Bladeslinger Ep. 1 is the first installment in a series that promises to revolutionize mobile gaming. It boasts amazing, eye-popping graphics, one-finger controls, and action that rivals those of console games. But is this western truly all that good? Or does it showcase the good, the bad and the ugly?
The game follows William Glaston as he returns to his home, Hammer's Peak. It seems that all's not well in the town, as it's become the stomping grounds for strange, demonic creatures. This definitely wasn't the welcome William was expecting after coming back from fighting a war.
The combat is supposed to be the star of the game, showcasing the innovative one-finger controls. When I first heard about it, I got very nervous. In my experience, similar controls never felt as intuitive as developers described. In Bladeslinger's case, they're not intuitive in the least.
You move William around with one finger while an over-the-shoulder camera follows him. Two fingers scrolling around while stationary moves the camera. Tapping with two fingers causes him to dodge-roll, though you can hardly control where he moves. Swiping at enemies will result in sword slashes, which can be chained together in a combo.
If you're more of a fan of firearms, tapping on enemies will let William empty his six-shooter. Holding two fingers still will bring up William's metal arm for a block. Swiping with two fingers makes him throw a left hook with said arm. It's probably gotta hurt, being punched with a metal arm that's sizzling with electricity. If only they had added more punching animations so it didn't look so boring. A lot of these moves require more than one finger, so it's really more like two-finger controls. I'd still rather have a virtual thumbstick though.
All of these maneuvers can work together to help William navigate the world and fend off the demonic attackers. Of course, it's easier said than done. Half the time during battles, I felt like I was fighting the game's controls more than the enemies. If I wanted to move him to an area clear of baddies, he'd bring his sword up against the air, which of course left me open to attack.
When you beat up an enemy enough, they'll get dazed and can be executed with a special attack that's triggered with a punch. A lot of the time, my punches would end up causing me to roll instead, giving the creatures enough time to recover and launch a flurry of claws at me once more. Nothing breaks up the flow of battle more than wonky controls that do the opposite of your intended actions. But if you do happen to connect with a punch, glyphs will come up, much like Infinity Blade's spells. You'll trace your finger around, following the lines, after which William will successfully perform a finisher. Again, this is if you manage to connect.
The camera was also another issue. Using two fingers to move the camera so that enemies are in view can be difficult. If you're not careful, you could end up punching or rolling away. All of my grievances about the game stem from the controls. The missteps when fighting left me with lower HP. Lower HP means I have to buy potions with gold. But I can only get gold from defeating enemies, which means I have to go fight some. The cycle of bad control hell continues.
To its credit, Bladeslinger does look like a very pretty game. It's a shame that its visuals are hampered by the absence of mouth movement during cutscenes. This only serves to take the player even further out of the experience, which stinks because the story and promise of innovation were what piqued my interest.
The premise is unique and has some sort of longevity, thanks to the episodic nature of Bladeslinger, but the difficulty is currently too high and the controls are too broken to really be excited about it. What's worse is the cash shop. The reliance on pricey potions might make cashing in a requirement to advance the story, and that's just not something I can stand behind. Here's to hoping that future installments get it right. But until then, this western's better off under a tombstone.