Back in September, we previewed Hail to the King; Deathbat, an action hack n’ slash from Subscience Studios. Based on the ‘mascot’ of Avenged Sevenfold, Deathbat would be an interesting enough game simply from that premise, as it does a great job of portraying its dark world. Thankfully, Deathbat is also a good addition to the genre, offering a solid gameplay experience that doesn’t particularly excel but hits all the right marks.
While Deathbat is squarely in the hack n’ slash genre, the gameplay isn’t as standard or basic as you might think. Without any sort of defensive blocking mechanism, active avoidance of enemy attacks becomes a significant portion of the gameplay. Deathbat aids the player by removing most of the enemy collision window, with combat boiling down to the player charging at (and through) the enemies while avoiding their attacks. A life system rounds out the core gameplay, with players having to restart levels if they run out of lives (extra lives can be purchased in-game, but I wouldn’t recommend it as restarting maps are a good way to grind coins).
While the gameplay is reminiscent of hack n’ slash, one thing it is missing is any sort of loot or experience system. Instead, health and magic upgrades, along with weapons and potions can all be purchased via the in-game currency system. Strangely enough, Deathbat doesn’t appear to offer an ability to purchase currency via IAP, which is an option I would have liked (grinding for coins can take some time). However, extra characters, complete with their own weapons and spells can be purchased via IAP. While not overpowered, each optional warrior is stronger than the default hero and represent members of the band, which is pretty cool.
A surprising facet with Deathbat is how challenging it can be. Levels have a healthy mix of standard baddies, trap-based platforming areas, and bosses. Combat against normal enemies works pretty well but I’m not the biggest fan of the platforming aspects. The game’s camera angle, inability to adjust said camera and virtual controls lead to a platforming experience that feels a little frustrating. While it’s certainly possible to successfully navigate the trap sections with enough practice, timing and memorization I would preferred a looser margin of error to streamline the gameplay a bit more.
The bosses, on the other hand, are pretty awesome. Reach the end of any of the game’s levels and the soundtrack shifts to heavy metal and you’re met with an impressive boss. Each has its own move set and environment, which actually require some strategy in order to ultimately prove victorious. In fact, I spent quite a few lives taking part in trial-and-error engagements before finally figuring out the right moves necessary for success. In this regard, Deathbat’s bosses are tough and can be a little frustrating to figure out. However, that makes success all the more sweeter.
As one might expect from the minds behind Deathbat, one of the game’s strongest aspects is its awesome soundtrack. Described as ‘neoclassical,’ the background tunes sound great, and there’s also some actual A7X tracks that make an appearance. There’s something about hitting meeting a boss and hearing the soundtrack switch up to an intense tune that I really enjoyed. There’s also some decent variety across the soundtrack. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, the soundtrack meshes incredibly well with the rest of the game’s look and feel.
Speaking of thematics, this is another area that Deathbat does well. The heavy undead/unholy motif suits the story well. Rivers of fire, haunted towns and forlorn deserts are just a sampling of the types of levels that’ll be explored. The story, a tale of a fallen king risen from the dead to reclaim his kingdom, isn’t a particularly engrossing tale but suits the rest of the game well. Maps also have the occasional NPC that provide some narrative ambience and are typically based on some lore associated with the actual music of A7X.
Deathbat isn’t going to win any awards in the visual department, but the graphics engine manages to hold its own. The framerate is smooth on current iOS devices while the visuals themselves aren’t highly detailed but boast a decent art style complemented by its color palette. My only complaint lies with the cutscenes, which feel out of place and don’t particularly complement the in-game visual style.
While fans of Avenged Sevenfold will probably really like Hail to the King: Deathbat purely from a lore standpoint, it’s still a fun action title on its own right. I really enjoyed the universe that’s being created in Deathbat, and I hope to see additional titles in some form or fashion (a tower defense title would be amazing). As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of the best in the genre, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be enjoyable.