Stray Blade feels like a sword still in need of some honing
One of the dangers of previewing a game is the fact that they're still projects in the middle of development - sometimes, like with Stray Blade, you can be reminded of this fact more often than others. Developer Point Blank Games' upcoming Action RPG has plenty of interesting ideas to its name, but when we had a chance to try out a pre-Alpha version of the game during last week's 505 Games LA Demo Days straddles the line between a game that is ready to be played and a title that perhaps should've spent a little more time in the oven before its semi-public debut.
That's not to say that the full release of Stray Blade will be bad; the game is scheduled to release next year, and many of the issues I had with my hands-on experience are things that clearly will be ironed out, at least to some degree, by the time the game sees its full release. Putting aside parts of the game that are bugs, or are clearly unfinished - some lines have been voiced, while others have not, for example - I never quite got used to the game's combat during my lengthy session with it. Recovery frames for attacks are very long for most weapons, while enemies have very little wind-up or tell to work off of; sometimes enemies will wind up an attack and it won't immediately be obvious when exactly the attack will connect.
Stray Blade's story hook seems interesting enough; the player character, Farren, has found themselves bound to the land of Acrea, and finds themselves forced to work with the anthropomorphized fox-creature Boji as you challenge the realm's guardians, in an effort to find a way to break the curse. One interesting gimmick that I was able to notice while playing the game is how the concept of time passing between your deaths is explored; an area that might have been filled with wild animals might be invaded by human encampments upon a respawn. Bits and pieces of the world might find themselves slightly different when you return to an area that you had explored hours earlier.
Genuinely being unsure of what to expect is a novel idea for an Action RPG, without making the game into a flat-out roguelike - it feels like something you would've expected to find in a larger game years ago, or at least a project that was given a larger budget. It keeps you on your toes, even if the enemy variety amongst what I played wasn't exactly massive to begin with.
For such a small studio, I genuinely hope that Stray Blade can find itself in a more polished spot by the next chance I have to see it. These types of impressions always feel the worst to report, when you can tell that a game has had a ton of love poured into it - but ultimately what you'd played just doesn't stand out from the crowd. Stray Blade isn't a bad game, so far, but it's hard to see what awaits us out the other end of development.