My disdain for rogue-like games has waned over the years, but the mention of the genre still fills me with fear. This is especially true when you include the words hardcore and 2D platformer! So when I was offered Broken Blades I put on my big boy pants and decided to face the challenge headfirst.
This has been developed and published by two Polish studios; Golden Eggs Studio and West Wind Games. It’s a brutal, procedurally generated 2D platform title that has a unique crafting mechanic and character progression system. It’s not a game for the faint of heart and will make you want to smash your controller within five minutes of playing.
Broken Blades takes inspiration from some market-leading titles.
I always enjoy it when a developer clearly shows its inspiration for its project, and Broken Blades is no different. It draws from games such as Dead Cells, Rogue Legacy, and Skull: Hero Slayer. Players that are familiar with these titles will enjoy the nods to these much-loved games. Yet, Broken Blades offers enough to be enjoyed on its merit.
With its horrifically difficult rogue-like elements, procedurally generated dungeons, unique crafting system, and character progression, each playthrough is different. The dungeons utilise a Metroidvania approach, and the labyrinthine levels ask you to search for gold, upgrades, and sword shards. You’ll encounter an array of monsters that want to kill you. You must be careful, have oodles of dexterity, and plan ahead if you wish to survive. Death undoes all your hard work, but get used to this as death is all but guaranteed.
Upgrade scrolls, sword shards, and monstrous bosses!
What I loved about Broken Blades were the random upgrade scrolls and the sword shards. With two options available per scroll, you can create the character of your dreams. You decide whether to increase health, armour, attack power, or tame wild animals. You must decide which approach you wish to take and hope that luck is on your side.
The interesting crafting system asks you to combine random sword shards to create a mighty weapon. The buffs come at a cost though, as the larger your weapon becomes, the slower it swings. You must weigh up power and abilities with agility, but a weaker attack. There is no right answer, and many playthroughs require you to be flexible. This randomness was fantastic, and it ensured that every attempt was unique.
Every stage culminates in a tough boss battle that is guaranteed to screw you over. You must identify their weaknesses while desperately avoiding their attacks. You’ll die repeatedly and have to clear the dungeon again! This may seem tiresome, but the challenging experience makes the eventual success extremely rewarding.
Broken Blades is inspired by fairytales.
I’m always a fan of fairytale-inspired games and Broken Blades implements this style perfectly. With its dark cavernous dungeons and fantasy creatures, the aesthetics ooze fairytale charm. The simple yet clean images move around the stages smoothly and I experienced no frame rate issues or stuttering. I enjoyed the variety across each dungeon, and this helped to stop the action from becoming stale.
The audio was sadly repetitive. This wasn’t helped by the brutal difficulty and the requirement to repeat levels. The upbeat synth music had a classic indie vibe, but its chirpy sound quickly became annoying. You’ll shut off to its cheerful ways as you die for the nth time. It’s not unbearable by any stretch, but more variety would have been warmly received.
Slow controls make it frustrating.
The control setup was well thought out and was easy to master with both a controller and mouse and keyboard. Sadly, however, a latency issue impacts the gameplay. In a title where reactions matter, this was badly implemented. You’ll attempt to dodge blows or attack your foes, but your efforts will be in vain. You’ll fail because of these issues and this adds to the already harsh difficulty.
Your desire to keep playing this will depend on your sadomasochistic tendencies. The repeated failure of stages enforces you revisit the same bit of dungeon, albeit with different traps and foes. For some players, this will be too much, but for those that love the genre, they will enjoy the challenge this brings. This, combined with a moderate achievement list, ensures there is plenty of replay value.
Broken Blades is a well-designed but tough rogue-like title.
Broken Blades core concept doesn’t stray too far from the genre’s much-loved formula. However, its unique crafting and character progression stand out against its peers. It’s a well-designed but tough rogue-like title that will punish its player base. I can’t say I enjoyed its brutality, but it’s good and I recommend you to buy it here! Upgrade your sword, collect scrolls, and try to survive.