AeternoBlade is a 2.5D action-platformer developed by CoreCell Technology. The story of AeternoBlade takes place in the region of Awelsia where Freyja, our heroine, must take revenge against Beladim who annihilated her town. Freyja wields the titular Aeternoblade, a weapon capable of manipulating time according to the owner’s will. After using the weapon’s tremendous power to cheat death, Freyja begins her epic quest for vengeance. Does AeternoBlade push the genre forward with its unique time manipulation mechanics to be considered a ‘hidden game’? Or will you end up wishing you could turn back time and not play it?
Amazing Soundtrack: The place that AeternoBlade shines the most is the soundtrack. Something that recent games fail to utilize are the myriad of instruments that are available. AeternoBlade employs various traditional orchestral instruments like a piano, violin, flute and trumpets but at the same time also implements more modern instruments like guitars, drums and synthesizers. The noticeable inclusion of all these instruments truly lead to an outstanding soundtrack. For example, the boss theme has a very imperialistic style to it that gets you pumped every time you hear it, whereas the orchestral tracks have a feeling of pensive melancholy to help highlight the sadness of the scene it occupies. I very rarely listen to video game soundtracks but AeternoBlade was one that I came back to again and again. The opening and title theme gives us a teaser of what is in store throughout the rest of the game. However, the sound effects were a huge miss. In fact, I don’t remember hearing any. This just goes to show how unmemorable they were if there were any.
Character Upgrades: Upon slaying an enemy you will receive orbs which are color coded with Red, Blue, Green and Yellow. The yellow orb is used to upgrade your character’s abilities and to unlock new ones and is a good incentive, if I dare say so myself, to try and encourage players to kill the infinitely spawning enemies rather than skipping them like I did. You can farm the enemies by transitioning between screens to keep spawning them. This was the method I used to get the upgrades I wanted and needed to to be able to tackle the late game stages, bosses and enemies. Upgrades range from HP and Damage too more complex combos. Moreover, there are also items that can be collected like a ‘Ruby Ring’ that increase your damage output and provides more customization options. This customization feature offers a more personalized approach to the game and gives the player more involvement in their character rather than being disconnected from them.
Boss Fights: AeternoBlade‘s boss fights are the crux of it’s game-play. They are ruthless, challenging and often requires the abilities you learnt previously to be able to stand a chance against them whilst still being enjoyable and rewarding. All of the bosses you will face are distinguishable from each other both aesthetically and mechanically. Some will require you to deal as much damage as possible whilst dodging many of the attacks, whereas others will require you to go through certain mini-game-esque mechanics in order to damage them. When you die, the deaths never feel cheap as it will be caused by poor decisions or slow reaction times as they require a tremendous amount of skill to fight.
Stage Design: Although the stage designs are rudimentary from a graphical perspective, they are chocked full of secrets, hidden treasures, bosses and rewards often requiring certain abilities to be able to traverse them like time bending abilities for example. A lot of thought and planning has gone into the structure of the stages rather than just being a simple ‘get from A to B’ philosophy. A lot of backtracking is also required to be able to progress forward with the stages and story. You will often come back to certain areas to be able to hit switches, in turn, opening up the path forward. While your first playthrough will very linear, the bulk of the stages are opened up when you receive post game upgrades.
Controls: The controls were smooth and were mapped effectively. Not a single button overlaps with the other providing precision and planning. Additionally, they are responsive which will help in the boss fights. However, I did find it rather annoying that you couldn’t animation cancel whilst in a combo. Although this is rectified with the time dodge ability, the ability requires a few seconds to cool-down before it can be used again. Additionally, there isn’t a dodge or block option either and leaves much to be desired. Animation cancelling, dodging and blocking are all pivotal components to any metroidvania title and the lack of inclusion of this is a major misstep in the wrong direction. This is just a personal preference that many other can ignore.
Puzzles: The puzzles are a focal ingredient in making side-scrolling action-platformers rewarding and enjoyable. It requires meticulous balancing between enjoyability and difficulty that most games seem to neglect. AeternoBlade‘s puzzles are both enjoyable to complete and provides the sense of elation when you find the appropriate solution. Most of the time, the rewards are also beneficial in making your character stronger. However, most of the puzzles will have to be ignored until you get the relevant upgrade to help you complete it, which will be given to you after beating the game. Nevertheless, it is still enjoyable and I urge you to try and try to complete them as much as possible.
Script and Dialogue: Continuing on with the negatives to AeternoBlade, the most striking and observable drawback is the abhorrent script and writing which almost feels juvenile at best. The dialogue, in an of themselves, have plenty of mistakes which could be due to the poor translation of the game but that does not excuse it from the elementary structure of its dialogue. Not a single line of dialogue has gravitas behind it thus the delivery of the dialogue becomes poor. Since the dialogue isn’t voice acted, you will be required to read a hefty amount of it. The poor delivery of the dialogue coupled with the lack of voice acting will often leave the player feeling indifferent to the characters and the lore of the world.
Graphics: As previously stated, the graphics of AeternoBlade are sub-par and looks like it belongs in the PlayStation 1-era. This aesthetic primarily mars many of the stage backgrounds, textures and other finer details to an extent that it eventually takes its toll on the player. The stages look uninspiring with little to no attention to the finer details. For example, the cave stage felt rather harmless as it did not look murky or dark. Areas like these should convey certain feelings but fails to do so. The art direction is very questionable and is put at a disadvantage when compared to other similar games like Dust: An Elysian Tale or Momodora.
Combat and Enemies: The combat is somewhat smooth, albeit rather simplistic and unsophisticated for the first half of the game. Using the attack button initiates a basic attack but combining this with any direction on the stick will sequentially unleash devastating combos. These combos modifies the basic slashes into spins, swirls, launches, thrusts and even slams. While additional combos can be bought with the aforementioned yellow orbs, you will not require much divergence in strategy to fight the plethora of varying enemies throughout the stages. Most of the smaller enemies and even some of the bigger ones, can be fought with only the juggling/mid-air combo. This was the most useful attack as not only did it launch multiple enemies into mid-air, but it also allowed for air combos to keep them there as much as possible providing crowd control. However, this combo will not work as effectively on the bosses as they are bigger and cannot be launched.
Despite my initial apprehensive stance on the game, I thoroughly enjoyed what was delivered. The bland presentation, poor story and characters may turn off some players but the game shows promise and potential. The battle mechanics, abilities, soundtrack, puzzles and boss fights are all enjoyable and rewarding. Although the game doesn’t try to invent new things or push the genre forward, the time mechanic does spice up the combat and the puzzles. It is by no means a game that you ‘have’ to play but it is not bad either. If you are an aficionado of metroidvania titles then I suggest you take a look into the game. You will be pleasantly surprised with what the game offers.
AeternoBlade was developed and published by Corcell Technology as part of the ID@Xbox program. The game released on Xbox One [reviewed] on August 30th, 2017. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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