Wulverblade is set in 120AD Britain with the Roman army marching north to conquer the rest of the island. Rome has sent the Ninth Legion to complete this task. The Britons of the north are not prepared to give up and have rallied behind Caradoc, the guardian of the northern tribes. The tribes will dismember any who get in their way, ready annihilate the enemy so that they will never want to come back.
Wulverblade has all the elements of a traditional beat-em-up. From the side scrolling button mashing, special weapons to pick up, hordes of constant enemies to fight, and food to help replenish your life. The game embraces the history that was set forth by Golden Axe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Dungeon and Dragons arcade games to name a few of the original Beat-em-up’s that graced video game arcades that were dominant in the 90’s.
However, Wulverblade does a magical thing to the genre and adds layers upon layers of unique mechanics to the game that evolves it into a gorgeous story. The team behind Wulverblade did not waste the setting of the game. They made meticulous efforts to research and study the history and locations of the British Isles. Throughout the game you can find amazing facts about the history of the era, from something as simple as the origins and uses of a specific weapon, the history of the pagan religions that dominated the time, and even the artifacts and carvings in rocks and the purposes behind them. It was an amazing dichotomy of events, where one minute you are chopping off the head of a devious foe and in the next minute you are reading about swords and weapons of the time.
The game also adds a unique mechanic to the standard beat-em-up by allowing the player to block attacks with their shield. This technique can be used with a variety of moves to attack or dodge the enemies barrages. When the shield is used at the perfect moment, you can block an attack and counter with your bone smashing attack. The shield also becomes a valuable asset when you are dealing with ranged attackers. You can block their arrows or throwing knives, and then charge in with the shield up to close the distance.
Wulverblade adds another unique mechanic to the game, by introducing a ‘rage’ bar. The bar slowly increases over time as you fight enemies. Once the bar is completely filled you can enter a berserker trance. While in this trance your attacks do more damage, you take zero damage from enemy attacks and replenish your health. The timing of the use of this ability becomes very critical, and must be used during the hardest parts of some of the levels.
The team’s decision on the art and animation really do it justice. They found the right balance for the game so that they could have beautiful and fluid gameplay, but they were also able to balance the fights and characters with the gorgeous backgrounds and tie the game together. This really shows the nurture and care that was put into researching all aspects of the game. The team put great love and attention into every meticulous detail of the game and this can even be seen in the carefully cultivated music that really draws you into the action.
With all the history and attention to detail put into the game, I began to wonder if there was some truth to the story that was unfolding before me as I played the game. It brought me back to the opening scene of “Gladiator” with Russel Crowe, but I was on the side of the barbarian horde instead of the disciplined and powerful Roman Army. Today, I was going to destroy that army and bring back Russell Crowe’s head on a pike for the Northern Tribes to celebrate.
While most players will start out in normal mode, which will give players as many lives as they need to complete the campaign. The Wulverblade team threw down the gauntlet by providing an Arcade Mode. In Arcade Mode you only have three continues and each continue only provides three lives. If you thought Normal Mode was hard, I salute those who can easily dominate Arcade Mode. One does not simply beat Wulverblade. One must master Wulverblade and use all your abilities and tactics to overcome the challenging and devious foes which you will face.
The game adds plenty of goodies to make the completionist in each of us go crazy as well. From finding every bit of lore in the game, to unlocking the achievements (yes you read that right!!! A Nintendo Switch game with achievements!!) To taking a swing at the Arena and trying to fight off endless waves of enemies to get to the top of the leaderboards.
Wulverblade will not hold your hand through the game. It will not comfort you when you weep in shame as it defeats you. It will drink your blood and tears in a scream of glory and yet, you will come back for more punishment and will come out of the other side a stronger player and a hero to your people. Will you take up the gauntlet that Wulverblade has thrown down? I give this game a 9 out of 10 because I can feel the passion put into the game and have enjoyed every moment of it.