Modern day indie developers, tend to be able to talk the talk, but rarely ever, they are capable of walking the walk. And no matter how small, or large the studio is, or even how experienced – two out of four times, highly hyped indie titles tend to fall short, at the very final hurdle. Titles such as Virginia, Here They Lie, and even the highly anticipated The Long Dark, have all fallen victim to their own hype, and the overwhelming lack of quality in terms of execution and design, which all the aforementioned titles possessed. And just like many AAA products, those games have managed to disappoint droves of gamers, world over.
At this point, many would agree that disappointment is inevitable, when it comes to indie games. But while a large portion of independent games, ends up ultimately failing once in customer’s hands, due to the overwhelming amount of hype which they might have received, other titles, which are usually much smaller in scale, and/or lack adequate marketing budget, tend to creep up on gamers, and surprise them in an overwhelmingly positive manner. And one of such titles is Wulerblade, a title which despite of its October 2017, Switch launch, has seemingly snuck out of nowhere, in order take the indie scene by storm.
Wulverblade, is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, which will resonate with many older gamers, as it perfectly mirrors the beat-em-ups of old, such as Double Dragon, River City Ransom, and Golden Axe. However, unlike the action beat-em-ups of old, Wulverblade is a much more fluid, and rapid experience, which due to its stable mechanical structure, could also be seen as a much more difficult title, than any of the aforementioned three. But while, Wulverblade’s enemies have the ability to dispatch the player with a handful of swift strikes, he/she will not be forced to restart an entire level upon death. And that’s because Wulverblade, despite of its rather hardcore core, caters to both causal gamers, and fanatics of the beat-em-up genre.
Upon launch of the story mode, players can choose between the combat difficulty, and the framework of the story. And those who prefer a challenge, can select the arcade mode, which grants players three lives, and three lives only, and forces one to restart the level upon the third death. And normal mode, which offers the player countless continues, and features numerous rune stone checkpoints, which allow one to continue the level from the last rune stone – also, upon the third death. And while most modern gamers may be inclined to select the normal mode, it has to be said that the arcade mode of Wulverblade, offers one much more of a challenge. And ultimately allows one to fully utilise the rather impressive arsenal of in-game combat moves, as threat of immediate death, will bring the best out of most.
Wulverblade’s frantic pace, allows for creation of combinations, which look to be pulled out of Devil May Cry, as players who are more proficient with the title at hand, will be able to swiftly skip across the screen, and deliver devastating, ground-to-air, and air-to-ground combos to their opponents. And this is not a mistake on the part of the developer, as combat fluidity and excellence are encouraged throughout, as Wulverblade features a combo meter, and numerous trophies which are linked to it. Meaning that while story completion may be the main point of the title, it is not the only final goal, as many, just like in Devil May Cry, will surely look to challenge other players for the best combo, and the flashiest chain of manoeuvres.
Gameplay wise, Wulverblade, is an incredibly impressive, and accomplished title. As it manages to break the taboos of the beat-em-up genres, and un turn, elevate combat to the next, much higher level. But while slicing-and-dicing of enemies is sure satisfying, it has to be said that more often than not, AI controlled fighters tend to do what AI does best, which is nothing. At times, AI controlled enemies, get stuck on scenery and unless player makes the effort to free them, they’ll be stuck in a constant loop, until they’re dispatched. In addition, a large portion of the hostile NPCs also is simply there to be slaughtered, as per every wave, there is at least a couple of archers, or Valkyries, which are simply standing at the edge of the screen, patiently waiting to be killed, while posing no threat to the player. And while active enemies, are usually more than enough to cause one trouble, it simply feels inadequate, to have droves of potential hostiles, just standing there, doing absolutely nothing.
Wulverblade’s turbulent enough, sure is troubling, and at times it is so jarring, it ultimately destroys any shred of immersion which the title could otherwise possess. But that being said, when playing the title first time round, either alone or in co-op, most will most likely not even notice the static NPCs, as they’ll have too much fun cutting them down. And while many will surely undertake the adventure of Wulverblade alone, it has to be underlined that in co-op, the title at hand feels like a much more complete, and thrilling experience, due to the fact that title’s combat system allows for creation combinations between two individuals, meaning that in-game, two players can even play a match of volleyball with the corpses of their enemies, if they so desire.
From start to finish, Wulverblade, is simply an excellent game, and might just be the first indie title of 2018, to receive universal acclaim. As its beat-em-up structure, in combination with a seamless hack and slash’esque combat, results in a package which is not just satisfying, but also rewarding, and incredibly captivating. However, despite of its excellence, as mentioned above, Wulverblade does feature a handful of flaws, which simply cannot be overlooked, and for that every reason, it simply cannot garner any of the very top scorers. But the developer behind the title has promised that Wulverblade, will receive updates featuring new exciting modes and features, so who knows, maybe in few months, Wulverblade might just become the ten-out-of-ten experience, which it has a chance to be.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.