Die By The Blade Review – First Strike

Die By The Blade Review – First Strike

Ever since fighting games have been a thing, players have had a somewhat niche but ever-present drive for the creation of two things:

A truly balanced 1v1 experience, where the winner is determined by reflex and skill and not by who has the more powerful character, and a hyper-realistic depiction of weapon-based martial arts, with combat that takes into account real-world physics, stances , and training to emulate what a true battle between armed warriors might look like.

Plenty of games have come and gone that have attempted to fulfill one or both of these desires. One title has arguably come closer to it than most and is definitely known as one of the most popular: For Honor, a game that depicts historical(ish) combat with a stance-focused fighting mechanic and a heavy emphasis on 1v1 encounters. I’ve played my fair share of For Honor, and while there are aspects I and others enjoy about it, it’s easy to say the game has problems and doesn’t totally deliver on all of the promises that draw in most of its player base .

If you’re wondering why I’ve spent so much time talking about For Honor in a review that isn’t about For Honor, it’s because Die By The Blade heavily reminds me of the better aspects of the game’s mechanics.

Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Die By The Blade is a one-versus-one combat game that uses a directional attack system and action-styled, opponent-locked camera very similar to For Honor. While differences clearly exist between the two, if you’re familiar with For Honor’s combat, it wouldn’t be a stretch for me to say that Die By The Blade is For Honor with a more balanced approach and solely focuses on the 1v1 dueling many players are drawn to it.

Die By The Blade is a fast-paced combat game where you deliver one of two attacks from three directions: High, Low, and Middle. The direction you aim your mouse (or controller stick? I didn’t play with a controller) determines where you attack from. Attacks can be blocked when a fighter directs their weapon in the same area.

You can also parry, dodge, or roll out of the direction of attacks and use movement inputs to execute what are called Sequences. Sequences operate sort of like combats, but not really; I’ll explain why in a minute. Both players have a resource bar called Resolve that drains on attacks and is restored over time or by successfully blocking.

All this should sound pretty familiar to players of similar-styled games (I’m going to stop mentioning For Honor from here on out, but it’s still the one I’m the most familiar with.) Die By The Blade stands out in a straightforward rule: You die in a single hit.

Die By The Blade Match
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Not only does this add an air of intensity to the combat, but it also more closely resembles real-life swordplay. If you go and try to have a Katana battle on the street with someone tomorrow, I promise you you won’t have any health bars to help you tank a few hits.

The winner of a Die By The Blade match is whoever is quicker in attacking and better at defending than their opponent. Unlock similar titles. There are no characters with tougher health bars, oppressive movesets, or better stats… to an extent.

Die By The Blade doesn’t totally live up to its promise of a perfectly balanced 1v1 game due to two primary issues: XP-locked collectibles and character stats.

All movesets in the game are tied behind the weapons you use, theoretically putting everyone on an equal playing ground. Unfortunately, everything but the all-rounder Katana is locked behind leveling up, potentially putting a new player at the mercy of a more experienced enemy in matchmaking.

Thankfully, in my experience, the type of weapon you use doesn’t make too much of a difference as long as you are still good with the mechanics. You can also always grind out XP in offline play, but the grind is long, and it’ll take you a while to get those higher-level unlocks, such as the Naginata and other characters.

The other characters are where the game’s real balancing act takes a nosedive. While all characters are made equal regarding the whole dying-in-one-hit thing, their stats are not the same. In a game where you only need to hit your enemy once, speed seems incredibly important, and who you choose to play can have much more or much less speed than your opponent. For example, I always got easy wins against Yoshi whenever I played Butterfly.

Die By The Blade Vs
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

What is the simple solution to both of these balancing issues? Just have players unlock all weapons and characters at the start of the game. It isn’t like there isn’t plenty to unlock/earn already without weapons and characters being locked behind progression.

Each character has a modest set of cosmetics to unlock, but where the game really shines with its cosmetic progression system is weapons. Weapons allow you to customize each part, with a ton of options for each, allowing you to put good use to the coins you earn and really personalize your fights. I’m excited to see new weapons and weapon cosmetics added to the game as time goes on.

Die By The Blade Cosmetics
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The last thing I want to comment on about Die By The Blade is the game’s aesthetic. The game sports what it calls a “samurai-punk” look, combining cyberpunk and samurai styles (which, if we’re being honest, is already heavily baked into a lot of cyberpunk), and I’m all here for it. My only criticism is that I don’t think the game goes far enough with it. The style is there, although it feels a little untapped, not fully embraced, and a little too generic. I’d like to see what the game would look like if it went heavier on the style, delivering a real visually stunning experience.

The Final Word

Die By The Blade delivers fast-paced, deadly skill-heavy combat for players to master in 1v1 battles. While not perfectly balanced, the game features some awesome cosmetics and exciting gameplay that will surely hook fans of the genre in for the long haul.

8

Try Hard Guides received a PC review code for this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles on our Game Reviews page! Die By The Blade is available on Steam and Epic Games.

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