Born from a desire to break free from the casual-orientated games that publishers were requesting they make, Corecell Technology’s work on AeternoBlade has had a coloured past.
Seen as potentially being their last game, the Thai developer split into two teams: one working on incoming projects to continue to fund the company, and the other toward achieving their unfulfilled ambition. After a failed Indiegogo campaign, the team even took a reduced salary in order to see it through to completion. With such a backstory, it’s sad to discover that a game clearly developed with so much passion and hardship behind it doesn’t quite manage to come together.
AeternoBlade casts you as Freyja, sworn protector of Ridgeroad, who fails in her duty when Dark Lord of the Mist, Beladim, invades the lands and burns the village to the ground. Wracked with guilt as being the only survivor of the massacre, Freyja swears to avenge those slaughtered in the attack and pledges to slay Beladim.
That it is said that he can’t be killed by any means comes as no concern, the game opening with the heroine squaring off against her newfound nemesis. Naturally, the encounter doesn’t turn out so well, with Beladim felling her quickly and leaving her to die. Although the Dark Lord isn’t aware that she possesses the titular AeternoBlade, a sword capable of reversing the flow of time itself. Gifted to her hours earlier, Freyja isn’t aware of the weapon’s powers and it falls to a mysterious witch named Vernia to guide her in unlocking its true potential by recovering missing pieces.
And that sets AeternoBlade in motion, as well as becoming the game’s central attraction. Time manipulation isn’t the only key to reviving yourself from misjudged leaps and overwhelming battle encounters, but also for puzzles. Progression through the game will see you unlock additional time-bending abilities, granting a short distance teleport and the chance rewind time to dodge incoming attacks. Mana is required for activation, although this is usually plentiful in supply.
Any opinion on the game’s combat system will be divisive, endless button mashing that will see you thrash your blade around until your opponent falls. Freyja’s moveset is limited at first, deepened by expending orbs gathered from enemies bested in conflicts, even if the new combos don’t really overly differentiate the experience. Enemy AI is regularly questionable, running toward you only unable to leap over a small ledge to reach you, or trapping themselves in the game’s many spiked areas until their eventual death.
Freyja can be upgraded throughout her quest, whether that be with the aforementioned combos, increasing her stats, or equipping her with up to three Relics that enhance her skills. This brings a light RPG element to the game, noteworthy for allowing players to craft the character to suit their own play style.
It is in presentation that AeternoBlade ultimately falls short. Well-considered character models feel disjointed from the muddy textures that surround them, whilst assets are regularly recycled with the player repeatedly facing swarms of the same, re-skinned enemies. Sadly, bugs creep in threatening to derail the experience, whereas the localisation effort itself conjures up reams of dialogue that haven’t been translated as tightly as you would have expected.
Add-on content comes in the form of a “super sexy bikini” for Freyja as well as an Arena Mode, which tasks players with clearing wave after wave of enemies increasingly eager to defeat you. Whilst microtransactions are increasingly the norm, we can bemoan the fact that such content isn’t unlockable within the game itself – especially considering the game’s premium pricing (£13.50 / €14.99) in comparison to other Nintendo eShop releases.
There’s much promise behind AeternoBlade, with some nice ideas scattered throughout the game’s length. They may have achieved their dream, but it was one that needed further polish and refinement to be moulded into something truly special. Corecell Technology feel assured by their efforts to have shared that a sequel is on the way, and you need only to turn to the game’s Miiverse community to see that the first has already won them many fans.