Stray Blade PC Review

Striking a balance between a great story and somewhat mediocre gameplay.

By R3GR3T, Posted 03 May 2023

Point Blank Games is a semi-small game development studio based in Berlin. They’re not exactly old or new, considering they’ve only been around for roughly 6 years at this point. Though, they do have a lot to learn from the looks of it. Their first release from 2017, Shock Tactics, an odd RPG strategy that took a few too many tricks from X-COM, was not quite so well received. Shock Tactics got mostly negative reviews on Steam for a myriad of issues ranging from performance, poor optimization, underwhelming gameplay, etc.


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They went back to the drawing board, and typically with reviews like those, you’d think a studio would take the community’s opinion into account for the next release. In this case, yes and no. You see, they teased quite heavily for the release of Stray Blade, their latest creation. It looked incredibly promising, with brilliant visuals and a great story on top of that, the game generated a lot of attention. Unfortunately, the developers missed the mark on this one as well, dooming what could’ve been a great game for some platforms.

Your adventure in Stray Blade starts off with the self-proclaimed adventurer and explorer, Farren West. His part in the game seems to be that of the underdog, but his part is so well played, and suits the story and some of his antics, as you’ll see soon enough. Though, you’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re after full-scale character creation. In Stray Blade, you’ll only have the choice between Farren’s gender and voice. Once you’ve picked Farren’s gender and voice, you can officially set off to explore Acrea, a land shrouded in mystery, danger, and a fair amount of magic.

Acrea goes by several names, the most notable ones are – ‘The Valley of Promise’, ‘Where God Sleeps’. In this case, Farren’s wildest adventure yet. Farren West is the typical lone wolf, with no friends or anybody to rely on, this turned out to be his biggest mistake and possibly his best decision. The reason behind this is that, not all things should be touched, and he learns this the hard way. Luckily, in Acrea, death is just a setback. With some help from a strange friend in an even stranger place, you’re brought back to life.


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The tutorial is relatively detailed and simple at the same time, and you’ll be given prompts and lore as you go while going a bit deeper into Acrea. This is where you’ll get to test out the combat and your most important consumable item, Heart Berries. While death is just a setback in Stray Blade, you can still die, so it’s important to keep your health bar up because nobody likes having to run back into a fight that is almost over. This is where Heart Berries is a literal lifesaver, and luckily, they’re not at all hard to come by since they’re scattered around just about every corner of the game.

Though, you can initially only hold onto one Heart Berry at a time, raising that capacity means you’ll need upgrades. Just like any other RPG, there is a leveling system, but it doesn’t follow the same standard or rules. Your first upgrades don’t have requirements and only need you to level up to get skill points which you can spend on those. After that, you’ll need to master the various weapons in Stray Blade to unlock the passive skills in your skill tree, only to spend skill points to acquire them.

This can be a bit longwinded when it comes to getting upgrades, but it’s also an interesting change of pace, it also makes you try out different weapons to find one that fits your taste. Though, with a multitude of weapons out there, it can become tedious when you prefer a blade with some speed over a heavy hammer that leans more toward being slow, but the hammer will unlock a health upgrade, whereas the blade will give you a damage upgrade. You’ll need a lot of patience to master the weapons that will give you the upgrades you want, but it is well worth it in the end.


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However, mastering weapons for upgrades is all good and fine, but you’ll need to craft them at a forge. This is where Stray Blade takes a slightly different approach as well. To craft weapons, you’ll need to find blueprints and materials, you’ll sometimes find them in chests, loot them from enemies, and on the rare occasion, find them in special placements. Resources to craft your weapons, just like Heart Berries, are also quite easy to come by, and you’d be surprised at how much you can find in a short span of time.

Luckily, your inventory is endless for the most part since you don’t actually carry anything on you. That job falls to your furry partner and savior of sorts, Boji. His presence isn’t just comical as it would seem when you first meet him. He’s like your backpack, support, revival when you die, and guide to Acrea. What makes Boji shine is his use of magic, or Flux as referred to in-game. While he doesn’t fight alongside you, his battle abilities can turn the tide of just about any fight for a quick finisher, even more so against an enemy that’s clearly much stronger than you.

Using Boji in battle does require synergy though, it’s quite tedious to fill the synergy bar at first, but an upgrade or two for him helps the charge climb a lot faster. Where Farren needs Skill Points from leveling up to unlock new passives, Boji instead needs Lore Points, but this is a bit harder to come by. Stray Blade is an extremely driven game with tons of lore to find all over Acrea. While most players would simply run past the little bits of lore, Stray Blade rewards players who pick up the lore by giving them Lore Points to spend on Boji.


