more on the way following the release and the ones present in the game currently all react to the events of the story in different ways. Kil naturally disregards the more altruistic aspects of the resistance movement in favor of simple-minded revenge, Resident Mysterious Waif Darcy has a surprising amount of connection to the overall conflict through her quest for freedom, and futuristic ninja Jenny (who radiates big “Akali from League of Legends” energy) is simply a professional assassin hired by the underground who’s trying to make as much money as possible so she can retire from her bloody career. I wasn’t expecting there to be this much storytelling in a game like this, but then again, we live in a post-Hades world where it’s been demonstrated that an in-depth narrative can be shown to be possible and even done effectively. Hell, that’s not even getting into the fourth main player character Jett, who’s the only one who’s truly in the fight for the idealistic motivation of wanting a better world for everyone from what I’ve seen, but the in-universe reason as to why he is currently on the sidelines is because he needs to have his cyborg arms repaired fully.
The game’s systems also tie into the way the world works, with there being vendors in between biome changes that allow for purchasing of healing items, support services, and upgrades. These take the forms of food vendors like Max, black market fences like Jean at Papa Kim’s Bar, Max’s wife Sophia being a literal underground scientist (whose items have both a positive and negative modifier), and Honk (because you get into his limo to buy stuff, clever), Hackers like Leo who can lower the RISK system (the game’s scaling difficulty modifier system), and blacksmiths like Hank who can change the way your character’s selected weapon works. It’s a nice range of systems that are all informed by the setting and as support systems to your characters being on the frontlines doing the actual fighting; hell, there’s even a friendship system that opens up mote dialogue with each character as well as the mechanical benefit of making stuff cheaper and serves to unlock the other playable characters, it’s great. There’s also the Skill Trees that affect your abilities and other stats, there are currently two of four in the game as of the time of writing, with the other two being added down the road. I’m at that point where I’ve been playing for around 40 hours of the final early access build since I got it a few months ago, and I’ve maxed out most everything. Or as I like to call it the “Please Come Out Soon, 1.0” phase of Early Access that I got to with Hades before they put in the Full Ending.
The gameplay consists of seven-story chapters of running, shooting, and slashing your way from the underground through various hordes of mutants, cyborgs, and androids to get to Esperanza and kill the douchebag leader in charge of the whole thing. Your mercs of choice are the aforementioned Kil, Darcy, and Jenny. While they share the same universal mechanics, the devil is in the details. Kil rewards aggression more than the others with his abilities to carve through enemies with his energy chainsaw, giant axe, and three-shot burst rifle; while Darcy and Jenny at the time of writing only have one weapon a piece with more coming in future updates, but those currently available weapons prove to be incredibly versatile as a show of the later characters having more complex designs. Darcy only has access to a Katana, but she can charge her regular attacks to be am iaido dashing slash, has access to both a homing slash special and an augment that turns that into a super-powerful heavy Odachi slash, and Jenny has access to only a chain and sickle but is bolstered by the chain’s ridiculous range, the ability to yank enemies in closer Scorpion style, a replacement Area of Effect 360 degrees slash flurry, poisons, and the ability to summon an army of cyber ninja to help her out. They all have their brand of violence, but the violence is of the “carve a path through a fuckload of enemies’’ variety. If I had to pick a favorite, it’d have to be Darcy if only because I’m kind of a mark for stylish, high-speed katana-based action in video games ever since I first played as Vergil waaaaay back in Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition.
The aforementioned RISK System is where the difficulty comes into play for this game: it’s a scaling difficulty modifier that adds new effects to elite enemies that spawn in at designated points near the end of a screen and goes from levels 1–10, scales on how well you are doing and can straight up ruin your day if you are being careless. I should know I’m speaking from experience here. Thankfully you have the item and core systems to get you through it. Items are procedurally found on runs and lost upon death and have a wide range of effects to make you a better fighter, and cores are elemental augmentations that change the way your weapons and attacks work. They come in the form of fire, ice, and lightning to help you burn, freeze and shock the system. These all add up to a staggering amount of customization that can change each run you go in and like Hades, even when running a sub-optimal build, you still feel incredibly powerful. It’s enough to not mind losing your gems every time you die on a run because the game has three or four other upgrade materials that transfer between runs in the form of Data cubes for relationship management, computer chips for weapon augmentation upgrades, and gold for the skill tree.
The areas of the underground showcase the amount of visual variety in the game’s art style. From back alleys and streets to mutant infested sewers, skyscrapers filled with giant killer bugs and sentient killer plants, and finally the sleek, cold, and calculating brutality of Ezperansa and its robotics facilities, all of the areas I mentioned look great and serve as the perfect backdrops for all of the action.
Blade Assault is the most “Me” video game I’ve played in a while and I mean that in the best way. Between the aesthetics, gameplay, the delicious rogue-like nonsense, and general style on display, this might be my favorite game to have seen develop in real-time in Early Access since I’ve excitedly screamed about Viscerafest and Prodeus. If you need a new one of these it’s got my seal of approval.