Monday, October 1, 2012

Blade Guardian [Mistwalker] - $0.99

Mistwalker. Now, I know that there’s some of you out there who did not enjoy Party Wave, but there’s no denying that Final Fantasy, and other RPG titles that came out of Square while Hironobu Sakaguchi was the Director of Planning and Development have had endless influence over video games for the past 20+ years. And with all of the experience that’s collected within the Mistwalker studio, there’s also no denying that there’s infinite potential there. Well, it’s been shown again. This time, with the release of the Real-Time Strategy/Arcade Influenced Tower Defense title, Blade Guardian. Now, I know that there are many of you out there that are kind of burnt out on the TD genre, but Blade Guardian packs some pretty interesting mechanics, gameplay elements, strategy and scoring, all making it a very unique title within the genre. 

One of the first things that you might notice about Blade Guardian after you start it up is that instead of having a set of levels which you need to progress through, with an end goal, it’s set up more like a high-scoring arcade game. The main goal of Blade Guardian is to get the highest score you can before the enemies take all of your HP. 
Starting off, you’ll only have access to the very first level, but once you complete that level and move on, you’re able to start off at level 2 or, depending on what level you reach, the last level you unlocked. Every time you start a new game, your score resets back to zero, but you’re able to keep some earned resources and HP. Kind of like the set-up in Space Tripper with your best score, most lives, and upgraded weapon loadout, each time you complete a level, you’ll be awarded a certain amount of HP and resources to build towers depending on how much resources and HP you ended the level with. In each new game, these resources will be available to you if you decide to start from any level other than the first one.

The game starts you out with all of the towers you’ll have available to you throughout the game, which is kind of strange considering it’s genre. But, with these 4 towers, along with walls, you’ll need to build up a pathway for the enemies to make their way through in order to reach your base and steal your HP. It doesn’t matter how big each enemy is, or what type of enemy it is, every enemy that reaches your base will steal one HP point. The 4 towers you’re given are; Laser Tower - attacks enemies at a distance with a powerful laser, Catapult - attacks enemies at medium range with projectiles, Freezer - slows down enemies, and the Cannon - attacks enemies at close range. Each tower has two available upgrades, each making it stronger. The wall pieces are able to be placed together in order to help create pathways to guide enemies along, and can not be upgraded. 

Along with these 4 towers you’ll be able to release Blades. These captured mechanical constructs will appear at certain times throughout each stage. Your weapons will fire at the claws holding the Blade, and you can tap on the claw if you have the resources. Each tap costs 1 resource point, and helps to free the Blade quicker. Once it is freed, the Blade drops down and lets off a fairly large energy blast, destroying all walls and enemies that are within range. After that, the Blade will make its way to the nearest enemy spawning point, attacking enemies along the way, and start to destroy the spawn area. You are able to tap on the Blade, and activate it’s roll ability, which damages enemies by running into them. Once this is active, you’ll need to tilt your device in order to control the Blade. Unfortunately, right now there are no sensitivity or calibration settings available, and you’ll need to hold your device flat in order to control the rolling Blade, which can get kind of frustrating. Fortunately, the rolling ability is something you’ll be able to live without until Mistwalker (hopefully) adds these control options. 

Graphically, Blade Guardian is very well done, with a dark, dry/metallic grey color scheme for the environments and all of the towers, and a more organic orange and yellow look for all of the enemies, the two tones compliment each other nicely. The animations are also well done, though the environments do bob up and down, kind of like their treading water, which can disrupt the placement of walls and towers, especially on the smaller iPhone/iPod screen. Musically, the soundtrack is pretty dark, with a slower tempo, adding a sort of cyberpunkish feeling to the gameplay, and helping to add to the immersion quite a bit. 

There are two modes, but making it to Nighmare Mode is something I haven’t been able to do yet. There’s no option to play it from the main or options menus, and is something that’s most likely unlocked after reaching a certain level in the regular campaign. Both modes have leaderboards in GameCenter, but, sadly, there are no achievements. 
Being Universal and priced at $0.99, with Blade Guardian definitely being a large step in the direction that most gamers and fans of Hironobu Sakaguchi were expecting coming from the Mistwalker studio, it‘s a game that fans of the genre should pick up as soon as possible. The strategic elements combined with the Real-Time Strategy provide a fantastic challenge, and the Score-Chasing/Arcade elements of Blade Guardian provide loads of replay value and help to appeal to gamers who are not Tower Defense fanatics. If the couple of issues I’ve brought up are dealt with, Blade Guardian has the potential to wind up in the top 3 best hardcore TD games available in the AppStore, and coming from Mistwalker, I have complete faith that the issues will be extensively tested, and the best results will be implemented.


No idea why you guys rated this one so high. It plays like something an amateur created during a 5 minute passing period. 1/5 stars from me.

Now, I will admit that I did not really care for the game at first. I didn't like how the Blades took out walls as well as enemies, and when you turn the Blades into balls and they destroy all of your towers, I was pretty frustrated with the whole experience. But I've had the game for about 2 weeks now, and I have to say that it's really, REALLY grown on me. Everything I didn't like before has become more of a strategy to use and work around in order to get further in the game and better my scores. The minimalistic look of everything really rubs me the right way, and I love how you gain more resources and HP depending on how well you do in each level, and how you can start at any level you've previously reached with those extras in tact. I won't try and twist arms here, but I will say that Blade Guardian is definitely a game that gets better the more time you put into it.

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