When I first learned about Strikers Edge, I was excited to try out a new game that would let me play some good old ass-on-couch-drink-a-beer-with-buddies local multiplayer. It’s basically a dodgeball game with spears, which sounds like as good a pitch as I ever heard.
The pixelated graphics would certainly also add a nice touch as we could fondly remember our childhoods together while we put on some nostalgia glasses.
…Just a shame then, that those glasses didn’t turn out to be so rose-colored.
While Strikers Edge is mainly focussed on multiplayer games, it does offer a campaign mode. It’s just a shame that you’ll breeze through it in no time. You can run through the campaign with each of the 8 different characters, but it always follows the same pattern:
You’ll get a short intro text:
And then you fight 4 battles, each with some minor chit-chat with your opponents.
Finally you’ll get a short outtro text. It takes about 10 minutes for each campaign, so in about 80 minutes you’ll have seen everything the single player has to offer. The mini-stories told here also didn’t manage to get me invested in any of these fighters. There was no character development to speak of and they seemed to fall into the regular expected tropes.
Its visual appeal is where Strikers Edge managed to please me the most. The pixelated graphics are perfect for this type of game (it even reminds me of other similar games like WindJammers). The characters are perhaps a tad too small though, as it’s a bit hard to see a lot of visual distinction between some of them, but I guess that’s a decision driven by the gameplay first and foremost.
I do love the design of the arenas. They each have some variations, like a day & night version or different weather effects. But again, the main issue I have is the lack of varience as the game only has 4 arenas total:
- A forest arena (sometimes with poison appearing in spots)
- A campground
- A mountain arena (sometimes with icicles falling)
- Two boats next to each other (my favourite)
There is also a world-map that shows where each arena is located, but it looks a bit dull and doesn’t add a lot of value. I was constantly hoping to travel to a new location not yet explored, but my expectations fell flat.
The background music seems to exist mostly out of electrical tunes and repeated loops, which is perfectly fine for such a game. I also don’t fault it for not having any voice-overs for any of the characters (outside of some grunts and groans) because it tries to emulate games from a time when this wasn’t yet a common element. There is a commentator however and his presence was indeed a much needed ingrediënt for the game. Hearing him say “Headshot” or “Game! Blue team wins!” is exactly the kind of audio feedback I need to keep me feeling motivated.
As said, earlier: the game is basically dodgeball with spears, arrows, axes and magic. The concept is nothing short of awesome and it’s what drew me to the game in the first place. The issue is that the Playstation’s controller doesn’t feel up to the task when controlling the characters. You move around with the left analog stick, but movement feels too slow. You can block (or even deflect if you picked a shielded character) with L1 or dodge with L2 to evade incoming projectiles, but the L2 button feels poorly placed and needs to be pressed down to hard before actually jumping out of the way.
The shooting has a similar issue: you aim with the right analog and shoot with R2, but it feels as if you have to press down too hard on R2 before you fire a shot. It’s actually tiring to try and shoot multiple spears in a row and by pressing on the R2 button, you’re also prone to ever so slightly moving the right analog, making you miss your target.
Charging a special attack also happens through keeping the R2 button pressed and after a few rounds of playing, my hands became cramped. It’s very possible that this is not the game’s fault, but moreso the layout of the PS4 controller and the design of its trigger buttons. All the while playing Strikers Edge, I couldn’t help but wish I had opted to review the PC version instead as it should feel a lot more natural to control with Mouse & Keyboard.
Besides the campaign mode being too short, my other major complaint is that the characters didn’t feel different enough from each other. Sure, there are some differing elements like Galad (the knight) being able to deflect projectiles with his shield, but his movement should have felt more sluggish. On the other hand, Haru (the ninja) should have been able to dash around the arena more quickly and Laël (the archer) should have been able to fire her arrows more quickly than the others.
It’s very well possible that there are different stats for each character, but if so they are hardly noticeable and the character select screen as shown above should have done a better job at explaining them. I’ve played through all 8 campaigns and didn’t seem to find a preference for any of the combatants outside of their different charged attacks.
Again, I also regretted not being able to fight in more different arenas. Sure, the elemental changes introduced in them made it feel like there were more than just 4, but there should have been a lot more varied locations to keep things fresh and they could have been even more dynamic (having the two boats move seperate from each other for example, reducing the playing field as one moves up and the other moves down). Most of all it just left me wanting for more variation.
Having more arenas and even other enemies to fight beyond the other playable characters would have gone a long way in increasing my enjoyment. If the campaign had some maps where you fight 5 skeletons at once for example (each weaker, but imposing because of their number) or a giant dragon enemy of some sort… it would have left a better lasting impression.
I invited a friend over to play against so I could test that local multi-player I had been so looking forward to. But then we only discovered another issue with the game: we were both too good at dodging the other’s attacks that we were unable to hit each other. Taking into account that you need to land quite a few hits to win, it became a war of attrition more so than one of skill. Who’s hands would cramp out first? After about an hour we both didn’t feel like playing any more and that seems to be the biggest issue of all: the game feels like it outstays its welcome way too soon.
While I still love the idea behind the game and its visual appeal can be commended, it feels like it’s too barebones an experience. It needs a better (and longer) campaign, more varied characters and a lot more arenas to keep you interested. Playing 2v2 games locally is probably the best experience you can have with it, but even that will tire you eventually. I can’t help but feel there is a lot of missed potential here.