Title: AeternoBlade II
Release Date: October 11, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Genre: Action Platformer
I’m not one to shy away from niche action games, and I’m always up to try new things. For me, the AeternoBlade series served its purpose on 3DS, and I didn’t think much of it until AeternoBlade II was announced. The number of decent ideas and lack of budget would be the best way to describe the series and that still shines true in AeternoBlade II. However, you can only describe the animation and story here as b-level quality, with a hack and slash formula that can be rather rewarding.
AeternoBlade II picks up after the events of AeternoBlade. This game requires you to know the first game since the main character Freyja returns and doesn’t spend much time filling you in on what happened before. The opening act can only be described as comical as the game jumps the player from scene to scene without any real explanation as to what’s going on. Then, without slowing down, you’ll be playing as Felix and Bernard before you get the chance to understand the basics of combat. The problem here is that the game doesn’t give you time to catch your breath. You’re expected to not only keep up with the characters and their situation but also each of their abilities that bend time.
The story is an afterthought in AeternoBlade II as players go through the motions of meeting new characters and switching characters as soon as they get the hang of a set of abilities. It gets frustrating because they each have different weapon types, so you need to adjust playstyles on the fly, but things do end up become more straightforward after the first opening act and a few boss battles. However, whether a player sticks around to see this side of the game is another story.
What saves the game is its decent combat that is as repetitive and mindless as you might assume it is, but it responsive where it counts. Sure the enemies are pretty much the same ones faced in AeternoBlade, but they are fun to take out. The game’s combat takes some getting used to, though, because some enemies aren’t staggered by your attacks and will swing their swords no matter how much damage you’re unleashing on them. It creates some frustrating situations, but it still manages to be satisfying.
That said, using the time-warping abilities was never my go-to strategy for taking random grunts out. However, I did make it a point to use them during boss battles, which are the highlight of the entire game, well the ones that can’t be cheesed through at least. If you die multiple times during a boss encounter, the game will offer a lower difficulty for that area, which is an excellent option to have. There are also enemies who can only be defeated using the time abilities, but they were extremely annoying.
Gameplay has multiple modes as it switches between 2D action to third-person action to puzzle platformer. It makes you wish the developer spent time perfecting one of these genres because you’ll switch randomly during gameplay and it never feels right. There were times when I just got out of a challenging fight, and then the next room contained a save point with a puzzle that slowed things down.
Some puzzles are optional, but they contain powerups that are useful, so you pretty much have to do them. Puzzles in the game sometime require you to use the powers of the respective character. These get pretty challenging and ended up being what I would have preferred the entire game be.
The third-person mode is just strange and shouldn’t be in the game. It’s unusual for some encounters, but the camera and lock-on never seem to work correctly during bosses, and it does nothing to the enjoyment of the game. I’ll also add that there are quick-time events in the game where if you miss a button press, its an automatic death, but you get to retry without any real consequence.
The animations in the game strangely look worse then AeternoBlade. Each character in AeternoBlade II has smooth facial features that resemble the early 2000’s insurance ads. To add fuel to the fire, the audio and writing in the game are merely as bad. It’s a laughable quality that made me enjoy it a little more because of its b-movie level presentation. I understand this game is a budget title. Still, there’s so much in AeternoBlade II that doesn’t need to be in it, which made me wish the developer put time into other things like making me give a damn about the cast of characters and their situation.
What AeternoBlade II does well is environment design. Stages have a nice flow to them that makes them resemble a Metroidvania. Also, some of the camera work executed during the 2D sections of the game are cool. Each level has a different theme, and they have imaginative background imagery and details that make it feel like one big connected world.
The time-bending abilities in AeternoBlade II are actually quite fun to mess around with. Freezing, reversal, transportation, and more all work in the game. It’s nice using them in boss battles as well as during platforming and puzzle sections of the game. While the button layout was questionable at first, I got used to using each of the skills over time. I would say that my favorite would have to be “Replay” ability where a shadow of my former self replays actions so I could deal double damage.
AeternoBlade II didn’t do anything for me. The story and characters are forgettable, and there’s way too much happening to try to understand the story. The game also requires that you’ve played the previous entry to understand the characters, which already alienates a large group of people.
The puzzles, bosses, and platforming sections are why I continued to play through AeternoBlade II, which made me wish that that’s all this game was. This game was made with a small budget, and it shows, but I felt that many of the ambitious modes and gameplay elements found within it could have been cut to focus on what’s fun. Also, Zevil is the worst.
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