MOBA games have shown in the past to be evolving creatures. Any idea can be a good idea with the MOBA genre, it seems. Even with the market becoming inundated with titles, it will all eventually stabilize and the best ideas will prosper and evolve. Archeblade attempts to introduce a new concept, an arena where players are the deciding factor. Throwing in a third-person view and flashy visuals and the whole product sounds pretty good… on paper.
Archeblade is described by developer Codebrush Games as a cross between fighting games like Street Fighter or Tekken, and teamplay-MOBA games like League of Legends and DotA. The ambition is incredibly high, and I wish it the best, but at the moment there are just too many issues to find the game particularly memorable or enjoyable.
I can definitely see what style Codebrush Games was trying to go for. Elements of fighting games are present, with an upbeat soundtrack and bright on-screen effects when things happen. The game also makes use of the Unreal 3 Engine, which has lent its prowess to action and adventure alike. I’ll admit that seeing “KILL!!!” up on screen is a pretty exciting feeling, but I can get that with just about any violent video game. All of the characters have a Soul Calibur-esque feel to them, and most of them tend to have distinct looks and movements. There are a couple characters however who are almost entirely the same, with some minor differences in weapons or effects. The characters also have this ‘action-figure’ look about them, as if they’re made of medium grade plastics.
This continues all the way to the facial features, which are emotionless and unmoving. The game utilizes a champion rotation for free users, where a selection of heroes are available per week, so a user can experiment pretty freely with what character they find visually pleasing. Players can also shell out real money for recolors and custom skins as well, however, there is no other way to personalize your character. The in-game animations seem alright at first, but they can be clunky and detrimental versus a moderately skilled player. I’ll go into more detail on that in the Gameplay section. The soundtrack itself is fast-paced and fits the maps, however they are completely repetitive and this is true for the main menu as well.
The game is distributed through Steam’s platform, so players will have access to Friends Lists, chat-rooms, community pages and even guides. However, the in-game Social features are sorely lacking. There is no matchmaking, of any kind, as most matches are lobby based. Auto-balancing doesn’t exist either, so you will often run into issues with stacked teams and even one versus four games. This will throw the ball completely into an individual’s court if they want to even out the playing field. The game can work when you have a pool of friends, but the average player doesn’t have the time or patience to organize a full stack. If you decide to brave the community ‘matchmaking’, then there will always be the chance to go against more-experienced players or unbalanced characters. Some people think this is good training, but I think effective training requires a degree of humility. I ran into an awful lot of people who spoke broken English and other languages as well, so communication is a bit of an issue. A group of friends with shared interest in the game and a working VoIP program is recommended.
Archeblade is said to be a skill-based fighting game with team-based elements. There have been a wealth of fighting games released in the past, so you can feel free to imagine what that sounds like after factoring in the third-person view. The gameplay features combos and active-skills that have to be coordinated to beat opponents, but there is a sore lack of combinations that makes things pretty uninteresting. On top of that, some characters are completely unbalanced and have either super-powers or a lack of any strength of note. At most, the characters only have up to 5 attack combinations, so it’s not like you can play with combinations of combinations. The attacks themselves are slow and take anywhere from a second to hit to a fraction. The damage from them are also wildly spread apart between characters. In addition to the minimal influence of combos, this makes certain characters feel like a pop-gun would have more effect on the battle.
Currently, there are twelve characters to choose from (either from the free picks or purchased from the store). These range from a monk with a penchant for greed, a swordsman who reminds me just a little too much of DotA’s Juggernaut, and an undead revenant with a poisonous touch. Some characters have near complete copies in terms of models, as I stated in an earlier paragraph. Certain characters are also very easy to win with, such as an ice elementalist who can stun-lock characters near-endlessly. Combine this with the characters that simply aren’t as good and you will get bored from the 5-10 second matches.
ArcheBlade uses controls that are very similar to third person shooters and Smite; WASD for movement, Spacebar to jump, left mouse button for primary attacks and right mouse button for secondary attacks. Guarding is also possible, but some matches boil down to whoever can guard and evade the longest. The weaker auxiliary skill is activated with Q button, and the ‘ultimate’ is activated with F. Both of these skills require a charge meter to be filled up so you pretty much have to engage in melee combat in order to be more threatening. The controls are pretty clunky, and the animations are woefully predictable. I understand that skill-based games require pretty concrete mechanics, but (personally) I find that a hint of randomness makes reactions and retaliation possible. Isn’t that just as skill-based as any other competition? Character’s also have the same movement speed as well, so that takes the idea of chasing a fleeing enemy out of play. Most characters have to get into melee range in order to attack as well, so the more ranged characters have a natural advantage.
AB features purchasable characters and skins, so the business model is highly similar to other MOBAs on the market. Other than that, money-wise this game does not offer much in terms of transactions. For time spent, this game provides a difficult barrier of entry which could simply tone a person for another difficult first-or-third person game where accuracy and foresight are key. However, the average player will be turned off quite quickly from this title.
Archeblade offers a few different game modes to tinker around in, but the community treats them all in the same fashion: deathmatch. With this and the low amount of released characters in mind, the game can get pretty boring and/or frustrating at times. People also have some kind of animosity for dishonoring one-on-one fights as well… What? It’s a team deathmatch in most cases, and a free-for-all in one. People should really learn to expect unfair advantages and disadvantages to appear.
I’ve taken a look at Archeblade a few times in the past year, but it’s sad to the say that the game can be avoided. It seems to have not progressed that much, if at all, and the interesting idea it starts with proves to be rather poor when actually in-game. Sorry folks, but you’re better off playing something like SMITE for your 3rd Person MOBA.