☆ Review: Wulverblade "A visceral brawler with a surprising amount of brain to match the muscle" ☆ #NintendoSwitch #WulverBlade

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Wulverblade - Nintendo Switch

Wulverblade is a cinematic side-scrolling video game brawler from developer Fully Illustrated, set in 120AD during the Roman invasion of Britain; it expertly melds extremely solid gameplay with tight design and presentation whilst also being an interesting education on the era.

Over the years, I’ve played several games set in the time of the rise of the Roman empire, a few that spring to mind are Shadow of Rome and Spartan: Total Warrior on the PS2, Centurion on the Amiga / Mega Drive and a more modern take on the topic, Ryse: Son of Rome.

These were all interesting games in their own ways (I especially loved Centurion, there was something so tense in managing those simplistic battles whilst trying to keep the citizens from revolting), but I’ve never played a game in the side-scrolling genre set in this period.  Wulverblade successfully mixes retro-style gameplay (think Streets of rage, Final Fight, Golden Axe Castle Crashers etc.) with a very modern twist on the genre which comes through mainly in the lore-rich world and subtly deep combat.

In Wulverblade, you take on the role of one of three siblings: Caradoc, the most balanced of the three; Brennus, a slow-moving powerhouse; and Guinevere, the swifter of the characters. The trio is on a journey from what is now Scotland down to the south of England to attempt to thwart the Roman invasion. 

Graphically, the game is incredibly sharp and detailed. Characters are large and well-animated and the gore in the game makes full use of the 18 certificate with heads and limbs being (literally) flung around, you can also see things taking place both in the foreground and background giving the feel of a world outside of your own set path.

The music and sound effects also get the blood pumping, the soundtrack is a very visceral, tribal affair with aching violins and booming drums. Alongside the music, the sound effects in the game keep the tension up with characters hurling insults at each other in guttural accents and your characters verbally slapping each other on the back with each kill (in co-op mode) it all adds up to a tense, violent blast of gaming.

Gameplay is, to the naked eye, almost unchanged from the 16-bit classics. The main buttons attack, jump, block and also handle your special attacks (filling up your rage meter allows you to regain health whilst receiving no damage from attacks and you can also call in two wolves to attack all enemies once per level, pro-tip  DO NOT WASTE THIS!) but the game is not shy when it comes to difficulty and it is here where the modern design elements reside.

Screenshots of the game may make it seem like it’s a button-bash-a-thon, but I can assure you that wading into enemies and hacking away blindly doesn’t cut the mustard here. With archers pelting you with arrows as assassins hurl blades and Roman soldiers slash you with their gladius’, skill and tactics are a must in order to proceed and enemies’ skill and numbers rise significantly in two player mode to balance out the challenge requiring communication and co-operation in order to succeed.

To help you through your bloody quest, you can pick up the occasional apple or meal for much-needed health or a heavy weapon which can be used for more devastating attacks for a time until it breaks. There are also rings and coins that are dropped which can be used to get a higher score. This isn’t a game where you can buff your character by spending cash to get armour or over-power yourself, to finish Wulverblade you will need to master counter-attacks, cut-and-runs and shield bashes to get anywhere past the first few levels.

The game has a very rich vault of historical information which genuinely adds to the atmosphere and narrative, it was a good idea spending some time explaining the backstory of each character and their motivations as it adds depth to the gameplay. I recommend reading up on the unlocked characters, places and items as it does allow you to take more from the game. There are videos and pages of text available from the main menu that add flavour to the proceedings and give a back story on the characters in the game as a lot of what takes place in Wulverblade is based on genuine historical events.

Characters in the game have full reference sections along with the weapons that can be acquired and the places you work your way through with accompanying videos describing how they were used and replicated in-game during the development, I found myself reading these before attempting the next level because it gives a real sense of involvement as you play through and it genuinely makes you feel like you are fighting for something through your chosen character.

Wulverblade is a very, very good game. It successfully blends a seemingly simple genre of game with a large helping of backstory, trivia and an in-depth combat system that has a pick-up and play quality that requires dedication to fully master. The levels are tough but not impossible and you know that if you had one more try and maybe saved that final build-up of rage or kept that heavy weapon until the boss, you may have just beaten them. The levels are varied enough that re-playing upon failure doesn’t feel monotonous and the bosses are imposing and present a real challenge, I found myself getting a real surge of adrenalin whenever a boss fight started because they were never easy and always satisfying when they finally fell in battle.

I would also say that this is a game not particularly ideal for using two joycons in co-op as the dexterity needed in the game seemed a bit finicky for me and I found that I fared better using a ‘full’ controller.

I haven’t yet finished the game but I am really intrigued about the ending. We know the outcome of the Roman invasion from what history tells us and so there’s a sense whilst battling your way through hordes of enemies that you are marching to your doom and I felt oddly emotionally involved in that which I think is thanks to the backstory and use of historical context that Wulverblade gives you.

This is a game that like the recent Mother Russia Bleeds will probably never leave my library because it is a great modern update to a once-lost genre that can be re-visited time and time again.

Right, I’m off to stab some Romans, they won’t be GLADius when they meet me!

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Just Falls Short Of Greatness)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Game Link: Nintendo
Dev Link: Fully Illustrated

Review By Britt +Kingdom of Carts @KingdomOfCarts

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