To say Battle Royal games are some of the most popular video games at the moment would be somewhat of an understatement. Games like PUBG and Fortnite have brought large numbers of players together to fight it out on giant maps. These games all follow a very similar design but try to add their own spin on it. This hunt for individuality is where Naraka: Bladepoint finds itself.
So the best way to look at this game is to first understand what a battle royal game is and how it works. Essentially you take a group of players, drop them on a huge map and let them hunt for equipment and each other as the map slowly becomes smaller. It is a simple enough concept but one that requires innovation to succeed. So we here at Robot Republic are going to run through what Naraka: Bladepoint does well, and what it doesn’t.
First things first, and arguably one of the most significant differences, is to look at the actual gameplay. Most Battle Royal games aim to mix the styles of combat but often focus more on gunplay. Naraka: Bladepoint doesn’t do this, it focuses more on close-quarters combat. There are long-range weapons but their use is limited in comparison and they are better suited to softening a target up.
The number of weapons is impressive, with everything from daggers to nunchucks and each one at least feels somewhat different to use. However, the animations all get lost in the melee and the weapons are nowhere near balanced. For instance, I found that the greatsword weapon easily outclasses most other equipment and makes short work of any opponent. There is also little reason to change weapons as ammo is, obviously, not a concern.
Another issue is that there aren’t any tactics involved in much of the fighting. Players can aim to get to the best location to hunt down an opponent, shoot them to weaken them then jump into combat. However, once combat is joined it simply becomes a beatdown as both players hit the buttons until one of them falls. Naraka: Bladepoint could have benefited from a mode that was similar to For Honor which included a good amount of skill and made each fight feel more cinematic.
I mentioned ammo not being a hindrance and that wasn’t entirely fair. Players will need to keep an eye on their equipment's durability in battle. This meter acts similarly to an ammo counter as weapons will slowly degrade with each hit and lose their effectiveness. They can be repaired using weapon kits and armour can be repaired as well. The system works fine and the items are abundant enough that it never really becomes an issue.
Finally, when it comes to gameplay at least, there are characters that players can choose to be. There are twelve characters in total, with six being playable from the start. Each character has a special move and an ultimate move, each of which has two variations that can be unlocked by completing specific quests during a match. These characters all follow the common archetypes but are similar enough that it is more of a preference selection than anything else. Unless you choose the healer hero Kurumi, don’t select her unless you’re part of a team or you will suffer.
The addition of special and ultimate moves and the quest system does add some much-needed variety to the matches, but the problem is that they so rarely have an impact large enough to use them. Some of them are also a little bit tricky to get right and make the best use of. They’re visually impressive at the least, and fit the theme that Naraka: Bladepoint is aiming for. The customisation options are also a nice addition, but players won’t be able to make them out most of the time.
Visually the game is by no means ugly, but it isn’t exactly top of the line either. The movement is solid and the map offers a good mix of flat plains and mountainous regions. This combined with the grappling hook adds a good degree of verticality. There’s plenty to see as players run around to find each other and avoid the encroaching shadow that acts as this game's barrier, poison fog and every other analogue you can think of. Unfortunately, one issue with the characters is that there isn’t any variety in their movements. They all use the weapons in the same way and react similarly to damage.
So far I’ve mostly mentioned negatives, and there are a few, but there are positives as well. Naraka: Bladepoints' bad points are all linked to its good in a strange ying-yang kind of effect. Sure, the characters all feel similar, but their customisation and skills can be added to over time and the chance for new DLC characters down the line could give the game some longevity. Also, the smaller learning curve that comes from all the characters moving similarly is a benefit that can’t be ignored. Finally, the fact that the skills are tricky to use means there is a reason to practice and a separation for veterans and newbies that can’t be undone by button mashing the attack button.
The truth of the matter is that any game that aims to enter the…well the battle royal of the battle royal genre needs to be able to stand against Fortnite. Does Naraka: Baldepoint stand a chance? Hard to say. There is something here that might be able to carve out a niche for itself, but it needs to find more than just the two modes on offer. The implementation of a better plot and more interesting character interactions would be a good start. The future for this one is, funnily enough, in the shadows.
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