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.