Whatever you do in life, if you want the very best outcome then you have to ensure your basic efforts are matched by commitment, by passion and by love. If those three things are driven into a project, then chances are the outcome will be something a bit tasty.
And from the very beginning, that is hugely obvious with Wulverblade.
A hardcore beat ‘em up which has you side scrolling your way into the face of tons of enemies, Wulverblade is set in northern Britannia and tells an historically accurate storyline of what happened to the Roman Ninth Legion as they attempted to take control of the land. Playing as one of three interesting characters – Caradoc, Brennus or Guinevere, all who come with slightly different ability sets and are members of a Caledonian family – the game will set you right in the beat ‘em up world, delivering a stunning tale, some equally stunning visuals and an audio system to behold.
Historians will be in their element with Wulverblade as not only has a huge amount of detail been placed into the story that is told, each and every area – and near on every single component included – that you see yourself fighting through is there for a reason, with the research undertaken by the team behind Wulverblade oozing through every small nook and each tiny cranny. With the 2D visuals hammering home the stunning story with equally high quality imagery, and some of the fiercest, funniest, warcries that you’ll ever hear in a videogame present, there is very little to raise concern.
The mechanics are near spot on too and with every swipe of a blade, every throw of a dagger and every power attack that connects, you’ll feel like you really are taking on the Romans at their own game. Occasionally, and this is very occasionally, things will go slightly awry, and should you find yourself occupying the same space as an opponent, you will need to take the odd step back in order to see your force connecting. But hold off at your peril because the might of the Roman Empire is a strong one and there are all manner of soldiers, cavalry, Centurions and the Roman Primus Pilus that are ready to take you down.
Luckily, should you be quick enough, a great addition to Wulverblade sees you being able to remove your enemies’ head from their shoulders, before having the chance to bend down, grab that decapitation and throw it towards their colleagues. With arms and heads scattered around the battlefield – and plenty of opportunity to utilise environmental spikes and fires – there’s a great bit of humour included in Wulverblade as heads begin to roll. Quite literally.
Throw in an ever increasing rage meter which sees you become invincible and super powerful for a limited time, and the opportunity to call in your friendly wolves when the going really gets tough, and even though Wulverblade may initially seem like a button mashing beat ’em up, there is a whole load more to it than just smashing that quick attack.
It’s not easy though and your time in Britannia will be far from a walk in the park. Thankfully the inclusion of well placed checkpoints, multiple saves and a continues system should mean that even on the tough ‘normal’ difficulty setting, you’ll eventually make your way through.
Once you’re done with the twists and turns of the story, there are a few options that begin to open up in order to draw you in some more. Whilst I won’t spoil the twist at the end of the tale – and this story, the history and the work put in to educating the player is all to be commended – a new option opens up to allow you to play through things again, although this time round it is considerably easier. You could of course also take in the narrative with one of the other two characters, and even though it still plays very similar no matter which character you choose, you will need to instigate a slightly different playstyle each time – particularly if you play as Guinevere.
There is also an arcade mode present, limiting you to 3 lives and 3 continues like the old skool beat ‘em ups of years gone by, whilst a wave defending ‘arena mode’ lets you drop in on specific parts of the stages before battling it out against a huge number of foes. High score attainability and warrior skill enhancements are high with this mode and even if you’re just in it to grab some bragging rights over a mate, they are more than worth your while. That said, the short playthrough that is the story won’t ever see Wulverblade taking over your life.
But that’s fine, because eight levels of Wulverblade is about right for the price. Any more and the repetitive nature that afflicts any brawler may then just begin to raise its head, and even though the story is brilliantly told, it is of just the right length to keep you entertained, engrossed and educated. It won’t take you an awfully long time to fight through things – especially on the easy difficulty level – but don’t expect to sail through untouched either. There are most certainly some tricky moments – particularly with the end of stage bosses – and should you wish to mop up the achievements and scavenge for the multitude of hidden secret collectibles you will quite probably need a number of playthroughs and many an hour.
You’ll want to do that too, because the unlockable media and history sections are not only brilliantly narrated, but hugely absorbing. Whether you’re a historian or not, you should at least watch the well crafted footage in acknowledgement of the love and effort that has gone into creating them.
With all that said, you’d think that Wulverblade is a prime candidate for early 2018 Indie Game of the Year contender, right? Well, whilst it is good, it does fall a little short of being utterly acclaimed.
Even though the whole game can be played in solo mode, there is the opportunity to take to the fight with a local friend alongside you. It would be stunning to see an online option here, but I fully understand why it isn’t in place. However, even with the local co-op the closely zoomed camera can see things get a bit messy at times. It still works, and there isn’t anything to overly dislike about the chance to partake in some local co-op, but for things to really shine, the camera system needs to be knocked out a notch or two.
Additionally, the fighting and movement mechanics that you’ll get to take in with Wulverblade are super smooth, and well actioned. The smashing of blade into face, the throwing of items picked up off the ground, and the power of a rather delightful special area of attack to make yourself a little room and a second of peace are all key to your success. But occasionally, should you get a bit too close for comfort, your attacks will fall on deaf ears and you’ll find your team subjected to viciousness.
It’s also a bit too easy for any flow to be broken up as your old Britons scrabble to grab a knife or head off the floor, when all you really want them to do is drop a big old combo the way of the opponents. With the pick up action assigned to the exact same face button as a standard attack, this happens a little more often than is necessary. It’s not game breaking by any means, but it is annoying.
But these are fairly picky negatives and please don’t let them sway you away from a purchase of Wulverblade. It is hugely obvious that a whole load of love has been thrown into this game over the course of development, and whilst that alone shouldn’t be the single reason you buy it, when you combine that commitment, that passion and that love with brilliant gameplay mechanics, fantastic visuals and a story that just keeps on unfolding, you’ll get a great outcome.
Wulverblade is that outcome.