Kung Fu-tastic

Blade and Sword
Gameplay
graphics
audio
value
fun
Genre
Reviewed On
PC
Available For
PC
Difficulty
Intermediate
Publisher(s)
Developer(s)
ESRB
ESRB
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Blade and Sword takes the extremely popular top-down Diablo-style gameplay to new levels. And while Blade and Sword will surely remind you of countless other similar titles, it will also become a unique favorite of players who like this type of gaming.

This action RPG takes place in ancient China, and is heavy with unique martial arts moves from that country. You can play one of three different characters, each with a different emphasis. One is more stealthy and quick, one is strong and powerful and one is kind of the middle of the road knight-type warrior.

Blade and Sword does a nice job blending RPG and action elements. The action elements are probably going to be the most noticeable because that is what the game revolves around. You start out in a village that is surrounded by evil creatures. You can interact with the different town’s people and pick up your first mission. As the game progresses, you will rescue more and more people, who give you more characters to interact with and thus more missions.

The game does a nice job of leveling the monsters to your current level of skill. At first, all you are going to fight are some undead zombies, which are slow and fairly easy to kill. Then as you learn more special moves, the enemies gradually get more difficult.

There are a ton of special moves in the game including 36 kung fu attacks and 12 really powerful special moves. To activate the really powerful moves, you need to slowly gain power, which you get by killing enemies. When your power is maxed, you can unleash what amounts to a torrent of destruction. To experience all the different moves, you will need to play the game with all three characters, since each one is different in terms of their fighting style and bonus powers. The powers are not simply given either, they have to be earned. So you can choose to develop your character however you see fit.

There are several main stages in the game, much like the chapters in Diablo. Within that, there are several sub-maps. Most maps have some type of a boss or boss-level area that you need to defeat before moving on. Some of these bosses can be incredibly hard. You should probably save your special move power for the final boss on each level, because you are going to need it.

The one problem I have with the game is that when you re-visit a level, all the monsters are alive again. I like to clear out an area and have that area be done. You can avoid areas you have cleared by finding teleportation sites. When you activate them you can warp to them from the village, bypassing all the levels behind it. I suppose keeping the monsters alive was done so players could go back and gain experience killing all the old monsters again, but it was unexpected, at least for me.

The graphics in Blade and Sword are very nice. The game has an M-rating because the graphics are so realistic, and well, graphic. Depending on your character, you will be lopping off limbs, throwing dead bodies into their associates or even spinning victims high into the air and hacking them up as they come down.

But even though it sounds mindless, there actually is a lot of strategy involved in the game. You have to set up combo-moves that can take out an opponent. And if you do too much of the same thing, the enemy will either block your blows, or fly backwards out of your range. So you need to set up combinations that will keep them off-guard, but also in front of you till you’re ready for the kill shot.

This is done on a screen that you can manage when you are out of battle. Then when you enter battle, each click of the mouse can be set to follow your special move pattern. So you might just be click, click, clicking, but your character is doing a leg sweep followed by a hammer blow followed by a spin kick, ect. This makes part of the fun coming up with the right series of moves, sort of like training back at the dojo. I created a huge combo for one of my characters that was 16 moves long! It worked well against the bosses on each level too. But it took a lot of fun trial and error. "Hmmm.," I would say. "He was knocked back without an arm too quickly, so he’s still alive. I’ll have to tweak that combo move with a few more jabs."

Blade and Sword combines RPG and action elements, but also action and strategy elements. Expect some great gameplay that is built to last. And at just $30, expect a lot of bang for not much buck.

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