Blade Ballet Preview: Murder is a Dance
Greg Johnson / Sep 14th, 2016 No Comments
Multiplayer was the name of the game at PAX West 2016 with a number of contenders stepping forth to provide entertaining experiences for both online and local arenas.
Blade Ballet offered something for those who play against friends in the same room or across oceans by coming at players from all fronts. Smooth controls across a variety of characters, a well-crafted soundtrack based in several styles of music, and a premise of robot murder that was mostly suitable for all ages.
During my PAX West 2016 session, I got to engage in free-for-all deathmatch, as well as 2v2 soccer with both developers and fans of Blade Ballet. I won’t lie–I did surprisingly well.
Robots For Everyone
As of this showing Blade Ballet has 10 lovable little death machines to choose from. Each robot has a set of skills to make it stand apart from the pack. However, all robots function off the same premise of spinning in circles while attempting to hit one another with their unique weaponry.
I was incredibly impressed with how different each robot played, despite them having similar movement mechanics. Some robots spun faster, others could jump, and even one had the ability to side-step at will.
The difficulty curve of each robot was also clearly noted, giving me a hint of whom I should avoid playing as for my first match. I took that under advisement but quickly disregarded it to spend most of my time as Trigger, a jumping grenade thrower.
Trigger spun fairly fast compared to the other bots but was only armed with one blade. His face, however, had a grenade throwing attachment, allowing me to steadily lob grenades at my foes. If I scored a dead-on hit, it would count as a kill. But more often than not I used the bombs to try and direct enemies as I saw fit.
Blocking off a path might force an opponent into the fray with others, thus allowing me to pepper the entire group. I also had the option to use a well-placed grenade directly in front of me to fend off a charge attack, forcing a head-on bot like Vanguard to steer away mid-charge.
Of the bots, Torque was the most likely candidate for players learning the ropes of Blade Ballet. His ability granted him a brief increase to his spin speed. Torque’s entire play style was centered around constantly attacking other players, require less strategy and skill manipulation to succeed. Bots with higher difficulty ratings asked for players to use more finesse and planning to take full advantage of their unique skills.
The three modes I played in Blade Ballet were stock deathmatch, timed deathmatch, and then soccer. Deathmatch is incredibly straightforward and the two modes are most suited for varying sized groups of players.
Dubbed Blade Ball this soccer mode definitely requires either two or four players to ensure an imbalance in teams is not created. An incredibly skilled player could take on two less experienced players in Blade Ball. But by having only one player to pester and the other to focus on the ball, matches were very lopsided.
My favorite part about playing Blade Ballet was seeing both attendees and developers get sucked into the action. With such a fast-paced and chaotic game, action can change on the fly. The developers were surprised at the kinds strategies players implemented. They even got a big kick out of watching new players discover map mechanics.
Many maps feature surprising environmental dangers. Whether it was a killer avalanche, spinning laser gun, or floor panels that would sporadically fall away, the maps added another level of strategy to the game’s deceptively simple mechanics. For more vanilla players, one map did exist with no hidden surprises and existed purely for head-on deathmatches.
Final (Musical) Notes
One of Blade Ballet’s biggest selling points for me became the brilliant soundtrack. The soundtrack is randomized for every single match, meaning players won’t have to constantly hear the same 15 to 30 seconds of each track before being finally thrown into a new round.
While this tactic may seem like a given when making music that might not ever be heard to its full length, it definitely works for this genre of game. Thankfully for Blade Ballet, Dreamsail Games had the foresight to implement its music in this way.
Along with not trying to kill their fans with repetition, each track of Blade Ballet draws from a specific genre of dance music, thus playing into the theme of dance and constant movement throughout the game.
Watching the robots move in their graceful, yet destructive patterns to the tune of overly stylized dance music was nothing short of enthralling to both the ears and eyes. Very rarely has a soundtrack distracted me mid-game, but Blade Ballet managed to do it, and pleasantly more to my delight than irritation.
Going forward, Blade Ballet showcased a few new maps at PAX West 2016. I was teased with the possibility of cooperative game modes down the road, as well as the definite inclusion of new bots. The team stated they were basing future updates around what the community wants but with a fair touch of their own flights of fancy.
Blade Ballet was hands-down my favorite game featured at PAX West 2016. It is currently out on both PC and PS4 for any gamers looking to add robotic destruction to their social lives.
tags: Blade Ballet , Dreamsail Games , PAX , PAX West 2016 , pc , preview , steam