We’re suckers for a good action RPG here at GameSpew, and so Stray Blade appeared right up our street.
Developed by Point Blank Games, Stray Blade casts you as an adventurer in search of a forgotten land. And you find it, only to quickly lose your life in the process. But then something inexplicable happens: you come back to life. You’re going to get your chance to explore Acrea after. Though something seems a little off.
It’s clear before you even start playing Stray Blade that it isn’t the most polished of titles. Menus are basic and bland, giving a poor first impression. Still, once you’re in-game, the visuals are colourful and charming at least, even if they’re nothing to write home about. And while the dialogue can be a bit cringey, there is voice acting that’s up to a decent standard.
Soon you’ll start making strides in the game’s world, completing a string of tutorials that teaches how to do things like craft new equipment, heal, and, more importantly, protect yourself in combat. There’s a lot of combat in Stray Blade, of course, and it’s not of the hack and slash variety. Instead, you’ll need to study your opponent’s movements, and prepare to either parry or dodge their incoming attacks while looking for openings to land your own.
Thanks to multiple difficulty levels, this doesn’t need to be a soul-crushing experience though. It can be, if you’re quick to rush in or crank the difficulty up, but you can also put more of a focus on story and exploration if you wish. And we’d recommend it, too, as mechanically the combat of Stray Blade just isn’t as tight as we’d like it to be.
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Things just aren’t quite as responsive as they should be, and the correct timings for parries and dodges are all over the place. It leads to encounters that feel unpredictable but in the wrong way, and unnecessary frustration. It’s a shame, because there are hints of an engaging combat system, and the world of Stray Blade begs to be explored.
Though there are other issues too. Movement in general is a little clunky, and the game’s skill tree system is a little convoluted. There are some upgrades you can purchase with skill points from the outset, for example, but the rest you need to unlock by finding weapon blueprints, crafting those weapons, and then using them. It’s good that it promotes you to try new weapons, but what if you’re happy with the ones you’ve got?
With an update or two to make the combat a little tighter and more enjoyable, Stray Blade could turn into a action RPG worth sinking a decent amount of time into. Right now, however, only those willing to see past its glaring issues are likely to stick with it in the long term. There’s promise here, but lacklustre combat and a general lack of polish make it hard to see at times.
Stray Blade is available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.