Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Freyja is out for revenge. After her village is destroyed by the diabolical (and demon-like) villain Beladim, Freyja is entrusted with a mystical sword known as the AeternoBlade. Together with the mysterious sage known as Vernia, she must harness the weapon’s time-altering capabilities to defeat Beladim and exact her revenge.
That is the set-up for a really good game. On paper, AeternoBlade looks to be a really interesting game, but the reality is quite different. How does a game that is set with such potential fall so far?
AeternoBlade is a side scrolling action-rpg with some really great puzzle elements to it. Dare I call it a “metroidvania” style game? That wouldn’t be too far off as a description. The game is designed around the player having to gain new abilities in order to reach places and solve puzzles that were impossible to complete when first encountered. It’s also designed around the AeternoBlade’s ability to reverse time temporarily, which is necessary to solve a number of the problems (or sometimes it’s just helpful in a Boss battle to back things up and hit him a few more times when he’s vulnerable).
So we start off with an interesting protagonist who is out for revenge. Sounds good so far. It’s a side-scrolling action game with a number of RPG elements. You kill bad guys to gain XP which you then spend to level up your character’s abilities, which also sounds fun. This game is rife with so much potential. Unfortunately, AeternoBlade has a few major flaws which make any positive obsolete.
Let’s start by talking about the controls. I’ve rarely played a game that had controls as frustrating and poor as AeternoBlade. Much of it has to do with that when you attack, Freyja is committed to a specific attack animation. These can often be quite lengthy and while you’re in the middle of one, you can’t do anything else. You can’t move. You can’t turn. You can’t dodge. Imagine you’re starting off an attack combo against a black knight and in the middle of the combo you get hit and it spins you around. Suddenly you watch as Freyja continues an impressive set of attacks, but she’s facing the wrong way. And there’s nothing you can do to change it.
Or there’s the problem where you’re in a boss battle and have committed to a long string of combo attacks only to have the boss leap into the air to stomp you. The natural instinct is to dodge, but that’s not possible. You have to sit and watch her swing her sword mindlessly while a behemoth of a monster stomps her down. It’s frustrating and unnecessary.
You might ask, “Then why commit to a combo? Why not just do one attack at a time?” The reason is that the collision detection is so bad that you almost have to do multiple attacks at once just to hit anything. Quite frequently you’ll come up against an opponent and swing and nothing will happen. Maybe you’re a bit too far away so you move in a little closer and swing again. Still nothing. Then you try again. Nothing. Then try again and suddenly it hits. Another swing does nothing but the one after that connects again. What the ….? Seriously? It’s a mess. It’s not impossible to keep playing despite these frustrations, but it makes it so that you’re fighting the game’s controls instead of the game’s obstacles.
Things do get better as the game progresses and you’re able to upgrade Freyja’s skill sets, but it never gets to a satisfactory level.
One of the big hooks in the game is the ability to reverse time in order to defeat certain enemies and solve different puzzles. Later in the game the ability to time warp is introduced which gives Freyja the ability to drop a marker in the level and then teleport to it at any time with the touch of a button. It’s really cool and at times it provides for some interesting puzzles. The problem is that it’s needed so rarely that it can often be forgotten. Many of the times that I used the time reversal feature were just out of curiosity rather than need.
It’s too bad, because when you reach a point that has a well thought out puzzle (or even a simple obstacle) that requires you to alter time, it can be very satisfying. Unfortunately those moments are actually very rare.
AeternoBlade is also very old-school in the presentation department. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that this was an unaltered PS2 game. It reminds me of one of a dozen simple fantasy brawlers I played over a decade ago, which isn’t to say that it’s bad. It’s just decidedly dated looking. Freyja has some impressive character animations and looks pretty decent, but nearly everything else in the game is clearly a muted throwback to the games of yesteryear. This might have something to do with the fact that the game originally came out on lesser powered handheld devices, but for someone used to Vita-quality graphics, it’s quite jarring and not up to snuff.
The cut-scenes on the other hand look very good. Everything is very crisp and detailed and looks very different from the rest of the game. Vernia especially comes across as a very beautifully designed character who is rich in color.
The music is decent enough, however it’s also very forgettable. Listening to it play as the game unfolds brings to mind a hundred other games of the same ilk that have come before it and there’s nothing that makes it stand out. As for the sound effects, again, everything is adequate but nothing great.
Despite the game’s many glaring flaws, it isn’t all bad. The platforming challenges and small puzzles thrown in throughout the game can be quite fun to solve at times. The boss fights are extremely challenging and will require a lot of skill to beat. If you can get past the flawed controls and bland presentation, then it’s a perfectly serviceable action-RPG. It’s not a bad game per-se, but it’s also not a good one.
For what it’s worth, I did find myself wanting to go back and play the game time again just to test my skills. Maybe I could fight through the controls and play this thing. It does have its moments of “pretty goodness” (which is a few notches below greatness) but in the end, the frustration of playing it was too overwhelming.
AeternoBlade has lofty goals and the potential to be a decent game, however the glaring flaws in its controls bring it crashing down to Earth. Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned, but a scorned woman has nothing on someone trying to play this game.