This town ain't big enough for the both of us.
We'll start with the obvious fanfare that Bladeslinger Ep.1 has attracted throughout its development and say that this is probably the finest looking game that's ever appeared on mobiles. With crisp, wonderfully detailed visuals, and a framerate that as smooth as butter, this presumably episodic saga is one of mobile gaming's most accomplished technical achievements.
Bladeslinger tells the story of William Glaston, a man returning to his home of Hammer's Peak after a long war. Arriving home, he finds the town under attack from creatures and you'll need to guide Glaston through the remains of the town, clearing out the monsters and solving the mystery behind this apparent apocalypse. While there's a certain degree of freedom to the exploration, the game is for all intents and purposes built around specific combat scenes.
Beyond the extraordinary console-like visuals it's fairly obvious that developer Luma's ambition is to give mobile gamers something along the lines of Dante's Inferno or Bayonetta. Your semi-futuristic cowboy possesses a combination blade and pistol arm, and as you make your way through the set-pieces of the game you'll need to use both of those weapons, along with some agile evasive work, to both survive and destroy the town's new inhabitants.
Sadly, the combos you're encouraged to build are fussy and unreliable. Couple this with multi-touch gestures which are almost guaranteed to perform the one combat or evasive maneuver you didn't want to perform, and you'll be eating more damage than ever strictly feels fair. No amount of prettiness can disguise the frustrating combat and camera work that underpins much of the game.
For every moment of sparkling and deliciously visceral combat against a single creature, there's a counterpoint of frustration as the game struggles with its own multi-touch control implementation against multiple monsters in particular. When it comes to the double-tapped punches, dodges and unreliable combos that are the meat of the game's combat, there is simply far too much going on for the touchscreen to handle, and too much unrealized ambition overall.
That fussy and unreliable combat brings us to Bladeslinger's in-app purchase system. The game you get for a $2.99 download certainly impresses technologically, but to say the game's further monetization is rather ambitious is to be kinder than it deserves. From health tonics (essential, quickly), to the various combat-enhancing skill cards, the game wants a lot of your money. You're given currency rewards for slaughtering enemies, but it's a process of attrition and you'll soon find yourself spending more than you earn.
As a proof of concept, and an extraordinary demonstration of just how far mobile gaming has come visually in the last few years, Bladeslinger delivers, and perhaps that's enough for you. We haven't seen astonishing graphics like this since the release of Infinity Blade 2, even if once you scrape away the sumptuous surface you're left with a game of compromises that packs in nothing like the spectacularly tactile combat of that high-profile series.
As pretty as it looks, and as epic as it sounds, there just isn't enough competent gameplay to be had at this price. It's a real pity, as there's the making of a much better adventure buried underneath, albeit one that's still hamstrung by an over-ambitious business model. You'll want to love Bladeslinger, but that love will go unrequited for the most part. Let's hope any future installments give a little more back.
What's Hot: Visually stunning and wonderfully scored, with single-enemy battles providing a neat enough combat fix.
What's Not: The controls often let down just about every aspect of the game, and when faced with multiple monsters you'll be driven to the cash store of this premium title sooner rather than later.