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Die by the Blade review: A homage to Bushido Blade and Deadliest Warrior that doesn't quite strike true

The game harkens back to fighting games of the past, but lacks the punch to reach the same level.

Custom header for Die by the Blade review, two stars
Image credit: VG247

Making a fighting game is hard - making any video game is hard! If it was easy, everyone would do it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try of course. If you've got a killer idea in your head or a love letter to games of the past at your fingertips, you should absolutely give it a crack. Die by the Blade feels like one such game, calling back to living room epics like Bushido Blade or the Deadliest Warrior games. Sadly, it doesn't quite hit the heights of such titles.

That's not for lack of trying! Die by the Blade has a nifty blend between a classic samurai aesthetic and a futuristic cyberpunk look and it works well as the foundation to the game's vibe. This is best protrayed by its stages - many of which I love! I dig the ultra-clean offices and dojo arenas, but do have a soft spot for dingy streets and dilapidated shrines you can fight to the death in.

It's in these arenas that you clash with either computer-controlled opponents or other players online in tense one-strike-kill combat. The whole game revolves around baiting out enemy attacks, figuring out what they're about to do and using their mistep as a opportunity to stab or slice 'em. It's a tried-and-true design for fighting games that inevitably leads to a tense and exciting atmosphere. There's a real thrill rolling under an enemy attack and striking true in quick succession. Seeing an arm, leg, or head fly off is a gruesome party popper that marks the end of a round - and it works wonders every time.

I believe Die by the Blade is ultimately a victim of its own budget. This game is small in scope and was clearly made with far less manpower and financial assistance than the games it hopes to pay homage to. It managed to raise $25,000 on KickStarter since the campaign launched in 2020 - you can see it clearly the moment you boot the game up. The character animations, the menus, the loading screens... You can feel the devs trying to do a lot with a little throughout your time with the game. Tragically this can take the punch out of some key moments - nailing a perfect parry gives off this odd audio-visual effect that doesn't really hype you up as much as it should, and at its worst seeing the characters dodge and roll around can appear... goofy.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing - many can accept a game for its limitations and enjoy it regardless - but if you're the type to be put off by this kind of presentation it's a reality you'll have to overcome.

Screenshot of Die by the Blade gameplay with name blurred out, two characters swing swords at eachother.
Navigating the space between yourself and the other fighter is paramount. | Image credit: Grindstone

I also personally don't see much appeal to the variety of characters available. The game very much puts the emphasis on the weapons you use - the fighters themselves feel like an accessory to the weapon-vs-weapon clashes the game is built around. Nevertheless I can't feel myself get too excited over unlocking a new character, only to discover it's... just some guy. He's got a big sword - respect where it's due - but it does little to thrill the eyes (especially given the game's overall aesthetic). Now, character customisation does remedy this somewhat, allowing you to add a variety of fancy costumes and colours to your fighters, but these upgraded designs feel like a necessity rather than a cool optional unlock.

Even still, for those able to overcome such visual obstacles there's a healthy portion of content here. The game has a tournament mode, allowing for you and other players to fight it out for the top spot - a fun way to bring more than you and your bozo friend to the battle. The online netcode feels good too! I tried it out against a colleague based up in the north of the UK and it all felt pretty stable. The game isn't using Rollback netcode or GGPO - a red flag for many - but it has a server-based solution that seemed to work fine for me. It might be worth keeping this in mind if you intend to play with folks across vast distances.

There are golden moments here, without a doubt. But Die by the Blade is burdened by issues that I fear will stand out for many casual players interested to try it out. But as the only modern fighting game to really approach this sub-genre of 3D one-strike action perhaps it'll find its audience. I'd recommend this to genre diehards and those who don't mind a lower budget title. For the average player, I'd give this a miss for now.


Die by the Blade was reviewed on PC courtesy of a review code from Grindstone. You can buy it on Steam right nowfor £16.99 or your regional equivalent.

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