Blackwind Review

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Give it like 15 years and there will be a reboot where the mech is a grumpy dad that yells “boy!”

As genres evolve they often hit a point at which the modern incarnation is unrecognizable compared to where it started. For example, take the original PlayStation 2 version of God of War and compare it to the modern incarnation. From a game design standpoint, outside of the general existence of combat, very little has stayed the same. Blackwind is very much in the vein of the original God of War, and while that certainly offers a hit of nostalgia, it’s hard not to recognize that evolution can be a very good thing.

After your ship is shot, your father seals you inside an AI-driven mech suit. Inside your suit you crash land safely on the surface of the planet below. However, only your father can provide the access needed to open the suit and escape from it. Trapped inside, you have no choice but to fight your way through alien hoards in an attempt to reconnect with your father, assuming of course that he’s still alive.

Blackwind is a hack and slash brawler with some occasional platforming. It’s presented from an generally orthographic point of view with a camera that adjusts dynamically as you move through levels. You are not able to influence the camera in any way, and while it spends most of the game logically positioned, I still ran into plenty of issues with it. A necessary objective would often be obscured from view until I was very close to it or enemies would wind up behind scene geometry and attack me from blind spots. These issues aren’t unique to Blackwind, of course. They were a regular problem for games of this type and a major reason why we rarely see entirely scripted camera systems in modern games. Even the ability to just slightly rotate the camera to a limited degree, similar to Super Mario 3D World, would make a huge difference.

Combat is fairly straightforward and generally satisfying. Your mech possesses both quick and heavy attacks along with a ranged weapon. When using your ranged weapon the right stick allows you to aim in a setup similar to a twin stick shooter. Combat on the whole feels good. As you progress you’ll be able to use points to upgrade your abilities and new abilities will be unlocked. One such ability is a remote drone which can be sent into ventilation shafts to explore and unlock doors. When the drone is detached from your mech, it takes with it your ranged weapon, leaving your mech with only melee attacks. It’s a simple yet interesting mechanic that reminds me a bit of a Metroid-style morph ball in some regards.

Exploration is generally where Blackwind runs into trouble. Here, a variety of issues coalesce to significantly detract from the overall experience. To start, generally only levels that take indoors give you any sort of map, and when they do there is no way to pull up the whole map at once. These environments are generally labyrinthian but the minimap viewable on screen really only displays the room you’re in and the edges of the rooms around it. It isn’t particularly helpful when trying to figure out where you haven’t been or figure out which doors are unlocked. Add to this that interiors are generally built from an extremely limited pool of reused assets and it’s easy to lose any sense of where you are, even with a map. Meanwhile, out on the surface a different problem rears its head. Platforming in Blackwind just isn’t very good. You’re mech is clunky to move and features a pretty vague hitbox. Combine this with the oftentimes questionable camera scripting and I’d often have to redo platforming sections due to collision or camera issues.

This all leads to Blackwind being somewhat underwhelming outside of combat. It’s ultimately a little too loyal to its inspirations. Despite being a brand new game, it often feels incredibly dated. It isn’t downright bad by any means, just like going back and playing the original God of War on PS2 isn’t bad either. But that design is really only excusable in the context of its time. Blackwind will have some appeal to hardcore fans of early 2000’s action games, but without those rose tinted glasses, there isn’t much here to help it rise above mediocrity.

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