We've been keeping close watch on the development of Bladeslinger [$6.99] (and so have you, as evidenced by our anticipated game lists). After a soft launch in Canada, we've finally had the opportunity to check out this third-person action brawler. While Bladeslinger certainly delivers with gorgeous visuals (along with a satisfactory narrative), its control scheme leaves a lot to be desired, leading to a far more frustrating experience than one would want.

Coming back to his hometown from war, you play the role of William Glaston, bladeslinger extraordinaire. After quickly discovering that his town is infested with monsters, he begins on a quest to discover the origin of these creatures, and attempt to eradicate them. From a story standpoint, Bladeslinger isn't going to weave a particularly enthralling tale, but the narrative is decent enough to follow. One area that doesn't merit much praise, however, are the voiceovers, which feel forced and stunted. The story is only a small part of Bladeslinger and there are a few other areas that deserve praise, such as the graphics.

By far, the most impressive facet of Bladeslinger is its graphics engine, which looks absolutely amazing on current generation iOS hardware. Character models are well done, backdrops are gorgeously detailed, and everything simply looks great. While I'd be hesitant to give Bladeslinger the nod as the nicest looking iOS title, its certainly in the upper echelon. The fact that the game looks so good and also runs at a decent framerate is a big plus as well. A good framerate in particular helps when actually playing the game.

At the onset, Bladeslinger's battle system seems pretty cool. Players have the option to engage in long-range gun combat or close-quarters melee. In addition, there's a variety of combos available that take full advantage of both combat styles. You can dodge, block, and there's even an execution-style mechanic available when you daze enemies (typically when you get them below 25% health). A secondary spirit meter builds up during battle which allows you to utilize a variety of power-ups that can be bought in the in-game store, offering boosts that suit your playstyle. In addition, there are a ton of permanent stat increases and move upgrades, which can either be unlocked by fulfilling certain objectives or with gold. There's a surprising amount of depth in Bladeslinger.

Unfortunately, all the depth in the world can't help the erratic and simply messy control scheme. While the basic battle controls are straightforward (tap on an enemy to shoot, swipe to melee) the rest of your moves are a bit more complicated. Dodging requires a two-fingered tap on the direction you wish to go, while blocking is a non-tap two-fingered hold. In addition, punching (which initiates the execution mode when available) requires a two-fingered swipe upward on an enemy.

In theory the above advanced controls should be fairly intuitive, but there's a distinct lack of responsiveness in Bladeslinger's execution. There are too many occasions where you try to block and you end up dodging, and vice versa. In addition, melee combos would occasionally stop mid-combo, even if you're swiping in the right directions. Even the execution moves, which is a simple line-drawing mechanic, can be incredibly finicky in accepting your tracing.

While the above concerns are bad enough, the troubles seem to exacerbate when you have multiple enemies. In those situations, chances are very high that you'll accidentally target another enemy while initiating a combo, forcing you into a reactive mode as you try and quickly get back into to your original enemy. There's also the generally frustrating feeling of trying to predict the moves of enemies off-screen and inadvertently dodging into another attack (while off-screen indicators show attacks, they are incredibly hit-or-miss with actual prediction). Later levels throw even more enemies at you simultaneously, which just seem wrong at that point.

This all leads to a constant need to stock health potions and special moves just to keep up with the unfair battle system. Unfortunately, money is hard to come by to fund power-ups, health increases, and stat unlocks. While IAP is available to purchase gold (and to be honest I'd recommend just buying some gold to make your life easier), it still doesn't excuse the issues surrounding this game.

In the end, Bladeslinger ends up yet another game with so much potential. True, the gorgeous visuals certainly warrant consideration (especially on newer iOS hardware), and the battle system is filled with potential, but the controls are a huge black mark on the entire experience. I'm sure there are plenty of folks that'll be willing to forgive the above issues to play a pretty game, but I'd recommend everyone else to be wary.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/borgqueenx borgqueenx

    100% agree with this. i really dislike the controls in this game. Please make some 2 handed button gameplay or something^^

  • evilsearch

    very honest and accurate review. completely agree on this. control ruin the whole experience. pretty graphics and eye candy are all you got from this game.

  • o0oJAKEo0o

    NO! Why does everyone not get such an easy control scheme? Am I missing something? I've only ever had a great experience with this one. Easily the best looking game on the App Store. What game looks better?

  • http://twitter.com/tRYSIS3 Saloukaz

    This game doesn't deserve more than one star because of the bad gameplay!!

    • o0oJAKEo0o

      Bad game play(ers)...

  • Solarclipse

    Yeah the controls seem to be love and hate. I think they are groundbreaking and demand a little more but with some effort, become very natural and allow for a lot of freedom.

    Also, you can't get hurt when you are dodging.

  • ImJPaul

    I want to play this game soooo bad. It looks sooo good but ill 4th or 5th that the controls are spotty at best. Luckily, they can fix this and I REALLY hope that they do.

  • fuzzlor

    I disagree that the controls ruin the experience but they do need some polish.
    What I do agree with is that targeting is awful. I should be able to switch to an enemy by tapping him (or his indicator) but that doesn't seem to be the way it works. Using a melee attack tends to do the job but it's very hard to do with two enemies standing closely to each other.
    Other than that, some more varied combos would be nice and the transition from melee to ranged seems stiff to me.

    Hopefully the issues will be ironed out in the next update or episode 2.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ethan.vosburgh Ethan Vosburgh

    "By far, the most impressive facet of Bladeslinger is its graphics engine, which looks absolutely amazing on current generation iOS hardware."

    Game engine is Unity.

  • http://www.decodethis.com Richard Brown

    Totally agree, the controls are frustrating. I got to the point where it wasn't any fun anymore very early in the game. I ran out of money for healing potions and my only option to continue was to spend more money. No thanks.

  • Dre13

    To throw a punch, swipe 2 fingers upward anywhere on the screen, the swipe doesn't have to be on the enemy.

    The more I played the game, the more I got used to the controls, and have no complaints about them...I actually like it better than a virtual or fixed pad for this type of game.

    Think about how you want to use your points and gems on upgrades....used properly, and the game becomes very easy. I beat the game by only fully upgrading one weapon and one particular card......and I am not very good gamer.

  • Mekklesack

    BladeSlinger is an amazingly pretty game with enormous details and slick effects that run smoothly together at a higher resolution than most retail console games. I'm looking forward to more. I'm currently enjoying it in "two handed mode."

  • bigjack66

    Just got this looks amazing. They've added two hand controls so hopefully be less control issues. We'll soon see.

Bladeslinger Ep.1 Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3