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Blade & Sword Review

publisher: Whiptail Interactive
developer: Pixel Multimedia
genre: RPG

PII 266, 128MB RAM, 4MB Video Card, 1.4GB HD
ESRB rating: M

release date: Dec 30, 03
» All About Blade & Sword on ActionTrip

Following the concept of Blizzard Entertainment's tremendously successful Diablo series, publisher Whiptal Interactive and developer Pixel Studio sought to create an isometric action role-playing game that would breathe some fresh life into the genre. As you all know, not many games have managed to stand up to the likes of Diablo. (Name one that has. - Ed.) Blade & Sword is a valiant effort, nonetheless ... for such a small development team. Wait, scratch that. It's an effort all right, but we're not so sure about the 'valiant' part.

The game's storyline takes players on a voyage to a strange world, portrayed through a mix of ancient China lore and a few fantasy elements. When you come right down to it, there's really not much of a plotline to follow. Your character lives in a time when Shaolin fighters are engaged in an all-out war with a massive army of the undead. You arrive to the Wu-dang Village as a lone warrior, sworn to help the good people of China fight the terrifying forces of evil. The game's scarce and rather vague opening sequence, was one of our initial disappointments. The tale is poorly conveyed through a small scrolling text, outlining the facts about the world you're about to venture in. Oh yeah, they also threw in a medium-sized drawing to go with the synopsis (whoopee!). The details surrounding characters, events, and realms, are minuscule and hardly adequate to provide an immersive fantasy world. First of all, you'll have a hard time identifying yourself with the main characters since there's precious little information on their background. The game also lacks a suitable and imaginative plot structure, which makes the atmosphere tedious and will surely discourage many gamers from playing on. Furthermore, scarce bits of the storyline are unveiled through character dialogue (if you can call it that), which is also displayed via scrolling text. So, instead of enjoying character voiceovers, you are left to read through shabbily presented scripts.

Before you march out to slice and dice hordes of undead minions, you'll be able to choose out of three available characters (two male and one female). After witnessing a rather weak introduction, we were skeptic about the rest of the game. Much to our surprise, the gameplay turned out to be fluid enough. Blade & Sword has an acceptable learning curve, so it won't take you too long to get into the spirit of the gameplay. Like we've said before, the game is a bit of a click-fest, so keep your trigger finger ready at all times. Other than that, we did find a few enjoyable moments in the game's combat system. Improving your character's experience, allows you to distribute points to various skills and combat techniques. Once special skills and attacks are unlocked, players can come up with their own set of combos and use them in battle later on. Almost every type of combo or skill drains a certain amount of "chi" when put to use. By the way, to enlighten all of our readers, chi is actually a substitute used for the conventional RPG resource - mana. Anyway, your chi is limited, hence you are required to exercise your special combos and skills shrewdly.

During the first couple of levels, combat won't be much of a challenge. Still, gradually leveling your character will allow you to use more lethal moves against enemies. This is when things become a bit more interesting. There's a wide range of cool martial-arts moves at your disposal, allowing you to tackle with multiple foes at once. Throughout gameplay, I especially enjoyed using the Wind Walker skill, thanks to which I could literarily run through several opponents, consequently draining their energy without using the sword. Gamers also have the option of improving a particular move, until they reach the so-called Killing Blow - the ultimate attack. For instance, a certain move called Dragon Fight, is upgradeable all the way to the ultimate Dragon Dance. Utilizing the Dragon Dance, gamers will watch foes collapse as their character twirls in the air and performs a deadly combo attack. For what it's worth, Blade & Sword also features an effective block move (triggered with the 'Alt' key), which stands as a rather pleasant addition to combat. So, in a nutshell, it's all about combining these fighting skills against different types of opponents.

Blade & Sword doesn't really exhibit exceptionally original level design. Quite the contrary actually. Your characters will be traveling through simplistically designed labyrinths, which often come out repetitive. Journeying through caverns, dungeons, and forests, is mostly uneventful and offers nothing more than occasional boss-creatures to fight against and NPC's to talk to (or, rather, listen to them rant about this and that). So even if there was anything to the gameplay mechanics that we might've liked, the overall impression was severely degraded by the poor level design.

Strolling through the regions of ancient China, your character will need to deal with a practically endless number of different monsters. One of the most irritating aspects here is that all foes will respawn each time you re-enter a particular region (unlike Diablo, where all enemies tend to stay down once killed). Moreover, the game offers a really lame 'Save and Exit' option, forcing players to return to the main menu every time they wish to save their progress. Another hindrance is that your character keeps dropping money after dying. Quite simply, when you die, you are teleported back to the Wu-dang Village, coughing up all your coins on the ground. The coins will remain there until you return and pick them up. The annoying part is that you will be back in town and penniless, incapable of purchasing any items until you come back to that same spot and collect your loot.

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3.0   Don't Bother 

Enjoyable moments during combat, a variety of skills and combos to experiment with;

Weak overall presentation, some AI issues, poor sounds, scant visuals, tedious experience altogether.


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