Monster Blade Review: A Satisfying Slicing and Dicing Experience
Monster Blade, developed by Singaporean studio Nubee, is a game that bears familiar influences from both Capcom’s Monster Hunter franchise and the iOS hit game Infinity Blade and its sequel. The high production values were almost immediately apparent as I played through the initial Monster Blade tutorial and watched the opening CGI movie explaining the story.
Both the visual and audio aspects of this mobile game tie in to provide a strong first impression that would make it look right at home if it were a handheld console game.
This action-oriented title has players slaying fearsome monsters across a myriad of natural landscapes ranging from jungles to deserts to icy glaciers which seems similar at first to that of Monster Hunter. However, there is an absence of free-roaming movement as the intention of the game is to place you immediately in the thick of combat. At every stage, you face off against increasingly harder monsters in a 1v1 duel format culminating in a final boss fight. There are a set of stages to clear before you are given the option of moving on to a new dungeon (comprised of a series of stages) that contain higher leveled creatures.
The combat mechanics for Monster Blade have an Infinity Blade-esque feel for those who are accustomed to that popular series. Your weapon swings are controlled through finger swipes on your iOS or Android phone and your complementing battle abilities are activated via buttons located on the screen. These include a “super” that is charged from successful strikes, the ability to summon your ally (a game AI or Facebook friend), a “block” to defend against the enemy’s assault and a “dodge” to avoid incoming attacks entirely if you can time them well enough.
After cleaning up the first few easy fights, the degree of difficulty rises steadily but dungeon progression still remains within reasonable reach. While the monster attacks can start to get somewhat unpredictable, most players should be able to pick up the nuances in their attack patterns and fare better with each progressive attempt. Both your items and the monsters are classified into different elements, with certain monster types having a weakness to different elements. Killing them rewards you with gold or weapon or armor drops that contribute to your overall fighting ability and resources to upgrade your equipment.
Monster Blade operates on a freemium model but the good news is I did not encounter any severe dueling obstacles by depending solely on the free gear. After playing it for a few days, I would say there is a generous amount of leeway offered to non-hardcore players who do not wish to spend money on in-app purchases. For the more serious slayer, the cost of in-app purchase can range from $0.99 all the way up to $99. The payments are exchanged for diamonds which are used to open epic treasure chests containing unique loot like rare weapons.
As a huge fan of the RPG genre, my only small gripe with this otherwise great game is a lack of additional supporting narrative surrounding your own character and the whole Monster Blade universe. The initial narrative video sets the stage for the overall quest line of hunting the god beasts and ridding the infected land of their influence. But thereafter, aside from pockets of game-lore displayed during loading screens, there isn’t much narrative development for the slayer and the story at large. It would have been the icing on the cake for me – but probably a minor issue for most gamers – in the grand scheme of things considering that it’s a mobile game.
Although the overlapping influences from Monster Hunter and the comparisons with games like Infinity Blade will still exist in the minds of some, the resources poured into Monster Blade by Nubee has resulted in a highly polished product more than capable of standing on its own. According to Monster Blade game producer Kenneth Tan whom I spoke with, it took approximately 18 months and a budget of about $1.5 – 2 million for this title to come to fruition. It was perhaps helped by the $13 million in venture capital funding that the Singaporean startup got in 2011.
Since its official worldwide release at the end of May, the game has been universally praised with high ratings of 4.6 and 4.5 on the Google Play store and iOS App store respectively. It is indeed a commendable effort by Nubee to venture into unfamiliar territory from their previous staple of titles in this first attempt at a more action-centric genre. I am cautiously optimistic for their next action combat title.
(Edited by Steven Millward)