Thursday, 30 August 2018 10:03

REVIEW: Switchblade (Steam Early Access)

Written by RiotArms
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Team let’s get real here. If you get the chance to review a game from the development team that has Goat Simulator as its titles, are you going to turn it down? You’d be CRAZY TO! An independent development studio based in merry Liverpool; the team at Lucid Games comprises of 80 plus staff, who have brought to you amazing ported titles such as the aforementioned Goat Simulator and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. With those heavyweight and goaty titles under their belt; their newest flagship development Switchblade aims to impress.

When I was younger I used to love robot wars; machines simply wailing on each other with the intent to dish out as much damage as possible to the opposition. Some may shoot fire; others have abilities such as flipping enemy robots etc.

Switchblade is that; essentially a sexy 3rd person marriage of robot wars but with tower defence elements in a MOBA (Multi Player Online Battle) 5 vs 5 format. With an assortment of vehicles with a myriad of different abilities and payloads, your objective is simply this: Destroy the enemy towers, claim victory and become the next superstar.

I was hooked the first second I landed in the menu. Let me explain:

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Not your traditional Menu!

I LOVE GAMES THAT BREAK THE MOULD! Forget cinematics in the background with New game, Load Game and options etc. When you’re login automatically, your avatar steps out into an arena with music blaring and the crowds cheering you as you navigate yourself around the area. The arena is the menu and you are the cursor; having the ability to select game play, seeing collections or customising your avatar. You may have noticed the Twitch logo. This is a stream and interactive heavy game which I will go into later.

In addition; on the floor you can also see up close the vehicles that you can purchase in the collections menu with the in game currency and some of your driver colleagues. Too bad you can go up to one and say “1 V 1 ME BRUH COME AT ME”, 10/10 would race for pinks.

After being enthralled with the menu and how cool it was I moved to the first port of call. NO, it’s not the game; avatars baby!

I wanted to be Kawaii

For some reason in all games I’ll choose being a female. Don’t ask why I just do. In this character creation screen you have the option to choose a body type which tickles your fancy and the standard assortment of hair, eyes, make up and emotes. I’m hoping this is an early access issue as for a game that has such a strong message of individuality and competition the selections at hand aren’t too unique, causing the avatars to eventually look all the same. You can choose a few different eye colours for a fee. No not in game currency but microtransactions. More on that later.

Enough playing with myself (hehe) let’s talk about the game!

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Hurrah a tutorial!

As I stroll to the middle of the arena and select PLAY a phrase rings in my head: “Got to learn the hustle before playing the hustle” and the hustle you must learn (the game doesn’t let you progress without doing the tutorials). Gone are the days where there were manuals in cardboard boxes with key bindings and serial numbers. How I judge a game is how good their tutorial is; it can be the most concise tutorial or the simplest, but if I can understand the game mechanics within the tutorial without scratching my head saying WTF or replying said tutorial over and over, it will be a great game.

This didn’t let me down. Logical and methodical. This is how you move, this is how you shoot, these are your abilities, and these are your targets. Everything was laid out and to the point. The tutorial is spread over 2 missions with the ‘teacher’ throwing hints and ensuring you stay on the straight and narrow. Cool features are the ultimate moves and the vehicle dropship switching.

As I drove my Fisher Price training vehicle around I took in the graphics of the world, the small details of the vehicles in 2K and the handling. So very keen to get into the mix.

Training wheels off; lets kick it!

RIGHT! I’m geared with the know-how and I’m ready to annihilate the enemy. Within the play screen you are met with a few options on how to play. For now, I will only discuss Co-op Vs. AI however we will delve into the others later.

Once choosing a map (in this case Iceland the only map available in beta), Switchblade proceeds to match you with players. As the crickets play for my session being in a beta; the realisation sets in where if the slots aren’t filled they are substituted with AI allies. You’d think the matchmaking would take forever but it was done and dusted quick smart; totally cool with that for now.

As the next screen loaded my eyes lit up; it was a candy store of mech and bang, the loading screen of the gods for any robot wars fan. You have an ample variety of vehicles from different classes all with different load outs. The positives here is you can see a breakdown of the Damage, health and armour however the downside is you’ll need to know the abilities off by heart or wait till you are already in the match. Once you have chosen 2 battle vehicles within the time frame the action begins.

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The player is whisked away into their starting vehicle as the countdown begins. At this point the shop is open where the player can purchase power ups and upgrades to their vehicles. This becomes an extreme annoyance in the future but back to the action. In the fields of Iceland there are 3 towers; 2 at the front and one main core in the centre. The mission is to destroy the centre tower. How you say? This is where the MOBA kicks in.

Deployed from your side; your team sends out minions, auto piloting mechs that make a bee line to the nearest tower. Secondary mission is to ensure that these minions make it to their target.

