Within the Blade
Developer: Ametist Studio
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre(s): Action, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PlayStation and Xbox)
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 16/07/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Within the Blade is an action-adventure game with various stealth elements. I stalked my foes through the tall grass, dashed from rooftop to rooftop, and strangled my foes mercilessly. Prepare to watch yourself get mangled in this macabre journey. Is it fulfilling? Find out in this Rapid Review.
Silent but Deadly
I enjoyed Within the Blade primarily for the gameplay even though it does feature a story. I did not find this story substantial enough to stand on its own, nor was it rewarding, but it was a nice addition. It gave each level context and gave insight into the world I explored. I got to meet ninjas from my clan, learn the backstory of the town, and uncover the history behind some of my enemies. All the story elements supplement the gameplay and other features but were not impactful enough to stand on their own.
Fast and Furious
Thankfully, I found that the gameplay was rewarding enough to make the experience worthwhile. I liked the manoeuvrability of my ninja. I could dash throughout the levels with the L and R buttons, climb up walls, and find plenty of areas that gave me the tactical advantage in combat. These options were excellently calibrated. The movement was precise and when I died, I always knew it was my own fault. My ninja felt great for me to control.
Another reason why I was so comfortable controlling the ninja lies with the expansive upgrade tree. There are a plethora of upgrades to choose from. Each upgrade was unique, yet it was still easy to determine how each upgrade would impact my character. I was able to tailor my upgrades to my own playstyle. It was a great system and encourages replaying the title in the future because even after my playthrough, I did not obtain even half of the upgrades.
Enter the Workshop
Unfortunately, some elements of the playable character did not impress me. With some of these upgrades, I could learn to craft materials. In theory, this was an excellent idea. I already collect resources throughout the levels, so it makes perfect sense for me to be able to craft things. However, I never used it. I was always aptly prepared for each level and had plenty of explosives and ranged weapons in reserves. I rarely used the consumable items, so I did not need to focus on collecting additional materials. Moreover, since I mainly attacked enemies without weapons, I did not craft swords either. I would have liked to see armour or additional passive upgrades for me to work towards. I did use some of my materials to craft healing items, but I rarely used those either.
Not only was it a minimal aspect of my adventure, but it was incredibly confusing to use. There were no indicators showing which tile I was highlighting when managing my inventory, meaning it was hard to move my equipment. The convoluted user interface made everything far more challenging than it needed to be. Although the recipes were easy to follow, and the ingredients were distinct. It had a lot of potential, and still can be easily remedied with patches or updates, but the lack of a cursor or highlight showing over the items, and the plethora of items in each level had me avoiding my inventory.
Time Stands Still
Even though one of the main elements of Within the Blade disappointed me, this did not make me alter my score much. Even without the crafting elements, the game would easily stand on its own. Where the game truly let me down was in the performance. I constantly experienced slowdown after checkpoints or in areas with a lot of enemies. In a game where fast action is the focus and where precise movement is key, frame rate issues severely hindered my enjoyment. I did not experience any crashes or too many glitches, but the performance did bring down my experience.
Make me a Level
Even if there is an excellent character and ample options for him to use, it is only important if the levels are fun to move around. Thankfully, they are. The diverse movement options are used to their fullest extent. There are objectives for me to complete as well. Some were optional but others were mandatory. I was not motivated to complete all the challenges, but I enjoyed completing the ones I did choose to do. Whether the challenges are completed or not, I made my way to the end of the level and could proceed to the next level. I thought this was a great way to incentivize skilful gameplay without barricading progress from less experienced players. There are even challenge levels and a new game plus for true fans to experiment with.
The level designs were supplemented by great enemies as well. I fought other ninjas, suicide bombers, and even monks. The enemies were diverse and telegraphed their attacks well. It was always clear when I could sneak up on them from behind for a quick assassination, when I should wait for a better time to attack, or even when I could kill them despite their focus on me. I had a great time lurking in the darkness. I also had a great time with the boss fights. They broke up the pace of the game wonderfully, appearing very frequently. I was never overwhelmed by them, but I never completed them on my first try either. I thought they were expertly balanced.
Likewise, the music and sound effects summarize the package nicely. The ambient soundtrack gets intense when fighting a difficult boss but remains calm when I lurk in the grass. It set the scene nicely. Within the Blade also features great pixel art. It was gruesome and grotesque, but I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of Mortal Kombat, and rightfully so, as it references it throughout the game. These artistic choices summarized the entire package nicely.
All in all, Within the Blade, is a well-designed game. Sure, there are some performance issues and problems with the user interface, but the gameplay is fluid, and the combat is fun. There is plenty of content as well. It certainly offers plenty of gameplay for the price. I really enjoyed my time playing it, despite the minor flaws.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase Within the Blade on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.