Blade & Sword
Ten years ago, the label 'Made in China' was more associated with cheap plastic toys featuring dangerous spiky bits and fireworks that blow eyebrows off before a match has even been struck. This issue, however, we cast such stereotypes aside and warmly welcome the world's most populated country to the games-making fraternity.
Scouring the world's back streets for bargain projects, maverick publisher Whiptail Interactive (infamous of late for publishing the likes of Postal 1 & Postal 2) looked East. There it found Blade & Sword, a game lovingly crafted in China by the freshly-formed Pixel Studios.
Blade & Sword attempts to sprinkle some good old Monkey magic into an action-RPG mix, with a yarn firmly entrenched in ancient Chinese folklore. The description on the back of the box claims that the game features "Diablo-like action elements and Street Fighter arcade combat". Having played it, we can say that these claims are misleading.
Had the packaging read: "Reasonably competent RPG with over-fiddly combat, an awful manual and graphics straight out of Lure Of The Temptress on the Atari ST", then it would have scored an extra two per cent for honesty. The manual, along with the entire in-game script, has clearly been translated from Chinese. Okay, so we can forgive the clumsy in-game dialogue (just), but the manual's chapter on creating combo-attacks, which are critical to master in order to progress, is so unclear it could put you off for good.
But we soldiered on, learned a few moves through trial and error, and level led-up sufficiently to slash our way through a hefty proportion of the game. And you know what? We're quite enjoying it now...
Download Blade & Sword
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
While I'd often pondered the lonely nights hoping for a game to excite my interest in ancient Chinese mythology and all things like it, Blade & Sword isn't exactly what I'd have picked if I'd been given the choice at the wishing tree. An action RPG that is practically a Diablo clone, Blade & Sword isn't anything I haven't seen before, but at the very least, it startled me with its ambition.
Set in a pseudo-mythical Chinese environment, once you actually helm the controls you'll notice how Diablo like this game is. Seemingly like the first Diablo engine, the game incorporates elements not seen until the Diablo II, like the skill tree system. Each of the three characters has a wide variety of martial arts maneuvers that can be learned, any number of which can be loosed upon an unsuspecting foe.
Which, in the end, turns out to be less than impressive, as the game has a tendency to knock down enemies when it's least beneficial, and manages to do fairly poor damage to boot. As you progress through the game purchasing new equipment, skills, and other sundry game currencies, you'll be able to build in a series of combos that are unique to your character. They're sometimes a pain to pull off, but can produce some impressive results, and as far as I can see, they're the backbone of the only real way to advance quickly through the game.
The graphics and audio themselves are pitiful, but at least expressive, dating the game quite significantly. The pre-game interface isn't very hot, but that can be forgotten once into the main game itself, as (thankfully) some of the in-game visuals don't look too bad. There is no spoken dialogue that I could find, and speaking with an NPC using text messages quickly became the highlight of this game's many bad experiences. But pressing on, I did see a glimmer of hope - Arcade styling.
While you're fighting, you can use the Alt key to block, and the Space Bar to dodge. These aren't extra-ordinarily useful, but when combined with the combo system, the super attacks that everyone receives at the end of the skill tree, and a propensity for undead violence, you've got a game that has some hope of being someone's favorite bargain bin purchase. However, in conclusion, this isn't a title I'd recommend anyone go purchase. It takes effort to slog through, and simply isn't good enough for the money.