The world of Chinese mythology is a colourful and magical place. Many of the tales tell of corrupted politicians, betrayal, and many deities. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, so when I picked up a copy of Bladed Fury, I was both confused and intrigued by its narrative. PC gamers have been fortunate enough to have played the game since 2018. Only three years have passed and now console players get the chance to see what it’s all about.
Developed and published by NExT Studios, it’s a dark and gritty 2D platform Hack ‘n’ Slash title that takes you on a mystical adventure in a war-torn region of China. Corrupt leaders, a lack of loyalty and death, all form the key concepts that move the story forward. Mythical beings, the undead and powerful weapons help to drive you through each chapter of this odd and haunting plot.
Bladed Fury will confuse you!
This story of revenge should be straightforward to follow, yet I spent much of my time scratching my head. The main plotline is simple enough, but NExT Studios introduce so many characters en route that it feels as congested as Game of Thrones. I struggled to know who, and what was influencing each chapter. Even though I was slow to keep up, I enjoyed the diversity of each stage, and was interested to see how each person I met was influenced by the events that had occurred.
The game follows a dark-haired princess called Ji Jiang. Beckoned to her father’s bedside, she is tricked into fighting a monstrous beast. The dust of the brawl settles and Ji discovers her sword has killed Duke Kang of Qi, her father. She protests her innocence, but Tian an evil officer becomes the new ruler of the region and orders Ji to be executed for her treachery. Fleeing for her life, she must travel to the land of the dead to gather witnesses to prove that she did not commit the crime.
Wonderful characters and interesting mechanics.
Bladed Fury has no shortage of weird and wonderful characters to interact with. Every chapter is littered with; spirits, guardians, villagers and soldiers. Each has a colourful personality, and will either help you, or hinder you. You’ll receive information about puzzles you must overcome, the boss you will fight, and the dangers you will face. It was a welcomed bit of structure and gave me something to focus on.
Using a clever mix of precision timing, and Hack ‘n’ Slash combat, you will sail through each of the battles you encounter. Ji is armed with two different weapons; Fiendbane blades and a Crimson Mass greatsword. Alongside the melee weapons, she has soul attacks, and a shield known as Aegis that can also parry attacks. You can unlock further moves by collecting yellow orbs from fallen enemies. The combat asks you to combine button presses and directional controls to perform attacks. Sounds great, right? Sadly, it was more complicated than necessary, and I focused my efforts on two or three attacks, and rarely did I pull out my shield.
The soul attacks make the combat more enjoyable. Every boss that you defeat leaves a part of their soul behind, known as a soul sliver. You can use this to summon in their special power; a barrage of arrows, a black hole that slashes at opponents, healing orbs, the ability to slow time, and so forth. The animations are fantastic, and using these correctly will turn the tide in any fight.
A linear approach, and weak platform elements.
Every chapter has a unique story to follow, but disappointingly, each follows the same dull, linear approach. A basic map shows you a few diverging paths that can be explored. But mostly it’s move from left to right, collect an item and move on. Matters are made worse when everything becomes painfully predictable. I laughed when I knew what would happen before it happened. It became tedious, and though the story is short, I couldn’t face playing through it in one sitting.
What compounds matters further is the weak platforming elements. There is zero challenge! You leap from surface-to-surface, occasionally making a mistake, but you dust yourself off, and start again. I was craving something that matched the level of the story and the graphics, but this never came. Bladed Fury should be advertised as a Hack ‘n’ Slash game with platforming elements, and not the other way around.
Bladed Fury looks and sounds great!
Though it fails to excite me with its gameplay mechanics, I loved how it was presented. A mix of monochromatic scenes, and vivid colours transport you to this mythical and undead world. The dark and creepy backdrops have an ominous and sinister feel that matches Ji’s fears perfectly. The dialogue cutscenes help to clarify some of the confusion and are wonderful to look at. The combat animation and dodge mechanics are smooth, and created no performance issues. Visually Bladed Fury excels, and it disappointed me that much of the game failed to reach this level.
I equally enjoyed the audio that was created. The traditional Chinese music and its pentatonic scale added an authentic touch. The well created score varied from gentle and slow paced panpipe music, to aggressive and sinister crashes of gongs and drums. The Chinese dialogue that is subtitled delivers emotion and helps to push the story along at a serene pace. Subtitles aren’t to everyone’s liking, but anything other than Chinese dialect would have failed in this setting.
Many combinations to master.
I loved that NExT Studios offered many fighting moves, and an array of special attacks, but it was a step too far. The choice, though welcome, wasn’t used, and wasn’t necessary. I’d have preferred them to focus their time on increasing the challenge of the platform aspect of this title. Other than this overkill, the game was easy to play, the movement was smooth and responsive, and it was fun to slice your opponents up.
With three difficulty modes available, and a small but challenging achievement list, you’ll need to spend some time playing this to get the 100% status. Collectables are hidden, and though they add little to the gameplay, they offer some challenge to discovering them all. The main story takes around four hours to complete, and many more hours must be reserved to unlock every achievement. At around £15, it’s not too expensive, but it’s also not great value for money.
Bladed Fury left me wanting more.
There is much about Bladed Fury that I enjoyed, but equally there is much that left me wanting more. The story was great, well presented, and transported you to the mythical Chinese world. It’s beautifully presented, and will amaze you with its detail and character design. I adored the audio, and the clever choices the developers made. Sadly, though, the poor platforming element, overly complicated combat mechanics, and dull, linear approach make this far too predictable. I cannot recommend it in its current format. If you want a copy, buy it here! Ji has been framed for her father’s death. You must right the wrongs and oust the man who is responsible for the heinous crime.