Broken down into parts, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition is a bit of a disaster.
For a start, it takes what seems like forever to get going. You create a character and enter the world of Gun Gale Online, a VR MMO with a heavy emphasis on teamwork. Though of course, you don’t play it in V; for the player sat at home (i.e. you) it’s a third-person shooter. And a pretty terrible one at that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, which is something I would have preferred Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition to do rather than feed me a couple of hours worth of text boxes full of pointless exposition when I started playing it. Honestly, it’s tiring. And what little tutorial information is imparted to you in the game’s first few hours is pretty useless too.
You’re told about features that will become useful in the future, but you’re not given the lowdown on basic game mechanics that are more important to get you started, like where to go to actually get into the action. And when you are told something useful, it’s in the most unhelpful of ways. You’re told that you can fast travel, for example, but you’re not shown how it’s done, which is an overly convoluted process. Instead, Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition would rather go into detail about crafting new clothing or transforming weapons; things that are pointless until you’ve poured many hours into the game.
The first few hours of Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet are a bit of a drag then; boring chit-chat and having to work out fundamental game features and mechanics for yourself doesn’t make for a great experience. But once the dialogue becomes more sporadic and you’ve become accustomed to how the game works, it does become somewhat enjoyable.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is a dungeon crawler at heart. You pick up quests back at the game’s hub, the SBC Glocken, and then head out to numerous fields to complete them. Every mission revolves around killing enemies, while is primarily done by shooting them with a wide range of guns. You can equip two at any one time, switching between them with the push of a button. But don’t worry, sword fans: there are some of those you can equip too, for the occasional bit of melee action.
On paper it sounds like a good setup – a game that mimics a MMO but with guns instead of the usual swords and sorcery – but in practice it’s let down by poor third person shooter mechanics. Taking cover is a pain in the backside, for example, and even when you are crouched behind a wall that’s taller than your head you’ll still find yourself taking damage. It all just feels a bit unrefined and clunky, which means you’re likely to just make use of the game’s auto-targeting feature and run around like a maniac while spraying bullets for the most part.
Bosses are where the action really comes into its own, requiring you to stop spraying and praying and actually think. You’ll need to employ strategy and tactics to better the strongest foes that Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition throws at you. You’ll need to level up, create an effective palette of skills and cover other team members’ backs. Though if you fail it’s never really much of a setback; ample fast travel points allow you to warp right back to most bosses after dusting yourself off.
In between all the action, you’ll be visiting various areas of the SBC Glocken to carry out busywork and prepare for more adventures. You can enhance your weapons, for instance, appraise mysterious items you’ve looted, or buy ammo for the guns that you’re going to use. The SBC Glocken is also where you’ll find other players to enjoy Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition in co-op with, or even fight against them. It’s your typical hub world, only with all the functions you’ll find useful unhelpfully spread out or gated behind a loading screen.
But despite so many aspects of Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet being terrible or simply not that good, there are reasons why you might want to pick it up on Switch.
The simple fact that it’s the Complete Edition is one of them. That means it includes the base game, its three DLC packs and its expansion. Overall, that’s a lot of game to go at. There are multiple endings to discover in Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition‘s main campaign, too, which may entice you to play through it multiple times, making different decisions or taking different actions. It takes a while to get going, but once the story picks up it’s quite interesting.
Switch players will also find that Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition both looks and plays well on Nintendo’s hybrid console. I’ve spent time with the game on Xbox One X, and was surprised to find that the Switch version is less prone to framerate drops and doesn’t look a great deal less appealing. Though perhaps that says more about the Xbox One X version.
The crux of it all though, is that Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition is a little bit greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not what most would call a good game by any stretch of the imagination, but for those who like completing repetitive tasks in the pursuit of seeing stats and damage numbers go up, it’s alluring. You can spend hours enhancing and transforming weapons, allowing you to take down enemies with increasing ease. And every level up presents an opportunity to increase your strength, dexterity or whatever you deem important.
Go into Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition expecting solid third-person shooter mechanics and you’ll be disappointed. You’ll be disappointed if you go into it expecting excitement and fun from the outset, too. Initially it’s a hard game to like, let alone love, but those with patience and an interest in trawling dungeons for the best loot might just find themselves sticking with it until the end. Whether or not they’ll remember the experience they had with it in years to come is questionable, however.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – Complete Edition is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. We reviewed the Switch version.
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