As I dance around the map I’m wondering to myself “This is odd I haven’t seen an enemy yet-“. Speaking too soon; my vehicle of supposed death was annihilated in a hail of lasers, missiles and I’m pretty sure I heard a shotgun. Recovering from my defeat; my pilot hangs above; overlooking the arena, as the respawn countdown blips to zero.

Remember that shop I was mention before? It auto loads for you. If you haven’t gathered by now, to close the shop you must press V.. Every... Time. As a person that wants to get into the fray there and then this frustrated me quietly.

Getting over the insta-death that I sustained; I was back into it, destroying minions left right and centre whilst fragging the frag out of the other AI. For every kill you gain experience which the player can use to unlock and level up abilities. Personally for me; nothing beats multiple rockets to the crotch and face melting lasers, my perfect default payload.

As I escorted our minions down their path (lane?) the enemy were cresting over the hill. I unleash a volley of rockets to reduce the oncoming horde only to oddly have a few rockets register a hit. I start pumping away with my primary weapon but none of my hits are registering. Then it hit me; the game is lagging. With the lack of a ping meter I failed to check how my connection is to the server. A second realisation is what server AM I playing on? With this in tow I proceeded to quit the game and spelunk in the settings only to find regions within the game settings. I would like to safely assume that depending on the region will depend on the servers it hosts the games on.

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Back into the fray I decided to choose 2 different load outs; an artillery mech and a tank, full war mode baby! The tank especially has this super cool ability to absorb all damage and project this plasma green ball of death to the enemy (and of course multi crotch rockets).

After diving the left lane my AI compatriots and I punch a hole and lay down some hurt on the enemy core tower. In the firefight this tiny enemy vehicle buzzes towards us and activates something shiny that causes it to glow. I’m going to assume it’s going to go all Electrode on us and self-destruct. I pop the ball of doom; laughing to myself that this act of enemy impunity will fail, only to witness the rapture on my allies as they were wiped from the face of the Earth in a white flash. This bought along 2 more concerns for me: powers will need to be balanced a bit more and there was no death animation for machines just disappears into thin air. I expected fire and scrap metal strewn across the battlefield!

That’s it; gloves are off and Riot’s in battle mode, we charge through the left flank and expose the enemy core. Engaging fortress mode on my tank; I unleash a timed barrage of hurt and eff you, decimating the enemy core and winning the game! The rewards? Quite broad actually. These include XP for your individual vehicle and in game currency.

Challenges; I love new games which include them. They reward the player for achieving something and forces different gameplay from the norm. Yes; the main goal is to destroy the towers and this task being performing over and over will kill playability for the game however including challenges provides the player opportunities to achieve the same mission but with twists. Akin to the likes of Battlefield 1 and Fortnite; the challenges reset weekly however unlike them they can be rerolled.

I think you lot have enough info on the gameplay; lets open the hood and talk nitty gritty

Under the hood and over the gun racks

Pushing a 2K resolution with the graphics on Ultra, I truly appreciated the details of the game. The environment wasn’t too much to talk about; not to mention the avatars looking a bit gross, however the vehicle models were on point. The weapon details and bloom, not to mention the vehicle details down to the tail lights were impressive.

The sound could be better; the SFX were immersive however I had issues with direction of where I was being engaged from. You can put a rocket sound in and make it sound like a rocket but add a bit more bass and grunt and you really know you’ve laid some hurt on someone. This game adopts that. Again, early access hopefully!

The music scores? No; score. There was only one and it was monotonous. For a game that charges up the audience, has spectator modes and puts supreme emphasis on being a sport this needs to change. Wish list would be to insert gee up tracks to really harness people’s energy and rev them up for more carnage.

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Riots remarks

Ever watched Disenchantment? Luci; a shoulder mounted cute devil-like creature, eggs on the protagonist saying, “do it, do it, do it”. I’m going to do that to you. Do it. This game has a lot of potential and seeing the modes that put emphasis on online collaboration; I can definitely see this being streamed on popular platforms (dead giveaway is the Twitch menu in the arena lobby). Rocket league with guns.

I can see the challenges, the ability (allure) to unlock skins and other cosmetic do dads cling onto its already curious player base.

Take a chance on the game, you won’t regret it. Remember that early access means you have the privilege to work with the developers and voice your opinions to shape the outcome of the game.

... Do it

Pros

* Rolling Challenges
* Aesthetics you can collect (skins and avatars)
* Variety of vehicles to use and unlock
* Graphics are swish on 2K Ultra

Cons

* Lag (maybe due to lack of servers and beta)
* GUI annoyances such as no descriptions on load outs when selecting mechs
* Auto aim takes away need for ‘gitting gud’
* Lack of metrics (ping meter and FPS)
* MICRO TRANSACTIONS!
* MUST BE ONLINE TO PLAY

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 4.0 / 5.0
  • Release Date: Early Access
  • Platform: PS4, Steam
  • Developer: Lucid Games Ltd
  • Publisher: Lucid Publishing Ltd
  • Genre: Action, Early Access