The decapitated head of my enemy lays upon the ground before me. I deftly scope it up and hurl it at his comrades laughing gleefully before tearing them to shreds as well. This is Wulverblade.
Following up a successful Switch release last Fall, Developers Fully Illustrated and Darkwind Media have just released their hardcore side-scrolling beat’em up, Wulverblade for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. How does this M rated, historically inspired, arcade brawler stack up on PC? Turns out it’s savagely fun.
History With a Splash of Color (Mostly Red)
The game’s story takes us back to 120 A.D. with the Roman army attempting to seize control of Britannia. After defeating the Southern tribes, the Ninth Legion sets their sights on the lands in the North. This doesn’t sit well with our protagonists, three Northern tribe siblings determined to protect their home at any cost.
“It’s hard to be repulsed by savage displays of bloodshed when they look this good.”
Wulverblade draws a fair amount from British History with Creative Director, Michael Heald eager to show off the fruits of his research. As you progress through the levels you’ll unlock loads of images and videos featuring the locations and relics the game drew inspiration from. All of which can be viewed from the menu if you want to keep book learning separate from your brutal brawling.
The historical additions are a nice touch, but can easily ignored if in favor of just embracing the stylishly satisfying mayhem. Wulverblade features a gorgeous illustrated art style that completely undermines it’s supposedly mature rating. It’s hard to be repulsed by savage displays of bloodshed when they look this good.
The 2.5D levels hide an assortment of goodies, from loot to various dangers. The developers went all out to use the different environment layers to their full effect with shadows and characters passing by in the fore and backgrounds. This gives players a hint at what’s coming without slowing the action.
The game kicks off with players selecting their combatant based on their preferred playstyle. Brennus is the largest and excels at grappling and power moves. Guinevere is the most agile and able to pull off devastating aerial combos. Finally, the eldest brother Caradoc offers a balanced skill set, able to draw attacks from either style.
“the campaign’s story belongs to big brother”
Despite completing the campaign exclusively as Caradoc, at the end of my time with the game I actually preferred the other siblings. Caradoc’s controls often felt clunky. This was fine for the first two levels of the campaign where you can just smash the attack button and watch the bodies hit the floor. By level 3, the enemies start to wise up and you’ll have to start utilizing actual moves and combos. This is where Guinevere’s more fluid movement or Brennus’ powerful hits will start to make a huge difference.
One minor complaint I had is that regardless of which character you select, the story is always focused on Caradoc. You can unlock some backstory for the other siblings in the extras, but the campaign’s story belongs to big brother.
The Battle for Britannia
It’s worth noting that the actual campaign is relatively short. I pulled it off in about 5 hours, but anyone actually proficient at beat’em ups could probably blow through it much quicker. To keep players coming back, Wulverblade features several additional game modes and an online leaderboard where they can track their progress.
Arcade mode challenges players to conquer the entire campaign with only 3 lives and 3 continues. There’s also Beast mode which unlocks after players have completed the campaign at least once, on any difficultly. Here players are given access to their character’s wulver form for the duration of the story. Despite not counting towards leaderboard scores, this was the most satisfying mode for unrepentant carnage.
- Satisfying carnage
- Gorgeous illustrated art style
- Combat that requires more skill as you progress
- Short campaign mode
- Occasionally clunky keyboard controls
- No online co-op or multiplayer (local only)
Wulverblade is a colorful action brawler that gives players a taste of the history and lore of ancient Britannia. The cartoony style works great against the savage, often over-the-top combat. Managing to pull off a devastating combo against the Roman hordes feels immensely satisfying every time.
The actual campaign story is short with only 8 levels. Unlocking all the extras and spending time in arcade and arena modes to raise your score is a large portion of the game. If you aren’t up for that you may feel a bit let down once the credits roll.