Blackwind Gameplay

Blackwind is a top-down, sci-fi action brawler and shooter that has you piloting a cutting-edge mech with some sharp-edged laser blades. That’s ticking a lot of the right boxes for me. I love top-down games, fast-paced action combat, and battling mechs. I was optimistic about jumping in, and Blackwind wasted no time throwing me into the action.

The game begins with you, a young James Hawkins, riding in a spaceship with your father to deliver new mechs to the military on a far-off planet. Just as your good ol’ dad is telling you about the incredible prototype mech he’s been working on, which includes a built-in AI, your ship is shot down. To save your life, your dad sticks you in the prototype and ejects you to the planet below.

 

Down on the planet, you try to pop the hatch on the mech to get out. However, only your dad’s voice can override the mech’s command to keep you inside. I really liked this immediate problem you’re faced with. It gives the narrative two excellent issues to grapple with from the start. One, you’re going to die of hunger if you can’t get out of the mech. Two, you need to wade through who knows how many hostile aliens to find your father. For all you know, he’s already dead. In which case, you’re already dead too. Let the massacre begin.

Mech assault

The mech’s AI will run you through the basics of controlling your new weapon of massive destruction, and then it’s go time. You’ll set off to battle aliens and find your father. I love melee combat in top-down action games, so I opted to focus on my energy blades in the beginning. Your mech can perform a few combos, and slicing enemies to pieces is enjoyable. You can also perform finisher moves for some extra brutality. It’s a bit odd that all other enemies stop and watch you tear their partner in crime to pieces during these short clips, though.

Soon enough, I encountered an enemy that required me to parry it to be able to break through its defenses. More complex opponents, excellent. I thought this would be where combat became challenging and push my fledgling skills. However, if I blocked before the new blade-wielding enemy attacked, it would just stare at me until I lowered my guard. If I missed my parry as it attacked, it would kill me in two or three hits.

Enemies Can Chain Stun You To Death

A frustrating way to die. And even more so each time it happens.

In Blackwind, if you get hit by a high-impact attack like a missile or blade, you get briefly stunned. The result of this is that an enemy that assaults you with a flurry of attacks can often chain stun you to death. So, you’re essentially killed for making one mistake. It’s brutal, but not in a challenging and satisfying way.

Frustrating fights

After dying to this new enemy a few times, I got frustrated with the melee combat and switched to shooting lasers from my hand. This allowed me to easily dispatch the new foe. I just had to keep it at a distance while firing into it. This fundamentally changed the gameplay. Now the combat involves constantly moving backwards or to the side of your enemies while tracking them with your laser bolts, which was not as much fun for me. As I was faced with greater hordes of foes, this became a far easier way to survive than wading into the fray with energy blades. Until it wasn’t.

Blackwind Skill Tree

You can empower your abilities through a simple skill tree.

Eventually, I came up against a foe that I couldn’t outrun. It closed the gap to me in a flash and, again, killed me with no chance for me to dodge or counter. Thankfully, the game gives you an easy pass to any fight in the form of an ability that empowers your mech and slows everything around you. This ability renders any foe obsolete, bit I didn’t like that the only way to get through some sections of the game was to use it. It felt like a cop-out.

I think the main problem is that the difficulty balance regarding enemies of Blackwind is off. Most of the targets you encounter are cannon fodder, and you can slice them up or blow them away without breaking a sweat. But the tougher foes that should challenge your skills, simply don’t. It’s easier to defeat them if you run away while shooting or use your ultimate ability. Neither of those options feel satisfying.

The combat loop doesn’t reward your skill. I’d say there isn’t really room to develop your skills at all, and that’s a shame.

Watch where you’re going

As you roam about in Blackwind, the camera will move around dynamically. It’s a cool idea that feels great when it works well. But the camera often looks straight down at the ground from a position too close to the player. So, instead of an aerial view of your surroundings, you can’t really see where to go. Since enemies like to rush straight at you and bombs litter the pathways, you end up in a bizarre situation where you walk around constantly shooting your gun at areas just out of sight. I spent far too much time fighting against things off the screen.

Fighting Enemies Off Screen

What am I shooting at? Oh, that.

As for Blackwind’s narrative progression, I liked the initial setup. I also liked the misdirects that cause your perspective and journey to dramatically change. But overall, it’s a familiar story. Humans are greedy and will do bad things to ensure they’re the strongest force around. Then, they will prevent others from doing bad things and forget all about the harm they caused.

A lot of the voice acting from characters other than the main protagonist is flat. It sounds like the characters are reading from a script instead of living the story. The emotions sound forced, if they exist at all.

Slice, no dice

Blackwind has a lot of the right ingredients for an engaging and challenging hack, slash, and shoot action game. But the balance is all off, most notably and crucially in the enemies you fight. It lacks the elegance of a Souls-like game that kills you often, but challenges you to learn from your mistakes and improve. Instead of being pushed to try again, you’ll just end up putting your controller down and stepping away.

You can pick up Blackwind for PC through Steam for $19.99 USD, which isn’t too hefty a price. However, I think you can get a more enjoyable experience from other action RPG titles for the same amount of cash or even less.

Blackwind

4.5

Blackwind has the right ingredients for an engaging and challenging game, but the lack of proper difficulty balance and camera frustrations prevent it from hitting the right marks.

Logan Broadley
Logan is an enthusiastic player of games (sometimes too enthusiastic according to his wife at 2 AM), and a video game reviewer, esports writer and gaming news writer. Originally from South Africa, he started out as a writer in advertising agencies, but has since moved on to a much higher calling: video games.

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