Wulverblade is described as a visceral, side-scrolling beat-em-up that adds a modern twist to the classic gameplay style of the 1990’s arcade games. Players take control of one of three Scottish clansmen in order to drive out the invading Romans.
Wulverblade is set in 120AD, a time when the Roman Empire had set its sights on what is now known as the United Kingdom. The Roman army has already secured control of the southern areas of Britannia and is now getting ready to march on the north. The game begins with this news reaching Caradoc, a guardian of the northern tribes and one of the three playable characters available to choose from. At once he sets off to purge his own ranks of traitors and to end the advancement of the 9th legion before it’s too late.
From the get-go, I noticed not only the quality of the visuals but also that of the voice acting. Caradoc as well as the other northerners have a slight Scottish accent which hints at exactly how far north the clans are. Not only this, but the voice actors really inject personality into the characters. Little things from offhanded comments mid-battle “I’ll rip out your heart!” to the nonchalant discussions of an enemy group before they notice Caradoc’s approach.
I mentioned above the visuals of Wulverblade. Simply put, they’re gorgeous. The backgrounds are alive with beautifully animated scenery. From time to time you may catch a glimpse of a shadowy figure running past you in the foreground, or your clan catching up in the background. It’s all little touches like this which really help pull the player past the magic circle and into the game; fully immersing you and making you really care about the world you find yourself in. Of course, the character designs are equally detailed. The number of different enemies you encounter is well balanced with different designs to prevent that repetitive feel.
Like many games in the same genre, Streets of Rage, X-Men, Castle Crashers, to name a few, the gameplay mechanics of Wulverblade are fairly simple. There are a light and heavy attack as well as jump, roll and dash options available. Dropped weapons can be picked up and used against their former owners as well as severed limbs and heads. But it’s not as simple as hacking everything that moves and hoping for the best. Once per level you’re able to summon a pack of wolves to help take down a group of enemies as well as activating a rage mode which temporarily protects you from any damage.
It’s worth noting that Wulverblade is not for the faint of heart. Having spent a fair number of hours with the game I’m not ashamed to say I have not progressed much further than a few levels. While Wulverblade is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, you be forgiven for thinking this only involves hacking and slashing the visible enemies on screen and progressing.
As the games very own website advises “There’s no hand holding in Wulverblade” – it doesn’t lie. You need to master combining together the assortment of blocks, rolls, knockbacks as well as hit streak to ensure you can keep pushing forward. It’s important to learn when to stop hacking and slashing and to take a step back; knowing this certainly draws the line between defeat and survival. Saving your rage mode for the final boss is not always an option – work with what you have and take it one encounter at a time.
There is, of course, the option to allow another player to drop in for two-player couch co-op. Something which is missing from a lot of games in this day an age. Considering the difficulty curve of Wulverblade, however, I feel this is more to help out when in a tight pinch! With this being said, the mode works very well and the extra friendly to aid you is a welcome addition. It would be nice if there were an option to revive your comrade in arms when they run out of lives, however.
To conclude, Wulverblade is a well crafted and beautifully designed side-scroller. It’s gory and hard as nails but the story and unlockables well make up for this. Completing a boss feels like a reward and the local co-op mode is a well-received option. I’ve been playing for hours, and while I’m far off completion, I’m still loving it.