So, how about that PlayStation 4? I know I’m having fun making those Shadows Fall, Knacking to the tune of My Sharona, and playing a really piss poor port of Madden… Ok, so I didn’t get a PS4. My recent time has been spent with something from “last gen,” the early PS3 release Heavenly Sword. I was going to do a launch title, but who actually remembers any PS3 launch games besides “Riiiiiiiidge Racer!” or that game with the giant enemy crabs?
So you play as Nariko and you kill the bad guys that are bad because reasons. Bohan, the main antagonist is trying to unite the land under one banner which could have been interpreted as a good cause but he does it in the most evil way because as we all know, being an evil person makes people want to join your army right? It’s a pretty generic story but it gets the job done.
Of course though, you can forgive a bare-bones story if it has the gameplay to back it up right? Well, you could if this game had engaging gameplay. The combat presents itself as a God of War/Dynasty Warriors style game with tons of enemies on screen but then you actually play it and the combat just doesn’t flow. Maybe I’m just spoiled by the grace of combat in the Arkham games, maybe I just didn’t “get” the combat system in Heavenly Sword, but it felt stilted, delayed, and ineffective against all the enemies that would mostly block. So now I have to wonder, were they trying to make this a God of War type combat game in which you pull off crazy combos with crazy weapons or were they trying to go for more of an Assassin’s Creed combat in which you block and carefully wait for your opening. You can’t have it both ways.
The game case touts that you can “unleash seamless transitions between attack stances.” HA. While the theory of using the triggers to switch between stances on the fly is sound, in practice, it left the combat jagged and left you open for attack more often than pulling off anything cool.
With the unfocused combat I never felt that I was wielding a “Heavenly Sword.” The only time you actually feel powerful through the entire game is literally 30 seconds before you face the multi-stage final boss, which was total bullshit as defeating the boss relies on countering projectiles, a skill that is never explained and never utilized in the rest of the game. Not only that but the counter system in this game goes against how countering is done in nearly every other game ever made. Usually in games, you would counter right before an attack hits, in this game it’s right after. It may not seem like much, but it ruins the natural flow of countering that has been imbedded in my brain from so many other games.
The feeling of not being that powerful in the game is reflected in Bohan’s motives for wanting the sword. He doesn’t want the sword to use it, he just wants it as a trophy. If he doesn’t care about the sword, why should I?
Then there is the technical side of things. While Heavenly Sword didn’t have any glitches while I was playing, it tended to chug its frame rate from time to time, and this was with a required install to the harddrive.
Ok ok ok, I’ve been pretty negative so far but there are some things that umm… well they aren’t good per se, but they make the game suck less. First of all is Andy Serkis. Yes, Gollum motion capture guy Andy Serkis. He provides motion capture and dramatic direction in the game which brings a certain flair to the story. But then the shtick wears very thin by the end of the game as you get worn out by all of the over acting and hammyness from every character.
Oh, it isn’t all poor sword combat, at some points in the game you play as Kai and you have a badass crossbow. But then you have to use the Resident Evil style of controls in which you can either move OR shoot, never both at the same time. And even then, these sections only consist of shooting with the “aftertouch” mechanic. Basically you hold the button down and you can guide the arrows with the sixaxis controller. Yes, remember, early PS3 games all needed to have motion controls crammed in somewhere.
Thankfully you can actually disable all motion controls in the game and it will map the functions to more traditional means.
I don’t normally regret playing a game. I didn’t regret playing Duke Nukem Forever, I didn’t regret playing Dark Void, but I was very disappointed with Heavenly Sword. Stilted combat that just gets worse with the final boss left me frustrated during the entire game. And when the most positive thing I can say about your game is that I can turn OFF a feature? You have problems.
Maybe they’ll do a better job with the CG movie.
Heavenly Sword is published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and developed by Ninja Theory and doesn’t seem to be available outside of the second hand market.
An PS3 copy of this game was independently acquired by the reviewer.