HomeReviewReaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman – Nintendo Switch Review
Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman – Nintendo Switch Review
October 19, 2019
Developed By: Hexage
Published By: Hexage
Reviewed By: Alex Laybourne
Thank you so much to Hexage for providing a review code
An Action RPG by Any Other Name
Action RPG is a term that seems to have
become the default label for almost any game that hits the shelves these days.
It’s like the ‘thriller’ genre in movies. Anything that doesn’t fall firmly
into a specific category gets labeled as an Action RPG.
Even though that is probably the closest genre that fits a title like Reaper: Tale of the Pale Swordsman, it is also a shining example of what can be wrong with the indie scene on the Switch.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE indie games, with a passion, but sometimes you come across these titles that sound very good, and sell themselves well, but underneath is generally an overly generic watered-down version of something bigger and better.
That is the feeling I get when playing Reaper, and it was strange because when I first started it up, I really enjoyed it. The first hour was good fun, but then, it dawned on me that there was nothing more to it. Sure the sprites changed, but the game itself peaked in the first scene and never wavered too far from that spot.
Arise The Pale Swordsman
The story of Reaper is an age-old tale of
rebellion and resistance. To summarize, an Imperial army invaded the wilderness
to bring their civilization to the tribes that lived there. The driving motive
was fear of the magic that the tribes used. There are three different Imperial groups
you will encounter during the game and six different tribes, who live scattered
through the Wilderness.
The wilderness is where the game takes place. It’s easy to find as it’s one of only three options on the main menu. There are no levels to speak of, rather a series of stages that spread around the world, interwoven by something that seems, at times, like a single branching narrative. I say at times because I found myself in a constant state of separation from what was going on. While there was some sort of narrative, there seemed to be no real plot and no central flow between encounters. It felt random and ultimately disjointed taking me away from what draw and appeal the game had.
Tired Gameplay That Promised So Much More
You play as the Swordsman, a nameless, faceless and sexless character who never gets identified. The lore of the world is told by a wise owl, who appears throughout the game imparting the lore through whimsical tales during dinner and excursions.
As I mentioned during my introduction, the game has a lot of content but sadly, very little substance. It constantly feels shallow. The effort put into the world and the map seems bland as if the mentality of ‘good enough’ was sufficient for all involved.
The map is bland and unoriginal, with little detail that makes you think, wow, there was a lot of thought invested in this. One redeeming feature was the dialogue. While the plot was disjointed the interactions with the different characters are consistently based on their loyalty and standing.
While I say this it also manages to compound my belief that this game could have been so much more. If the thought that had been placed into the dialogue was shared across the gameplay and general structure, I would find this game much more impressive. Given the price point I can’t help but wonder if the feeling was, this is good enough for the money, rather than this is going to give the best experience.
Likewise, the skirmishes themselves are short sharp encounters that come close to hitting the mark but fall just short of being memorable. The controls were sluggish and just slightly offbeat. Not enough to call it lag, but too slow to call it responsive. Button bashing is the order of the day, but in a hack and slash, which is exactly what these fights were, that is fine. However for that type of combat to work, you need crispness. Too often I found my character continuing to swing one, two or sometimes even three shots after I stopped pressing the buttons.
There is the potential for a very good game to be found here, and it is a shame that it is not given the opportunity to truly shine.
Aside from the “Wilderness” mode, there is a challenge area called “Dark Harvest”. The game gives you no explanation about this world or what it is. Only after having played it for a while did I realize it was nothing but an endless skirmish loop. Wave after wave of the enemy would come, moving across different platforms and worlds. You could level up and you could improve your weapons, but you just got nothing to show for it. It was fun to play for a time, but much like the main game, it grew tiresome fairly fast.
One thing I really felt the game was missing was the ability to learn new moves and expand your move set. You’re told about the core attacks during the tutorial and that was it. Sure, the moves got more powerful, but there was never anything new to learn, and that made it feel as if the game never truly progressed.
All too often as I was playing, I would think of some type of different move that could have been introduced, or at the very least some form of combo system. Anything to bring a little bit of tactic and skill to the gameplay.
Creative Characters Can Only Carry a Game So Far
There is nothing necessarily wrong with Reaper, and the visuals are a nice mix of cutesy and gothic designs. It has a darkness to it that while isn’t a dominant part of the plot it was an undeniable undertone that could have been better utilized.
The characters were all quirky and as I mentioned
the different enemies were both creative and challenging. It almost feels to me
as if so much thought was given to this element of the game that they simply
ran out of time to flesh out the protagonist.
The look of the map was a disappointment, and the different stages also start to feel repetitive far too early into the game, and this, in turn, places too much strain on the characters themselves to lift up the game’s faults. While they do an admirable effort, it was a case of being a bridge too far.
A Competent Swordsman
from my earlier comment about what seems like input lag I didn’t experience anything
technically wrong with the game. It is a solid title, certainly for the price
The only other item that I think should be mentioned, and I am not sure if this is a problem or rather intentional. I understood from the game’s description that you could choose what you stood for in the game, choose which sides to work for. However, taking on the role of mercenary for hire, I went through a lot of the game accepting every quest.
However, after a while, I wanted to try and create my own story, as it looked set that the game would not really do this for me, but when I tried to refuse some quest requests, I was not allowed. The question kept looping until I agreed.
Now, as I said, maybe this was a sub-quest
of something bigger I was already locked in on, I am not sure, but I found it a
little strange nonetheless.
After having sunk a fair chunk of time into Reaper, and having it feel like a much longer experience than it was, all can say is that I feel somewhat indifferent to the title.
Is it a bad game? No, it’s not.
Is it a good game? No, it’s not.
Reaper is a game that comes across as being
very much average. A game that is bought on a whim, played for a while and then
archived and never really looked at again. There may be fans of the PC version
that want it on their Switch, and there may be others who really enjoy the
story and can accept the repetitive hack and slash for something more than it
is. That’s all well and good, but for me, the game feels rushed.
That is possibly what I find the most off-putting
about the title. It’s not that it is bad, or that it was as good as they could
have made it. It is the lingering whispers of a game that deserved better. It needed
that little more polish and thought to take it into the ranks of being memorable,