Developer: Fully Illustrated / Darkwind Media
Publisher: Darkwind Media
Release Date: 12 October 2017
Price: $19.99 / £14.99
Reviewed by Phil Myth
Wulverblade is a side scrolling beat ’em up in the old school vein. Think Streets of Rage, but with swords instead of fists, and the wildlands of ancient Britain instead of the streets of, err, Rage.
The setting is kind of crucial as it happens, as the game ostensibly takes place during an actual real period of history, with the native Britons looking to repel the advancing forces of Rome.
The game actually serves as a minor history lesson in itself, with videos of the locales in which the levels supposedly take place unlocking once you finish that level. The education isn’t limited to these videos either, with notes found across each level also shedding light on weaponry and customs from the era.
It’s a really nice and unique touch. There’s not many games out there that try and expand your mind a little inbetween bouts of gratuitous violence, and there is plenty of gratuitous violence on offer here.
History made fun
You play as one of three native warrior Britons and have to hack and slash your way across 8 levels in order to beat back the Roman armies, and those fellow Britons that have betrayed their kin. You do this predominantly with your own sword, but you can pick up a heavier weapon to supplement your own for a little extra clout. Dropped weapons from foes can also be picked up and thrown, as can severed heads and limbs.
Yes, visually the game is pretty gruesome. Despite the cool cartoony artwork, which reminds me of the sort of history books I used to read in school as a kid, there’s still tonnes of blood and guts. There’s something a little odd, yet equally wonderful in throwing a severed head at an enemy in a game with such a vibrant and colourful art style.
It’s definitely not one for the kids, the excellent voice acting contains a few swears as well, but the presentation is absolutely top notch, even if loading times are a little on the lengthy side.
its dangerous to go alone
Gameplay is where I ran into a problem with Wulverblade. Everything controls great, and combat is very satisfying when you’re landing killer blows or dodging and parrying attacks. You can build up a rush gauge for a brief period of invincibility letting you swing your sword with reckless abandon, and you can also call in a pack of wolves once a level to take out most of the enemies on screen.
Despite all this, Wulverblade is ridiculously difficult in single player. There were some levels that I just straight up couldn’t do without teaming up with a friend locally, with the number of enemies in a wave seemingly the same whether you’re playing one or two players. The game is definitely geared towards the latter I think, but the fact there’s no adjustments for single player feels like a bit of an oversight.
It’s all too easy to find yourself surrounded and there’s no easy way to get out of those situations. You do have a 360 degree attack you can execute, but that uses up some of your health, and when the game is this tough, health is an incredibly precious resource.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like a challenge in my games, but at times Wulverblade crosses over from addictively tough, to frustratingly impossible when playing single player. That said, adding a second player does make the game much easier, and much more enjoyable, as you can divvy up the enemies between you.
Wulverblade is a brilliant looking game, and the historical touches, fact sheets and educational videos are genuinely fascinating and I loved learning about ancient Britain whilst I was playing. It’s clearly a labour of love for the developer. It’s a tonne of fun to play through with a friend too, and single player also has some great moments, but it can also be ridiculously hard, and at times the game just stops being fun because of it.
If you like your old school brawlers, and you’ve got a friend or family member you can team up with, Wulverblade is a fantastic game that you should definitely pick up. But if you’re flying solo, just be warned, you’re going to have to be a bit of a demon to get through it.
Pros & Cons
+ Fascinating history on ancient Britain
+ Great art style
+ Satisfying combat
- Frustratingly difficult in single player
- Lengthy load times