First impressions of Archeblade

Archeblade screenshot
Archeblade is a new action-based, arena-based, multiplayer game by Codebrush games. I've been told that fans who enjoy fighting games like Street Fighter or MOBAs should enjoy this title. Even though I'm not a huge fan of these genres, I enjoyed the game more than I thought I would, but what it offers is not that surprising or unique.

Players will find mostly standard gameplay in Archeblade. There are a dozen or more characters to choose from, each one offering a unique way to play inside the sometimes claustrophobic maps. Each character has a basic attack on his left mouse button and special attack on his right and will build up rage as he fights and take damage. Once the rage meter fills up, a special attack can be released; the special attacks range from valuable heals to damage buffs. And as is often the case in MOBA-styled games, the large number of character types does not stop the usual character roles from being featured. Players can choose to melee, assassinate, or kill from a range.

Archeblade screenshot
I don't hold the seeming lack of originality and repeated designs against games like Archeblade. In fact, as in MMO raiding or PvP, it's those exact templates and rules of engagement that make the genre attractive to its fans. Players don't exactly need surprises as much as perfect balance and roles that they can learn and love. It's the same reasoning that has left American football bland and yet very successful. Players and fans alike want to be able to see goals achieved, goals that can be achieved only because of the meticulous and repeated analysis of the standards.

I'm not sure that any serious player really cares how Archeblade looks, although I have seen many comments and reviews that mention the game's use of the Unreal engine. It is a decent-looking game, but more important is how smoothly the characters are animated. Each one feels light on its feet or heavy in its movements, depending on which character you play. I enjoyed a chubby, tank-like shooter named Gaspar, who stomped around and fired mortar shells. Holding down right-click made him load a multi-shot, causing more splash damage but also using more ammo. After three shots, I had to reload, so I had to stay back and time everything against enemy assaults.

There are much faster melee characters and other ranged classes that seemed to anger every player on-screen ("Snipers suck!" was a common phrase that popped up in the chat box), but none of them provided me with the same satisfaction as the mortar master. Players also have access to special attacks by pressing the Q or F keys. Gaspar laid down a mine with the F key, and when I hit the Q key, he would explode if he dropped below a certain health level. Each player also has access to a movement ability, like teleport, dash or basic flight. Some characters can even use an extended jump to grab health power-ups that no one else can get to.

Archeblade screenshot
You can load the training area at any time to check out different characters. I'd like to see a bit more interactivity with the training dummies, but the idea is to give players a place to work out the exact timing of special attacks for each character, something that would be made harder by an NPC that actually fought back. It's a good place to get a feel for a specific character.

The H key will bring up a combo cheat-sheet; most combos are relatively simple to follow and execute. The hard part is timing these combos while also being attacked by incredibly skilled players or while being shot by a player you can hardly even see. I can only imagine the amount of hair that is pulled out by the developers who attempt to balance these characters while keeping them relatively unique. I read so many comments about how "OP" certain characters were, but I can't help but think that it would be impossible to ever achieve true balance in the first place and how unattractive true balance would be anyway.

The arenas are nothing special within the MOBA genre. There are several control points that can be activated to achieve goals, but there are also free-for-all, last-player-standing, and team death-match modes. (The developers have promised to roll out more game types in the future.) You do have to be careful to avoid being pushed off a cliff while you're dodging attacks, but generally the arenas did not blow me away with their variety. In fact, the game sort of reminded me of a less-strategic and plainer-looking younger brother of other, more successful MOBAs.

I will say this, however: Despite the game's not appearing to bring much that is new to the table and its emphasis on arcade-style fighters and split-second timing to perform juggles and other wacko-intense moves, I found it relatively easy to stay alive. Sure, I never ended a match by being the top-shot or by capturing the most control points, but I killed more than my share of enemies from a distance. The game even made me feel better by telling me when I had achieved a kill or two, even though I knew that I must have just barely done my part in causing damage.

Archeblade screenshot
In other words, Archeblade provides what most action-style multiplayer games or MOBAs provide, even for players who couldn't care less about how well they perform: a platform to jump into the action immediately and to play with and learn from players who are much, much more skillful. The maps might not be that impressive to look at, but they can sometimes provide a strategic way to play the game for those who enjoy runnin' and gunnin', and certain gameplay mechanics (like being able to cause more damage when behind an enemy) make for a game that is easy to get into but hard to master. MOBAs and other action-based games are great for new players, as long as those new players are OK with losing a lot, at least at first.

How is the game monetized? It offers plenty of free characters that rotate out and skins to unlock or buy in the shop. You'll get to pick from basically two types: buff, capable-looking dudes and skimpy-armor-wearing female characters with special unlocks that outfit them in bikinis and even skimpier attire. It's such a tired and often offensive design, but one that's seemingly in demand. (And yes, there is a character named "Dick.") I also had issues with the game's lack of social options -- other than a basic chat box -- and with players dropping out of matches, leaving me and one or two other players to be immediately overwhelmed.

Archeblade is fun and easy enough to jump into, but get ready to be frustrated often. It's great for players who simply refuse to even spend a few dollars on a game and good for those who enjoy learning a skillset like the back of their hand. For more casual or newer players, it's a good choice to kill a few hours with, but that's about it.

Pros:
  • Easy for newbies
  • Smooth animations
  • A character for almost any playstyle
  • Great for cheapskates
Cons:
  • Typical action-based gameplay
  • Frustrating match-making system
  • Lack of social options
  • Typical sexualized female characters
  • Semi-boring maps
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This article was originally published on Massively.