Title: Blade II: The Return of Evil
Genre: Action, Adventure, Role-Playing
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 18/06/19
Price: £20.69 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Blade II: The Return of Evil is a mobile born game that has been revamped and introduced to the Switch for its second instalment.
Porting mobile games over to the switch is not new. There are piles of mobile ports littering the eShop, and depending on how you feel about them, your acceptance of this fact may vary. However, how does Blade II: The Return of Evil shape up? The answer is a resounding, meh. It is an ok game for a mobile ported hack and slash, but it lacks depth in all area to make it truly stand out.
The games look and audio are probably its strongest points. While not as stunning as Breath of the Wild, the development team put effort into the world. There is some minor blurring at times, but given the style and pace of the game, it doesn’t do any real harm.
The gothic atmosphere is captured well in the art design, and a gloomy sense of foreboding does overshadow every level. That being said, I would have been happier to have had less of the detailed environment in exchange for more variety in levels.
The world is filled with carts, boxes, and barrels that you can’t interact with or break outside of the occasional damage during a fight sequence. Their inclusion serves no real purpose. The same can be said for the numerous side streets and alleyways that branch from the main path. They are there, and there has been attention paid in making them look nice, but you can’t use them because the game is as linear as they come, not allowing you to deviate from the desired path by so much as a footstep.
Good Audio But Careless Mistakes Are Costly
Blade II comes with Korean audio, but an array of language options for its subtitles. The voice acting is solid. The characters are all very different, and the expressions and intonations match with what you would expect to hear when reading the subtitles. It is just a shame that the audio you do get is generic and hardly does anything to either introduce or advance the story in any way shape or form.
There were a few small annoyances with the subtitles also. Simple spelling errors should have been caught. Grammar mistakes I can forgive, but misspelling a character name is inexcusable.
One of the early level bosses is a vampire named Dark Rachel, yet one character’s subtitles insist on called her Rahel. It’s a simple mistake that should have been caught, and so early on makes you question the developer’s commitment to making the title as good as they could as opposed to getting it to the market as quickly as possible.
The soundtrack is decent, with particularly triumphant music playing during the menus and level select screens. The sounds of battle and the grunts of our heroes can sometimes resemble more a Monica Seles tennis match, but that is somewhat standard sound bite fare for fight scenes. There was little time for any other score to be used as the game was too action-packed for it to be used.
Blade II: The Return of Evil is a story divided into 7 acts. Each act has ten stages. So that’s 70 levels of content for you. Sounds good right? Well, it’s not that great.
Quantity Doesn’t Beat Quality
Yes, there’s a lot of levels, but when each one takes no more than a couple of minutes, the game’s scope is instantly diluted. Supplement that with the complete lack of exploration, you are stuck on a track that allows you to move just forward and backwards, and even then within a restricted section of the linear path.
So, a stage is, in essence, a single straight line divided into sections. Trapped in each small section, you must defeat the enemies thrown at you. Reach the end of the stage and fight a boss. This is a tried and tested technique, and when done well, it can be used to good effect. However, when the game gives you such little to work with, it becomes a button-bashing mess that offers little in the way of actual enjoyment. Neither does a death build that motivational frustration that has you giving the famous ‘just one more run’ mentality.
There’s a Storyline in There Somewhere
The story of the game is… I’m not overly sure. You can choose from four characters, and each one has specific traits, but when boiled down, the gameplay remains mostly the same, flawed. The short level design and the frantic action leave no time for either the story or the characters to develop, making the experience shallow and unfulfilling.
It comes close to being fun, trying to copy the path laid by games such as Diablo, the Souls series and the early God of War titles, but the things it lacks are somewhat important.
The battlegrounds as too small to allow tactical fighting, and when up against a single, or maybe two enemies, you have the chance to try and utilize the counter-attack – a pixel-perfect timing affair – but as soon as you have more than that, you don’t stand a chance. Enter the world of button bashing. You don’t deal damage when countering, and your special move loads slowly, which leaves you with one attack button to press, with the occasional hit and hope on the counter.
Now to give the game its credit, there is a technique for fighting. A half-second beat will see you string together stronger moves, but when surrounded by five or more enemies all attacking in random orders, the game doesn’t always actually let you do this.
The smalls spaces and dark gothic tones make the screen too busy during the heated battles. This means you all too quickly lose sight of your character in the rush. The fixed camera angle is also an annoyance and can at times make it impossible to see where enemies are, especially when fighting in the town square. Once again, it dances a line between being a challenging game and being poorly designed, but sadly, the latter is the case more often than not.
No Microtransactions But The Pay to Win Mentality Reigns
The game does offer the ability to upgrade your character, with gold collected from defeated enemies along with a buildup of experience points granting you access to upgrades at certain level intervals for specific gold coin prices.
This is a mostly pointless item in the game, as the levels move so slowly, and the game between rewards is so high, think one reward every five to ten levels, and is the mobile way of thinking. For the Switch release the team removed all microtransactions, but failed to adjust the gameplay accordingly, meaning while you get the bonus of not having to pay to win, it renders the entire upgrade mechanism of the game moot. Once again leaving you to hack and slash with minimum level weaponry, as the game is geared towards goading you into buying upgrades ahead of your level to progress.
There is very little reason to replay the game unless you fall victim to the stars. I don’t mean astrology here but rather the three-star rating that accompanies each level. Much like any mobile game from Candy Crush to Angry Birds and beyond, the levels in Blade II all have an achievable three-star rating.
Each level you gives you three tasks to achieve during the level. One task means one star. However, after you grow tired of the game (around about Stage 6 of Act one), you will not care about the stars. You will barely care about the next level, let alone the rating on the previous.
The repetitive nature of the levels, you will run through the same streets, or scale the same rooftops multiple times in each level, and the fact that some of the bosses return in later Acts, not tougher, or modified simply, re-used, you are essentially replaying the game anyway.
The game looks nice, it plays ok when there are not too many enemies around, but ultimately is a rather flat experience, offering little more than practice in button mashing. There is very good intent here, but at its core, this game is still a mobile game, and while the transactions have been removed, the money-grabbing style of gameplay still lingers.
It’s not a terrible game, but it has nothing remarkable about it. The atmosphere is dark, and something I like, but the repetitive nature of the levels, the hectic battles void of tactics and the shallow story do too much damage to make it a game worth recommending. With games like Diablo, Darksiders and Dark Souls all on the switch and undoubtedly more ports of A-grade titles coming up, there is too much competition for Blade II: The Return of Evil to survive.
That being said, I will keep an eye on the development studio, as there are glimpses of something here, and I would like to think that with a little polish, they could create a good game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Blade II – The Return Of Evil from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Blade-II-The-Return-Of-Evil-1581546.html