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Boji’s other major use is Runes. Bringing a bit of magic into your battles can take the gameplay in a different direction, and Boji’s presence makes this possible. Runes are similar to consumables, but you’ll need to craft them for the weapon you’re currently holding. They bring a whole slew of their own benefits that give anybody an evil grin of possibility. From striking enemies back with a nasty shock if you don’t dodge or parry in time to massively raising your chance of a critical strike, Runes are a godsend in this game. However, just like weapons, you’ll need to craft them. Sadly, they don’t last forever either, so you’ll need to be careful with how you use them and when you craft them.

Now the part that everybody loves, combat. Who doesn’t like hacking and slashing away at anybody who stands in your path? Aside from the story, this is supposed to be the flesh and blood of a game like this. Unfortunately, the combat system is a little clunky and stiff and will need an unnecessary amount of timing on your part to keep your attacks going smoothly.

When it comes to combat, you’ll have a light attack, heavy attack, special attack, dodge, and parry. Your light and heavy attacks are obvious when it comes to their uses, and while they can be chained together for combos, you’ll need to watch your enemies and your energy bar. Special attacks are unlocked as you master the weapons, while they can do devastating amounts of damage, they sadly fall short because they fall under the same stiffness issue. This makes them hard to land and sometimes, even hard to control.


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As mentioned before, you’ll need to keep an eye on your energy bar as this will drain for any combat action. Luckily, you’re not stuck running in and out of battles to wait for your energy to recharge. Perfect dodges and parries will give you a much-needed boost in energy to keep the fight going for longer, but you can’t rely on that too much when you’re surrounded. Sometimes a tactical retreat to recharge is the wisest option until you have more energy efficiency.

So, you can craft weapons to get benefits from the skills they unlock at mastery, but armor plays a vital part too. Just like weapons, you’ll need to find and craft the blueprints for armor pieces but there is a fun catch. Armor affects your damage resistance and energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is how much energy your combat actions drain, and while you do sometimes have to trade damage resistance to keep swinging your blade for longer, you’ll have to decide what works best for you in the end. There’s a balancing act to go through with armor and energy, but finding what suits you is what makes fighting so much easier.

As you explore Acrea, you’ll find odd floating objects made of gold, ghostly shadows of stone ramps, or even glowing rocks. Being able to use these will require some progression further into the story, but doing so is all part of the fun. In Acrea, there are 3 metals that hold massive power, and each one has its own unique purpose. Though to unlock those powers, you’ll need to defeat each of the 3 generals and their respective creators. As an example – The Intium general will give you the Golden Flash ability, this allows you to use basically teleport to anything with Intium and to enemies for a surprise strike. Though, it also opens up the map a bit more. Each power opens the map for further exploration, and it’s definitely wise to go back and explore after each general.


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Stray Blade features an amazing art style that blends in quite well with the fantasy theme. While Farren West or any of the enemies you face have faces since they’re all hidden behind helmets, Boji’s facial animations are actually brilliant and play a huge part during any dialogue with him. There is clear attention to detail in the world itself and an even clearer contrast between each major region. However, this game has one game-breaking flaw, it stutters…. A lot. While on PC and as reported by players on other platforms, Stray Blade suffers from a lot of stuttering and camera issues. This clearly points to bad optimization and has left players to find their own ways to improve or even fix this problem. Sadly, this does break the immersion and instead replaces it with frustration.

While the visual side has its ups and down, the sound engineering and voice acting in Stray Blade are second to none. You might not hear much in terms of ambient sound, but you’ll definitely stick around for the conversations between Farren and Boji, and they talk a lot. This adds a lot of depth to the story because those same conversations tell you so much about Farren and his furry companion, but also about Acrea. There’s also a fair amount of sound engineering that went into Stray Blade when it comes to combat, magical effects, and even some of Farren’s abilities that really help the game shine.



 

With everything said, Stray Blade has so much potential to be amazing, but sadly, it falls quite far behind and might follow in the same footsteps as Shock Tactics. The story in Stray Blade might be its saving grace, but without optimization and possibly some work on the combat system, it might not be enough to help the game rise to the top. However, if you can look past the issues or possibly fix/reduce them, this game is an absolute joy to play, and the story of Acrea, along with the stories between Farren and Boji, will keep you coming back for more on their wild adventure.


Jay Claassen
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Stray Blade

65/100

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, Xbox One
Publisher(s): 505 Games
Developer(s): Point Blank Games
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Open World, Hack And Slash, Fantasy
Release Date: 2023-04-20

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