By Michael Sagoe (Mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
With the MOBA genre becoming more and more popular every day, some game developers have attempted to stir the genre up by throwing in a handful of unique ideas. While some of those ideas have worked much better than expected, other titles, such as ArcheBlade, have shown that mixing MOBA with third-person action only sounds like a good idea on paper.
The developer behind the project, Codebrush Games, describes ArcheBlade as an action game that attempts to capture the thrill of skill-based combat found in fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekken, while combining team oriented gameplay found in MOBA titles such as League of Legends. A neat idea, for sure, but the execution falls short.
First off, Archeblade currently features 12 different champions for players to choose from, including cowgirl gunslinger, a money obsessed monk, a giant berserker and more (On the other hand, the list of characters could also be considered as only ten if you count Ice and Fire Renny, plus Gaspar and Dick the Megaton as the same character.) While only a handful these champions are available to free users, champions are rotated in and out each week, which is very similar League of Legend’s bi-weekly hero rotation. Players can also make their characters stand out with special re-colors and re-skins of existing champions. However, these skins can only be unlocked by opening up your wallets and plopping down some real cash.
Outside of re-colors and re-skins, no other customization options are available.
ArcheBlade uses a control scheme that’s very similar to third-person shooter titles: WASD for movement, Spacebar to jump, left mouse button for primary attacks and right mouse button for secondary attacks. You can also guard attacks with the E key, perform special actions with shift key and use power attacks with alt key in conjunction with certain secondary attacks. The control scheme can feel somewhat un-responsive at times, and this is due to the fact that all the champions have the same exact movement speed and melee attacks having a slight delay after execution, making it difficult to get a solid hit on opponents. With many characters having to get into point-blank range before attacking, the controls end up feeling flimsy due to the game’s slow pacing.
Gameplay and Features
ArcheBlade is regarded as a team-based action game with fighting game elements. When the thought of fighting games comes to mind, usually one would think of modern fighting games such as Super Street Fighter IV, Tekken 6 or BlazBlue. While the gameplay certainly has the basics of fighting game elements, the gameplay (to its core) comes off as simplistic due to a lack of variety with combo attacks and skill attacks. At most, characters in ArcheBlade only have up to 5 different attack variations, so there’s not much room for experimentation here, as the combos are very short and simple. Even though I have nothing against short and simple attacks, as many modern fighting games these days place too much emphasis on combos, ArcheBlade could actually benefit from having just a few of them, along with more combat options to make things more exciting from a spectator standpoint.
Also similar to MOBA games comes active and passive skills: instead of having access to four skills in combat, you only have access to two, and these skills including panic attacks, buffs, de-buffs, healing and more. These skills can help assist or turn the tide of battle, but many of them are far too situational, and others are too powerful for their own good, such as Renny’s Deathless Armor skill which revives players on death, or Renoah’s “Bullet Storm of Wailing” skill that attacks all enemies with an un-blockable 80 HP damage shot, no matter where they are on the playing field.
Character balance is somewhat of an issue here. While the game is not focused on one-on-one confrontations, as some characters can hold their own better solo than others, a lot of attacks in the game require some very precise positioning in order to land hits on enemies. For instance, while using a close range fighter such as Ridika, juggling enemies such as Danmei or Cezanne is very easy due to their large sizes and character models, but juggling smaller enemies such as Renny requires players to position themselves just close enough for their attacks to connect. Along with all the other remarks made regarding balance of active skills, some team compositions simply work better than others.
The game currently features four kinds of game modes: 3-on-3 Team Deathmatch, 2-on-2/3-on-3 “Last Man Standing” Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All and Capture-and-Hold mode. Free-For-All mode seems to be the most popular mode available, which is interesting considering how much the game prides itself on team based combat. Regardless, it’s definitely not a mode that should be played seriously. The biggest and most team focused game mode available is capture-and hold mode, where players have to capture and defend five pylons on the map in order to rack up points. Unfortunately, many players do not focus on teamwork and would rather treat this mode like another deathmatch mode.
Graphics and Presentation
Archeblade makes use of Unreal Engine 3 technology in order to give the game some colorful and solid looking environments, but the character models, on the other hand, have this weird, plastic look to them, making them seem almost like they’re a bunch of living dolls and action figures, and it certainly does not help when each character model has a dull, non-animated and lifeless face that also make them seem doll-like. The original soundtrack has some decent battle tunes that appropriately fit each available map and game mode, but they’re not too memorable.
Since the game is distributed through Valve’s STEAM platform, players will have access to all of its grand features including friend lists, chat-rooms and community pages. But within the game itself, there’s a huge lack of matchmaking features or player balancing. There’s always a chance that experienced players will be pitted against newcomers, as well as no-auto sorting function when the teams become un-balanced, making battles even more unfair. As if balancing wasn’t bad enough, many players will rarely ever play by a gentleman’s agreement to have players sit out until the teams get balanced up again. Trying to find teammates that will actually play like a team is fairly difficult when playing public matches, so you’ll have to make some friends and perhaps grab a VoIP program like Mumble to coordinate strategies, because the game’s in-game chat function will certainly not be good enough.
Since my previous look at ArcheBlade during its closed beta phase, I had high hopes that the game would improve and expand, as the idea of mixing MOBA and fighting game action is an excellent concept. Alas, with flimsy combat, character balance issues and lack of matchmaking features, ArcheBlade fails to achieve its desired goals in its current state. The game is still considered to be in beta form, so things could possibly change in the future, but as it stands, it’s not the MOBA game I was hoping it would be for action gamers.
Customization – 2
Gameplay and Features – 3
Graphics and Presentation – 3
Community – 2