NARAKA: BLADEPOINT is a melee focused battle royale, set on the mythical Morus Island. It takes a lot of elements from various other games in the genre, however it stands out as being totally unique in both setting and gameplay. Instead of running like many other battle royales, this is not a shooter. Yes, you can shoot ranged weapons, however it’s much nearer to an action RPG or a character action game. Despite some missteps along the way, it pulls off this genre mixup with some success.
You’re thrown right into a tutorial that teaches you the basics of moment to moment gameplay. You equip various melee and ranged weapons, each with their own unique feel and skill sets. There’s a health bar and secondary armor bar similar to something like Fortnite or Call of Duty: Warzone. Combat is in a third person perspective with the ability to lock on, dodge, and parry.
While the tutorial does a good job at explaining movement and combat, it does a terrible job in explaining the actual game itself. NARAKA: BLADEPOINT works like a battle royale, with very familiar trappings; sixty players spread out over a large island. There’s a storm that gets smaller as the match goes on, until you’re left as the last one standing in groups of three, two, or by yourself. There’s also a rotating list of minor game modes like PVE, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch
You choose a character out of a total of ten, with some being locked at the start. Each of these characters has one unique ability and an ultimate, similar to Apex Legends. These can be defensive or offensive, like an AOE stun or an instant parry.
A match plays out with you running around looking for healing items and weapons from scattered chests, running to get away from the closing storm, and searching for other players to fight. Nothing out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary is how these fights play out, as you lock-on to other players and duel.
Approaching each other, trying to connect hits while dodging each other sets NARAKA: BLADEPOINT up to be a tough fight against one other player and much harder against any more; teamwork is crucial. You generally want a squadmate focusing on one person at a time, and it’s here where it begins to feel very similar to the PVP option in the Souls games. It can be very intense and deeply satisfying when you finish people off.
Weapons all feel completely different and it’s great fun to try each one when playing matches. Each one has different use cases too, more effective depending on the situation at hand. It’s engaging to try out each one and exciting to find your favorites, feeling very similar to Monster Hunter with how varied the arsenal feels.
The combat can be intimidating at first, however it’s pretty intuitive and you quickly get the hang of what is required. What’s not intuitive are the awful menus that you have to go through while in a match. The inventory UI is atrocious, feeling terrible to use especially in high intensity situations. It’s caused my demise too many times.
In fact, the UI in general is often too tough to read; downright ugly most of the time. It can be incredibly overwhelming at first with way too much information on the screen – information that is poorly explained. I would imagine a huge player base is going to quit quickly simply because of how confusing the gameplay appears. That goes for the main menu as well, which just dumps so much information and so many words at you that it’s easy to get lost, with a Store, Battle Pass, Inventory, and other stuff just thrown in your face from the off.
Speaking of the Store, the monetization is intense. Mileage may vary, but there are so many premium items available, from skins for characters, skins for each weapon, profile icons, backgrounds, seasonal battle pass, premium loot boxes, a store filled with packs of stuff. There’s a great level of customization but the amount of nickel and diming can be disturbing.
There is a great concept with wonderful moment to moment gameplay behind NARAKA: BLADEPOINT. It’s a game that is capable of providing a fun time, but only if you can manage to get over a myriad of other issues. It’s in a really distinct place in the battle royale genre and worth giving a try, although no one will blame you if you happen to jump off quickly.
NARAKA: BLADEPOINT is available from the Xbox Store