Swashbucklers: Blue & Grey - PS2 - Preview 2
Hack-n-slash games have hit the bull's eye of many settings: urban streets, medieval times, galactic warriors, and the occasional Spartan. This November they'll strike the path of another glorious staple – swashbuckling. Aptly titled Swashbucklers: Blue & Grey, the new 1C and Akella title comes stateside via Atari. It's a brawler along the lines of Devil May Cry, God of War, and the newly released Conan game from THQ... With a twist.
More Ways to Fight
The first skirmish is all swords: you hack, slash, and button mash until the enemy clusters are withered down to nothing. Character movement is open-ended, with the only restriction being the size of the level. Most are relatively short, as are the battles, increasing the pace of each assault. Attacks are initially limited to the square button. Tap it once for a quick sword swipe; tap it multiple times for a combo. If you're not intrigued or surprised by this implementation, don't fret. There are things about Swashbucklers that stray from the genre's norms.
Battle completion takes you to the level navigation hub, a top-down view of towns and ports where the player can manually walk to the local store, sheriff’s office, weapons dealers and other locales, including a place where you can barter items like alcohol and other vices. There is also a fairly long period where an "inner voice" talks to the main character and tells him about the game's setup, button configuration, etc. It's completely unnecessary and will hopefully have a skip feature in the final build. If not, expect to read through a lot of text.
When buying, selling, or bartering, the game shifts to a Resident Evil-style grid for weapon and item allocation. Handgun weapons take up one slot, shotgun bullets fill up two, and weapons can span several spaces. Weapons and ammo need to be aligned properly in order to maximize the number of things you can carry at one time.
In Swashbucklers, whisky restores 50 health points.
Next up: Smirnoff that revitalizes magic points in RPGs.
Come Sail With Me
Once you've explored the nearest town (and maybe others – there are several to visit), sail on over to the closest opposing ship. They're everywhere in the game, fading in and out like ghostships. But they don't belong to the dead (not until you come along, at least), they belong to vicious pirates. Assuming the enemy doesn’t choose to attack, players will have the option to avoid conflict or dive right into battle. The latter choice is preceded by a warning that shows the proposed difficulty of entering combat. "Very Hard" is a common response.
Ship battles are an on-the-move, blast-or-be-blasted affair of cannon exchanges. The goal is pretty much the same as it was back in the day of one-eyed, one-legged warriors. Frontal attacks aren’t possible, so you’ll have to line up your ship with your opponent’s ship in order for the cannonball – whose direction is controlled with the left stick – to reach the enemy. Of course, doing that means the enemy can also make a successful attack.
The battle concludes with an on-ship invasion after the enemy has been severely damaged. Start by fighting three sets of pirates from three areas of the ship, each portrayed from the same brawler gameplay perspective described before. Defeat all attackers and the final battle – a side-by-side, Soul Calibur-style duel – will begin.
Whereas before you could run anywhere on the screen, Swashbucklers keeps the characters in place during this scenario. There’s a strafing mechanic that gives the game its Soul Calibur feel, and additional attacks have been added for variety. The game also moves and reacts differently to make duels play more like a current fighting game and less like a brawler.
Finally, after all of the enemy ship’s occupants have been defeated, players can do whatever they please with the remains. Burn the ship, steal whatever goods are on board, auction it off for extra booty, take command of the ship and use it as your primary vessel, or set it free (yeah right!).
Sword-to-sword brawls, one-on-one duels, explosive ship battles – could this be the next Pirates of the Caribbean? We’ll know soon. Swashbucklers: Blue & Grey ships on November 20.