Side scrolling action games, or brawlers, have been around since the beginning of the video game. Final Fight, Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Kung-Fu, Golden Axe, TMNT: The Arcade Game are some of the most iconic names in the world of video games. Fast forward a few years and you get beautiful action games like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Castle Crashers, Shank and Guacamelee. All of these games put you in the shoes of a lone character (or you and a friend in co-op) versus an entire army of people bent on stopping you. Now a new challenger approaches in the form of the Wulverblade and the game is bloody fantastic, emphasis on the bloody.
Wulverblade tells the story of a group of ancient Britons and their fight against Roman invaders. It’s set in the real world around 120AD and you play as one one three siblings in the fight against the Roman hordes. You play as one of three siblings (Caradoc, Brennus, or Guinevere) and each of those characters has different fighting characteristics. Caradoc is the most well rounded of the three. Brennus is a hulking Brute who can take and dish out large amounts of punishment, but is a little slower. Guinevere is the fastest of the three, uses ranged attacks and can string together combos from mid-air as she fights.
The gameplay itself has a pretty simple premise. You move left to right (or sometimes right to left) killing everything in your path. You have an attack button and a jump button. Occasionally when you pick large weapons off the ground you can perform heavy attacks with those weapons to deal out large amounts of damage, but those weapons are very brittle and don’t last very long. You can also block with a simple button press, and believe me when I say you’re going to want to learn to block. It’s essential to having any success in the game. While you’re blocking you can also double tap a direction to roll that way. This allows you to quickly get behind enemies who are carrying shields or roll away from enemies who might be doing more damage to you than you like. It sounds like there’s not a lot to the game, but the simple mechanics are bolstered by a pretty solid difficulty level to keep you on your toes, moving constantly and always fighting someone.
As you fight you can perform execution moves on stunned enemies and build up a rage meter. When this meter is full you can go into a rage mode. This causes the screen to fill with a bloody red color and your character’s speed increases to super human levels, you become temporarily immune to any damage and you actually can refill your health as you kill enemies. I found Rage mode to be invaluable to use as my health dwindled. You have three ‘lives’ that once they’re gone you have to restart from the nearest checkpoint in the level.
The game is incredibly beautiful, even in its brutality. The game looks and feels similar to Castle Crashers with the vibrant colors surrounded by heavy, thick black borders. All of the characters themselves have a lot of attention to detail. Characters with lots of hair really stand out, the blue paint or tattoos that adorn many of the character bodies really stand out against the darker colors of the clothing and the world itself. This really helps to accentuate the amount of blood present in the game. It’s truly brutal. As you defeat enemies they’ll drop different parts of their bodies that have been amputated. You can then use those body parts as weapons. Pick up arms, armor, heads and more and then toss them back at enemy fighters to do some pretty decent damage to them. The game is rated M for its amount of violence and it’s clear to see why. There’s also some fairly strong language in the game.
One other thing that helps this game to stand out is that it’s fully voiced. Every character in the game is voiced. Aside from signs or letters that you pick up there is no text to read in the game. The voice acting is also very well done. The Scottish fighters have thick accents and they stand in start contrast to the Romans they’re fighting who while angry sound more “proper” when they speak.
One of the biggest hooks to the game is the amount of British history they’ve packed into the game. The events of the game are based on real ancient British history as you’re dropped into the Roman invasion of England nearly 2,000 years ago. As you play and progress through the map you’ll find different points where you can watch short videos about the locations the developers used for inspiration in the game. You will also collect little historical notes about the weapons, characters, locations, and events in the game. There’s a literal TON of history packed into this game and hundreds of real world photos to be found. Much of this you would expect to be included in a special edition release of the game, but you get access to it all in the game.
There are also a couple different modes to play once you’ve completed the main story. You can play an arcade mode which is similar to the campaign, but you get three lives and that’s it. Just see how far you can get before you die. An arena battle will put you into some of the different environments from the game and just send wave after wave of enemy against you. There are a number of achievements to gain for anyone that likes to hunt them.
While the game can be played by yourself the difficulty level may eventually prove a little high. I initially played through the game co-op with my son and we didn’t find the game to be too hard. We had to restart about half of the game’s levels, but was able to get through them the second time with almost no problem. It’s great when you can get an enemy caught between you and a friend and you just juggle them back and forth. You watch the hit counter rise and by the time you’re done there’s nothing left of them. The game doesn’t appear to scale based on the number of players so playing solo is more difficult, but not impossible. Learning the game’s mechanics and systems will really help. Utilize all the drops in the environment, grab the meat on the floor to refill your health and be smart with your use of Rage mode and you’ll be able to finish the game alone.
Wulverblade is a bloody brilliant game. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd in a genre as loaded with great titles as this, but the sheer brutality of the game, the beautiful visual style and the empahasis on real world history is sure to help it be a game that could be on the top of many people’s favorite games list. There was a twist at the end of this game I did not expect, but once I finished the game and did a little bit of historical research it made perfect sense. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but it completely changed the way I expected the end of the game to go. Don’t miss this game if you enjoy brawlers. Don’t miss this game if you are a history buff. Don’t miss this game if you enjoy 4-5 hours of really solid, enjoyable, brutal game play. Wulverblade is a bloody brilliant game, emphasis on the bloody.
Review copy of the game provided by the publisher
Played through the full game in co-op. Playing a second time solo.
Total Play Time: 6 hours