Bladed Fury Review
Developer/Publisher: NEXT Studios
Bladed Fury is a 2D action game set in the warring states period of Chinese history, and follows the young princess Ji Jiang as she is framed by a usurper to the throne for the murder of her father, and branded as a fugitive. Shortly after her escape and thinly detailed travels, she finds her way to an ancient entity who embeds her with confidence, guidance, and power, encouraging her to go out into the world, find the underlings of her father’s murderer, and learn about the reasons for their misactions. A solid enough plan, but due to a little epidemic of monsters breaking out over the world, and these underlings going somewhat crazy for assorted reasons, her exploits and ultimate goals become marred as time goes on, and it all boils down to go straight, fight the baddies, kill the big baddie, get a power, and then go after the biggest baddie and seek revengeance.
That’s the long and short of it anyways, and also the extent to which I understood this story and what it was trying to achieve, as a lot of what it threw my way landed onto deaf ears. Not because the story itself is necessarily bad, but because I have something of a problem when it comes to comprehending information involving a lot of terms, mythological references, or names that I lack much familiarity and basis in. I’m not sure how big of an issue this is for other people, but if I am unfamiliar with a culture, its names, and its overall language, then it will take some time before I start taking in the entirety of whatever story you are trying to tell unless it necessitates that I stop and parse things through before I continue. Bladed Fury doesn’t really do that, and instead offers a lot of games to recall and remember as it tells its story through small dialog scenes that didn’t leave much of an impact and me, and were often quickly overshadowed by the combat they were sandwiched between.
Which is a fairly standard character-action-lite affair where the player alternates between light and heavy attacks, juggles enemies, builds combos for aesthetic purposes, parries or dodges incoming telegraphed attacks, and spices things up with a series of super moves with limited charges and cooldowns. It’s a quality system, featuring responsive movement, a limited yet functional movepool that is appropriate given the game’s fairly short length of 3-4 hours, and a good amount of enemy variety to keep the combat sections entertaining. Sections that are interspersed with light puzzle and platforming segments that add variety into the experience, and allow the game to remain engaging over its brief playtime, doing just enough to feel like a full experience by the time the big bad is defeated and the credits are rolling.
However, I did have some issues during later sections of the game. During the final chapter, enemies become far more durable and relentless in their movesets, seemingly as a way to incentivize players to parry blows whenever possible, but the game does not always convey what can be parried and what cannot be parried. Sometimes enemies use regular attacks with no indication other than a slight animation that can be difficult to parse at first given the scale of most foes, their often odd proportions, and the general flashiness common to the character action genre. Other times they slash a yellow symbol before initiating their attack, but the window between the symbol appearing and the attack being executed is inconsistent in my experience, and even with the generous parry window, I still could never reliably defend against these attacks. Then there are the times where they flash a red symbol, meaning that their attacks cannot be parried and must be dodged.
This is all fairly simple in theory, but it can make combat encounters rather messy, with the best example of this being the first phase of the final boss, who regularly uses a three part combo of a regular strike, yellow symbol strike, and then a red symbol strike. All in quick succession, and even after intentionally dying several times to get the hang of this pattern, I just couldn’t, and wound up cheesing my way through the boss by spamming super moves. This is something of the unfortunate reality of Bladed Fury to me, as the game does boast a quality combat system, but it incentivizes the player to ignore the mechanical depth a lot of the time in favor of spammable super moves that allow one to lame their way to victory by slowing down time, summoning raining death, shooting a laser of mass destruction, and summoning a black hole of perpetual damage.
So the story is kind of in one ear and out the other for me, and the combat is in this wishy washy place where I want to like it and praise it, but I found myself at odds with certain design choices. Yet I feel the need to heap on the utmost praise towards this game for its visual style, which is this wonderful mix of classical Chinese art, the stylized living painting aesthetic of a Vanillaware game, and a bit more modern that accentuates the proportions of its characters with distinct edges. It all meshes together into a game that I regularly found myself pausing to take in the detailed backgrounds, enemy designs, and swift animations. It’s all rather impressive, and was arguably the core hook that kept me playing, because I wanted to see what the next area and boss looked like.
Bladed Fury is a title I took a fairly impulsive chance on, mostly due to its low price and short length, and while I did ultimately enjoy my time with it, it did not strike me as anything all that specially or especially noteworthy beyond its high quality art assets. It’s certainly an admirable effort that ultimately does not do much wrong, but it’s also a title that I probably won’t remember in a few weeks time. It’s the sort of title that really does make me question how I determine which games I review and purchase, but I guess that’s a matter to pontificate at another time.