Blackwind Switch Review – This Mech Has Potential
Blackwind is a top-down sci-fi action game that stars a teenager piloting a prototype battle armor suit during an alien invasion. This is an action-packed narrative with full voice acting, detailed 3D graphics, and lots and lots of robot battling. This is Drakkar Dev‘s biggest project to date, and it is quite the ambitious sci-fi title.
So does Blackwind impress us with all of its gadgetry? Or is this a sci-fi tale for the bin? Let’s find out!
Blackwind follows the story of a young man named James Hawkins who is initially found talking shop with his father, a highly respected scientist and robotics engineer. While James’ father is explaining his new military prototype, often referred to as a Battle Frame in the game, their ship is shot down, and the dad locks James into the prototype to save him. James, within the suit, is ejected and survives the landing on the planet Medusa-42, a mining site that is significantly more than meets the eyes.
The mech suit is also equipped with an AI system that serves to protect the human symbiote, and this AI serves as James’ unlikely ally. The two must work together to traverse this mysterious planet that has been invaded by an alien species en route to finding the crash site and the possible whereabouts of James’ dad.
It is an interesting story with some nice plot points and twists, but some of the script is poorly written and comes off quite immature (Like certain repetitive lines), especially during some pivotal moments. Not only that, but the voice acting feels off across the board. Something about the delivery doesn’t quite line up with the actions on screen, and the emotion within the voices is lacking. I hate pointing this out, because I very much appreciate the effort put into a fully-voiced script. However, just because you have voice acting does not necessarily mean your story is automatically elevated, and that is precisely the case here.
When it comes to gameplay, Blackwind is a mixture of things that honestly just do not work out very well together. This is a top-down action title with puzzles and platforming mixed in, and it is the combination of all of these elements that hurts the overall experience.
The combat is pretty straight-forward. Your vessel, the Blackwind, is equipped with a gun and a couple beam swords, so you can take out enemies either from a distance or close up. I found myself relying on the melee more, because it is faster and seemingly more effective. However, as you raise the difficulty, of which there is Easy, Medium, and Hard, combining these attack strategies becomes more important, especially when encountering numerous turrets at once.
Another reason why melee tends to be the best approach is due to the kill animations that are triggered once an enemy is damaged enough. If you are close enough to them, it will trigger an insta-kill with the A button, and while you are in this kill animation, nothing can interrupt you, meaning you can jump into a kill animation multiple times in a row to avoid damage and reap the rewards of health pickups and orbs that you can spend on upgrading your Battle Frame. The kill animations are solid, but I wish there was a bit more variety in both the action and the comments from James (Like “Who’s the best?”, which comes up after just about every other kill).
There is local co-op in the form of one player controlling the Battle Frame and the other controlling a drone, and it is solid for what it is.
Blue orbs collected from killing enemies and destroying random objects in the game can be used to unlock more skills and such from the skill tree that can be accessed at random points in the game. Here you can upgrade basic skills, combat skills, and specials, which will all obviously assist in gameplay as you progress. There is also an option to change your Battle Frame’s skin, where new ones can be found throughout the game in “secret” locations. Finally, you can even fast travel back to certain areas once you have unlocked appropriate upgrades to access previously inaccessible areas. This is a wonderful system that adds a tremendous amount of value to Blackwind.
But not all that glitters is gold, and there are a couple problems that need to be addressed. First of all, the camera is an absolute pain. Because it is fixed and adjusts based on your position, it can become quite problematic in certain areas when combating enemies. Even worse is the platforming that the game expects you to accomplish with this camera. Not only is the fixed camera a pain, but the platforming can be atrocious at certain points.
There are moments when your platforming is timed that are quite frustrating, because the timer tends to be short and the poor platforming is frequently not your fault but the design’s and/or the camera’s. There were two particular timed platforming segments that made me want to quit the game, and that is never a good sign, especially one that boasts genuinely good combat segments. I appreciate the desire to add more elements to the game, but I feel like a lot of the gameplay problems could have been supplemented had platforming been taken off of the table completely.
Something else that is a bit annoying is the forced back-and-forth traversing in enclosed, mapped areas. What starts as fun exploration quickly turns into frustration, as you go from A to B to A to C to B to D to C to A, for example, as you unlock doors and collect key cards to access new areas to do the same.
The trouble does not end there, though, as clipping issues plague Blackwind. Because the game uses harsh restrictions on their borders and walls, and since the game allows for jumping, there are many opportunities where your Battle Frame can get stuck and hover over an area only for the camera to spaz out until you (hopefully) fall or maneuver your way out. Not only that, but there clearly was not a whole lot of testing in this, because any time the game moves to an outside area where platforming is necessary, this is when the mass majority of these issues arise.
As far as graphics go, though, Blackwind is beautiful. It has a Warhammer-vibe about it, and the style works wonderfully. The Nintendo Switch version definitely had to take some steps back, but overall, the models look great and the animations are fluid. I did experience a couple drops in framerate, but it was nothing too problematic.
I did mention before that the voice acting is nothing to write home about, but the soundtrack is excellent. This has a standard intense sci-fi sound, and as the music transitions from combat to exploration, everything happens so seamlessly that you barely even hear when the song changes. Not only that, but the sound effects get the job done! Although there are moments when inside certain facilities that squishy, fluid-sac sounds happen when there is nothing around. Not sure if that is mixed into the soundtrack at random times or just a minor error.
Blackwind is an ambitious title that unfortunately hurts itself by trying to implement too much. The combat, graphics, and soundtrack are the standout stars, as they all cater to help make the experience a fun one. However, the bad camera which hinders the frustrating platforming turn an otherwise fun experience into a disappointing one.
I wish I could recommend Blackwind as it is, but I simply cannot. This is a game that clearly needs a bit more time to smooth out its edges, and as it stands now, it is just a mediocre title. However, if Drakkar Dev can refine some of the persistent problems in a future update, Blackwind does hold a lot of potential.
So consider this version of Blackwind the Mark 1, but just like Iron Man, we need the Mark 3 in order to get the full package and appreciate what the game is meant to be. That doesn’t mean this Mark 1 is unworthy, but it is not without its issues.
Blackwind Switch Review provided by Nintendo Link
Review also found on OpenCritic
Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Developer: Drakkar Dev
Release Date: January 20th, 2022
Price: $24.99, £19.99, €24,99
Game Size: 1.4 GB
Combat and kill animations are fun
Poor voice acting
Camera and platforming are a nightmare combo
Exploration is nonsensical and tedious
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.