Are you a bad enough dude to fight through a dungeon with one-fifth of a sword and make it out alive? Broken Blades aims to be an addictive roguelike action game with 2D platforming and combat, a combination that at first seems made in heaven. With so many amazing titles putting these same attributes to use, Broken Blades seems to have an excellent formula for the folks at Golden Egg Studios to exercise game design muscles and make it a simple but tight experience.
The Good - Surprise me!
In Broken Blades, the player awakens deep underground and is immediately thrown into a quest to make it out alive. To their name, the player has a cute little character with a helmet and a tiny sliver of a sword that the game expects you to power up as you go along by acquiring sword shards that can both enhance your range and give the sword new skills, at the expense of slower swings. Therein lies the core concept of Broken Blades and it is, granted, quite interesting and engaging for fans of ever-growing power sets and of the classic roguelite ability to make every run unique.
The sword shards have all sorts of abilities to them and even the most basic ones feel game-warping due to the sheer difference between the initial short sword attack and even a regular swing. Finding broken blade shards is always an event to look forward to and a true sign that the gameplay is about to change a lot for the better.
The player also has the option to obtain different scrolls that give them power-up options, such as more damage against certain enemies, an easier time finding gold and more. With enough time and a smidge of luck, it's possible to have no end of varied builds, from jack-of-all-trades to a highly specialised enemy type combination, to a comfortable resource-acquiring build in order to farm more gold and items. Broken Blades allows the player plenty of freedom in how to make their build - and they will definitely need it.
- Exciting main gimmick
- Plenty of possible builds
The Bad - Can I leave yet?
Broken Blades bases itself on concepts that are good enough and could have been made to grow into an exciting end product. What it actually is though is a terrible combination of punishingly hard gameplay, uninteresting scenarios and a lack of fun unless the player is someone that relishes on doing things that are hard for the sake of being hard. Broken Blades takes all the difficulty options from roguelikes but adds absolutely none of the rewarding and interesting mechanics that come with the genre, despite having the perfect setup to do so, and having its own set of interesting rewards it could have made much better use of.
The upgrades are uninteresting. Most of the time when the player picks up a scroll, whatever benefit it gives can barely be seen or felt, without any form of visual indication. Coupled with how hard it is to properly come across the upgrade scrolls, with only a few being available each level, it’s very easy to get discouraged and uninterested in finding more despite whatever mechanical advantages it gives the player as they have to keep trudging through the level without ever feeling like they are growing stronger. The titular sword shards are an exception to the rule in that every time you pick one up, it feels good and immediate - but these are also so few and far between that there are many runs where the player simply will never find one of them and will then be stuck with the utterly awful single-shard blade. Upgrades are never guaranteed in roguelites but the actual namesake of the game and mechanic that quite literally determines whether the player will be able to succeed in harming bosses or not should be made more available.
The combat is terrible until the point where the player acquires a sword shard, which might simply not happen, and even then it isn’t anything to write home about. The baseline experience being weak could serve as an incentive to quickly grow stronger, but Broken Blades simply doesn’t properly deliver the player the tools to do so. Going through the game feels terrible mechanically, even in optimal circumstances.
Finally, the scenario variation is barebones. While the game can be praised for having a decent amount of possible variation during runs, they never influence enough in the overall layout of the map to be truly noticeable as anything more than a novel annoyance for that particular run. While most roguelikes have rooms, Broken Blades works with a static map where the different randomisations are sprinkled throughout. Even with those changes, it’s very common that the player feels like they’re just going through the same map over and over again.
- Punishingly artificial difficulty
- Terrible combat mechanics
- Utterly uninteresting upgrades
- Barebones map variety
Final Score: 3/10
Broken Blades doesn’t offer much in the way of being a fun or interesting experience and that is perhaps the worst conclusion one can come to about a game. It had all the tools necessary to do well and it dropped them all. Players that enjoy challenges for their own sake might find in it a worthy time-sink and spend a long time trying to master the game, see how far they can get and optimise the different types of buffs despite there being nothing much to it aside the challenge, but players that like their games to have something more meaningful to them than difficulty will not feel at home at all.
Thank you for checking out our Broken Blades Switch review, thank you to Golden Golden Eggs Studio for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: