Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman

Developed and Published By: Hexage
Category: Action-Adventure
Release Date: 09.26.2019

Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman is a side-scrolling action-adventure title that has you taking control of a dark (but also pale) knight who makes his own rules while choosing to help or terrorize the land. Through the course of your playthrough you will be running through countless hordes of enemies while taking quests from both sides of an ongoing war. Level up, get better loot, destroy the world.

In this world you have found yourself at the center of this war between the Imperium and the Wilderness kingdoms. The Imperium are what you would consider your traditional European civilization with armored knights and manicured men where you can profit from the gold they offer. The Wilderness is a tribal group that originally called this land home and are willing to trade with you in order to get your aid in fighting back the Imperium menace. You also have all sorts of demons and monsters that have reclaimed the land in the midst of these trials and tribulations, and you will need to help the common folk with this as well. However, you have the choice to play both sides, or help nobody while going on a murderous rampage across the land. What will you choose?

You start out in an overview map of the kingdom in which you will move between hubs in order to meet up with people or to take on enemy camps or groupings. This is where you will collect quests as well as get the majority of the story you will receive from this game. The quests system through dialogue is a nice addition to this title and allows for you to get more engaged with what is going on and allows for multiple playthroughs. Your character is a fairly simple fellow, however, so none of these dialogue choices make for any sort of high-end articulate conversation, but you have a choice in the story and that’s what matters at the end of the day. I enjoyed this portion of the game, and although the story is a bit lackluster as a whole with pretty basic writing and story beats it was nice to not expect this level of dialogue and choice and get it anyways.

After you talk to the people and decide what you are going to do you have to put your sword to work. You enter a battle hub and start with the slaying. You have a pretty simple set of attacks, with an uppercut and down smash, along with jump-based attacks. You have a pretty spectacular spinning air attack as well that really chops through crowds of baddies. In order to really get into these attacks, however, you have to do some grinding. The game has an auto-attack where you just run into enemies and your character starts slashing, and it is with this function that you have a meter begin to fill at the top of the screen. It is with this meter that you can start to deal some really punishing blows to the monsters around you, but once that meter ends you have to get back to grinding. This is a really tedious combat system and totally takes away from the decent set of attacks and variation you have. You can choose to use your attacks right out the gate if you wish, but the auto attack deals a significant amount more damage, and since they are basically forcing you into using it with the damage reduction it becomes a total hassle. I have never played an action game in which you had to grind to successfully land BASIC attacks, so this is a huge disappointment in a game that had some hope with a pretty well worked out dialogue/choice system.

From there you gain experience points and levels from working through the story, as well as gather gold from killing monsters. You can then upgrade yourself with each level to get a different type of advancement, whether it be more damage of a certain type or the like. Just a pretty basic set of upgrades. Gathering the gold and completing quests allows you the possibility of upgrading your equipment which is a bit more fun and flushed out. You have a ton of sets of equipment to choose from that all offer upgrades and various attributes. Even though this system works out pretty well in the end, I feel like if you focused on the gameplay you could reasonably make it through most of the game without doing any upgrades to yourself. Outside of the damage sponges fights of course, you just have a lot of fodder that you are working through and it really doesn’t offer any advanced difficulty for those who chase those experiences.

I would say my least favorite part of the game outside of the auto-attack grid system is the enemy AI. Your character and the enemies have a similar speed setting, and the AI, especially the ranged units, are programmed to run from you and attack at range. Makes sense, right? Well, you will find yourself in situations, especially in levels with flying units and pits that instant kill you, where you will need to kill one more unit that is keeping its distance from you, and every time you try to get at it you accidentally fall into said pits. It was extremely annoying, and it doesn’t help the gameplay is already rather tedious but chasing basic enemy fodder around the screen is not how I want to spend my time.

Overall, Reaper offers a lot of potential. You have some good systems with the dialogue/choice system, and it gives you something to work through as you make story choices and dialogue decisions. You have a sense of role-playing with this part of the game that is hard to achieve. But, then the game takes a pretty basic gameplay idea and just makes it as tedious as possible with a grinding mechanic that must be completed before it makes sense to use your basic attacks. This really hurts the game. Then having wonky AI mixed with questionable level design makes for this portion of the game to be seriously lacking. If I could stay in the overworld map and just make decisions I would have thought pretty well of this title as a story game, but the gameplay hurts. Decent RPG mechanics don’t make up for it, as the upgrades and looting aren’t strong enough to make the grind worth it. For the price, it isn’t offensive, but unless you don’t mind grinding experiences then this might be one to skip.

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*The Switch Effect was provided a review code for this game*