Heavenly Sword Review
:Well crafted environments, great voice acting, lots of quality put into pre-production efforts.
:Playtime run on the short side, frame rate dips when lots of enemies are on screen, screen tearing happens more than one would like
In-depth technical review of Heavenly Sword, Surround Sound audio Impressions, Frame rate, and presentation. Trying to give a more granular look at Heavenly Sword that big site often omit or neglect.
Heavenly Sword personifies Sony’s mantra when it comes to gaming, which is to make games on a Hollywood level of production. Everything from the voice acting, to the environments reflect the mantra. Ninja Theory truly knocked this game out of the park, especially considering this is their second attempt at making a game.
Heavenly Swords tells a tale about a mystical sword that contains great powers, but also leaves a trail of death and destruction in it’s wake. The Heavenly sword demands a nasty price for those who wish to wield the sword, it drains the life out of its wielder. Nariko and her clansmen try to protect said sword from falling into mortal hands. There is an evil King named, Bohan; who has set his sights on Nariko’s clan and wants to crush them out to further his dominance and obtain the Heavenly Sword as a war trophy. In order, for Nariko to save the clan she loves, she has to betray their beliefs and unsheathe the Heavenly sword, but at the same time she has made her death a certainty.
Heavenly Sword engages players with its story and will keep their attention. Just seeing how Nariko will handle the adversity of her situation is will keep players wanting more.
The Story is concise, which helps with the pacing, eliminating filler missions. This is welcomed because the action rarely lulls.
Heavenly Sword feels similar to God of War, players will constantly be mashing the square and triangle buttons to dispatch enemies. And on the surface the games are similar, but after the first 15 minutes, Heavenly Swords starts to differentiate itself from other Hack ‘n’ Slash games. Players will be forced to adapt to the games different stances; Speed, Ranged and Heavy. Speed is Nariko’s default stance. L1 activates the ranged stance which help dispel foes from a distance and create space when enemies crowd Nariko. R1 unleashes Nariko’s heavy stance which will let her tackle the tougher opponents and also deal major damage. The differing stances also add a layer of strategy and versatility to the combat and adds complexity to the defense. The combat system is easily learned after the first hour and players will be able to flow from enemy to enemy once they get in rhythm with Heavenly Swords combat mechanics.
Players will be forced to switch in between the different combat stances throughout their combo strings.
The A.I. also requires players to come to grips with the countering system in the game by throwing numerous enemies at them simultaneously
Environments are interactive, allowing players to pick up objects such as; furniture, dropped weapons, or downed enemies and throw them at enemies. Enemies can also be tossed, when countered, into hitting things in the environment like tables and barrels, they can even fall over ledges. These extra touches give the world an added sense of believability.
Heavenly Sword paces the gameplay rather well during its short tenure, mixing gameplay segments between Nariko and her younger sister, Kai. Players will mainly do combat arena type battles with Nariko, but the game also mixes up playstyles; by adding segments where players will be in control of Kai sniping with her crossbow. These segments are a welcomed change in pace from the frantic battles. Players will use Kai’s crossbow to shoot arrows where they will then be able to guide the arrows using a features Ninja Theory have dubbed after-touch. After-touch allows players to guide projectiles like; arrows from Kai and the occasional cannonball from Nariko using the Six-axis controls on the DualShock 3. Quick time events (QTE) are also used sparsely to spice up gameplay.
Heavenly Swords visual design is one that should be mimicked in the future. The game takes menu cues from the God of War series and has a high polygon figure of Nariko, however Ninja Theory goes one step farther and has Nariko act out dramatic monologues. Cut-scenes in this game are not the best and there is noticeable macro-blocking, despite the quality, cut-scenes are also well directed and often times shot from very cool perspectives to intensify the fighting. In game cut-scenes are delivered in a unique way, the screen splits into two panels one focusing on the boss character and the other on Nariko. The uniqueness of the in game cut-scenes allow the boss to monologue during boss fights while keeping the action focused on Nariko.
Rarely is a world so realized, everything from the architecture of the bridges and buildings, to the style of the trees help emote Nariko’s world. The backgrounds have a picturesque quality about them and when the camera pans back it conveys a sense of grandeur. Heavenly sword isn’t afraid to fill the screen with tons of enemies either, making battles feel epic and giving them a sense of urgency. Heavenly Sword ambitions in the visuals department come at a cost, however, there is a fair amount of screen tearing throughout the game, and the frame rate takes a hit when there is an intense processing load. Thankfully these flaws are never too detrimental to the gameplay.
- Framerate: 30fps with the occasional drop to the mid 20’s
- Resolution: Native 1280 x 720( 720p)
- Screen tearing: Occasional tearing in cutscenes and intense loads
- Cut scenes: Are ok but there is macro-bloc king and it definitely distracts
- Playing with Sony’s MotionFlow helped smooth out some of the close up shots, but rarely had any benefits. Recommend playing with it off
Heavenly Sword is a game that must be played with the volume turned up. The sound effects are top quality and hearing that gut wrenching sound of Nariko breaking a foes bones before she kicks him in the groin is very satisfying. The voice acting is superb and the lip syncing is spot on. Voices come across clear and have a feeling of warmth to them. Heavenly Sword’s Environmental sounds keep pace too, the wind, waterfalls and birds can constantly be heard passing through the rear speakers. The ambient noises really do a lot to convey a sense of distance between you and the environments. During battles if an enemy was off-screen and about to attack the surround sound deciphered his position, which was a big help. The Musical Score fits the direction of the game well, the sound track contains those big orchestral sounds, but manages to maintain the Far Eastern theme prevalent throughout the art direction.
- Audio formats: Linear PCM 7.1
- Dialogue: Comes across very clear and precise.
- Music: Fits theme of the game very well and the orchestral sounds add to the epicness of Nariko’s adventure
- Surround Sound effects: Sword clashes are easy to distinguish in battles. Enemy sounds fill the different arenas. Ambient sounds add life to the environments, things like; distant waterfalls can be heard and sound very true to nature. Wind can be heard blowing through the rear speakers. The rear sound-stage gets as much work as the front.
Overall, Heavenly Sword impresses with its smooth combat and illustrious acting by Andy Serkis and crew. The art direction compels players to finish the level at hand to see what vista awaits them. Rarely does a game have so much consideration put into presentation, due to this Heavenly Sword production values come off as first rate. Combat is a blast to master. The only detriments to Heavenly Sword’s package is the length of the game, while it would have been nice if longer; it could also have added superfluous moments. The occasional frame-rate drop may annoy some players too. Despite its small blemishes, Heavenly Sword is definitely a game that should be experienced and comes highly recommended.