In an industry where AAA games and starlight indies tend to get most of the attention, Blackwind is a budget title developed by Drakkar Dev and published by Blowfish studios that tries to deliver on a hack-and-slash style with “brain-teasing” puzzles.
Unfortunately, Blackwind ends up creating an experience that is more frustrating and repetitive than it is anything else.
Blackwind Review: A Lackluster Hack-and-Slash Experience
In Blackwind, you play as James Hawkins, the teenage son of a renowned scientist who has created an Iron Man-like mech suit outfitted with an AI named Blackwind. On their way to the mining planet of Medusa-42, the Hawkins’ ship is brought down by a band of Raknos aliens.
Professor Hawkins forces his son into the battle mech to survive the fall just in time for the ship to rip apart, catapulting Dad off into the distance and leaving our young hero alone on a foreign mining colony overrun with aliens.
Now, James is setting out to fight back the Raknos and pave his way across this mining world to reunite with his father and destroy the alien threat.
Throughout Blackwind you’ll unlock upgradable weapons like blasters and energy blades along with abilities like melee chains and the classic ground pound technique. Along with an impressive arsenal, a special abilities class also opens up plenty of combat possibilities. Rockets, shields, a radial force blast, and even self-healing technologies are all unlocked throughout.
Without going into deeper details and sharing all of Blackwind’s secrets, a few extra secret unlockables scattered around add to a stack of weapons and powers that bring plenty of options for approaching each section of enemies.
The Raknos, alien enemies that James goes toe-to-toe with during the search for his missing father, also come with a collection of their own weapons and abilities. Basic alien foot soldiers and sentry guns are often the least of your worries, with stronger elite soldiers and tank-style enemies coming at you from every angle.
Each enemy type brings its own combat style into the fray along with its own unique weakness, at times pushing you to open up your arsenal and push your gameplay style to try new tactics and tools.
Even with this large collection of weapons and an army of enemies, Blackwind’s combat often feels lackluster. There are plenty of mechanics to try out on any enemy, but the majority of enemies can be taken down easily with basic ranged or melee combat. Boss fights are few and far between, but they can often be taken down within a minute or two with little more than the basic attacks.
Melee combos and special abilities can come in handy in a pinch, but Blackwind fails to really push you out of your comfort zone often enough to make them core parts of the game’s combat loop.
Blackwind succeeds in character upgrades and cosmetic customization. Everything from basic weapons to special abilities can be upgraded through a skill tree, adding damage, bullet spread, fire rate, and more to help boost combat abilities.
The upgrades themselves definitely have value, and every bit of extra firepower can be felt during those intense late-game firefights when entire screens of enemies are attacking. Mech skins can also be found hidden across Medusa-42, providing plenty of new mech skins for you to choose from.
Puzzles scattered within the world work to add variety to the gameplay. A drone built into James’ mech suit can split off, giving you the power to toggle between the two to activate panels and flip switches that unlock the next area of the map. Another type of puzzle lets you unlock areas of the map by guiding a drone through air vents and activating security panels with a few enemies scattered along the way.
Blackwind’s biggest downfall is its lack of direction. While your AI finds and downloads maps for many of the areas that you explore, there is no world map to plot your path and figure out where to go. The onscreen minimap gives some guidance, but with much of Blackwind taking place in sprawling military compounds with multiple levels and dozens of identical hallways, I still found myself getting lost and having to backtrack frequently to find the next objective or area.
Blackwind’s camera is also painfully bad. It remains static throughout the majority of gameplay with no option to use a thumbstick to turn it and get a better view of the environment. Rather than guiding you toward key locations and paths, Blackwind forces you to run in every direction to try and find clusters of enemies, progress through levels, and advance in the story.
This is nostalgic in a lot of ways, since relying on finding new enemies is often the only way to know that you’re going in the right direction.
Unfortunately, nostalgic charm can’t overcome how much I wished that I had a world map to point me in the right direction. The poorly designed camera also has a negative impact on a handful of the puzzles, with shootable triggers just just out of view to add some unnecessary frustration to the puzzle solving.
Blackwind Review — The Bottom Line
- Enjoyable hack-and-slash gameplay
- Fun puzzles to unlock progression
- Great skill tree ability progression
- Frustrating player camera
- Lack of a world map
- Repetitive combat and dialog
While Blackwind isn’t a bad game at its core, the experience as a whole ends up being overwhelmingly bland. Generic landscapes, repetitive combat, and a frustrating lack of guidance make Blackwind a forgettable budget title that can safely be skipped.
[Note: Blowfish Studios provided the copy of Blackwind used for this review.]
Blackwind Review: A Lackluster Hack-and-Slash Experience
While it's packed with old-school hack and slash action, Blackwind's lack of variety and lackluster mechanics leave a lot to be desired.What Our Ratings Mean