Blackwind is a decent hack-and-slash action game with fast agile gameplay and a good mix of puzzles and platform sections.
Blackwind is an isometric sci-fi action game developed by Drakkar Dev and published by Blowfish Studios, releasing on all platforms on January 20. Drakkar’s last game War Tech Fighters released in 2018 and some inspiration is evident in this hack and slash game as you take control of a battle frame prototype and take out alien monsters on the planet Medusa-42. While I fought with the camera angle often, the environmental puzzles and steady stream of upgraded abilities, as well as utilising a drone that can be played local co-op, Blackwind was a lot of fun to play.
In a fully voice-acted and cartoon-stylised introduction scene, we see the starship “Pandora” shot down and James Hawkins gets separated from his father, who created the battle frames. Ejected from the ship, James finds himself hurtled down to the planet below, trapped inside a military battle frame which is like a mech suit. This suit is the Mark II version, and it contains an experimental cognitive neural network codenamed the Blackwind Protocol that guides you through learning how to control it. “Trust the AI, it will keep you safe”, are the last words James heard from his dad. James must learn the powers of the battle frame to survive the alien forces across different planet locations while searching for his father. The voice acting throughout the game was well done.
Blackwind will be playable on all platforms and this review will focus on the PC version. Using WSAD to move the battle frame, space to jump and double-jump, shift to dash/dodge and the mouse to attack, we start out using ranged attacks. As turrets and aliens die, they drop various orbs – blue orbs upgrade the battle frame, green orbs repair the frame and yellow orbs replenish special ammo power. It’s here I first felt I was fighting the fixed camera as I ran around stone pillars and explored the colony. Sometimes the camera followed closer to behind the battle frame, preventing me from seeing what was up ahead. I usually had to dash forward to see where the enemy shots were coming from, then dash back whilst aiming in that direction. If you choose to do so, you can put points into your dash ability so that it can damage the enemy, and that really makes it a useful escape and slay skill.
Thankfully Blackwind feels very agile as you have no limit on how many times you can dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge. You can shoot/bash crates and other objects to collect more orbs, so early on the enemy weren’t too challenging which helped me to find my preferred play style, especially once you learn melee attacks. As you start to kill an enemy, it will get to a weak point where it flashes red. Pressing ‘e’ will perform an execution move, picking the alien up and slamming it into the ground, or ripping off their wings and stabbing them with them. If you’ve played Drakkar Dev’s War Tech Fighters, you will be familiar with how cool some of these executions can be against the various types of aliens. You will fight spiders, drones, swarms, and other dangerous forms, some of which can block your attacks or are shielded, so you’ll need to do a ground slam to disrupt them.
There are also platformer areas where you’ll jump up/down to different levels, unlocking distant doors or lowering barriers, and sometimes you’ll need to jump up to a ledge and run sideways along the wall until you can drop down or jump up to progress which was a good addition and changed up the gameplay. Again, with the camera angles, I sometimes struggled to be able to double jump up onto some pipes. Other times my view was obscured by things in the foreground, and I just had to test jumping locations before working out how to get up or jump down. These times were a little frustrating while playing Blackwind, but thankfully didn’t occur too close in succession.
As you build up your collection of blue orbs, eventually you’ll come across upgrade platforms. Here you can specialise your skills, change the skin of the battle frame once you have unlocked them by finding pink helmet icons in the world, as well as fast travel to previous platforms you have visited. There are three skill trees you can put orb points into – general, combat, and special, so you can customise your specialisation to suit your playstyle. Later, you’ll find locked doors and no way to open them, but you’ll see a small vent.
It’s here where you’re introduced to your drone companion which you take control of. You’ll navigate the drone through ventilation shafts and other narrow spaces, then navigate through rooms to unlock the door for your battle frame to be able to continue. If you can get to the other side of the unlocked door, that’s ideal, but often I had to backtrack the whole way so that the drone could be sheathed in the battle frame. If you are playing local co-op, one of you will control the battle frame and the other the drone. The drone is more than capable of taking out aliens with its lasers but is much weaker of course.
Some locked doors require key codes and in the first few zones I generally had no issue finding keys and unlocking the path forward, though sometimes I had to do some backtracking as I had missed seeing a key in all the chaos of blowing sh*t up. Boss fights can be challenging at first until you learn their tells and can take advantage of them, but it was cool seeing much bigger and intimidating hulking frames.
Overall, I gave the game 7.5/10. Blackwind is a decent hack-and-slash action game with fast agile gameplay and a good mix of puzzles and platform sections. The story and cartoon-stylised cutscenes were enough to keep me invested in wanting to find out what happens next, and the voice acting was great. I often fought against the camera angle, particularly when trying to be precise with platform jumping sections, but the combat and execution takedown animations was great fun.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis