Completed Games: Heavenly Sword (PS3)
Developer – Ninja Theory
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Release Date – September 12th 2007
British based game developer Ninja Theory released Heavenly Sword a year after the launch of the PS3 and was lauded at the time for its animation, acting and graphics. It is a game that still holds up very well and has a sense of scale that is still very rare in modern video games. Sure at times it had hundreds of enemies on the screen but I would say the dramatic music and sound effects along with the theatrical style voice and mocap acting gave the game its great sense of scale. It is very much like a video game version of a grand epic movie like The Lord of The Rings, although I have to say the story could have been better (I got just as much story and plot from the 2 animated shorts that were bonus unlockable content). It has some of the most entertaining cut scenes in a game with realistic facial expressions and interesting movement animations that gave the characters a unique persona.
Like the God of War series it a character action game and starts of pretty similarly in that there is an amazing opening to the game and straight away you can tell it is going to be very cinematic with high production values. The gameplay is solid although it is definitely antiquated now since in the past 2 years excellent games of the same genre like Bayonnetta, DMC 4, and GOW3 have come out with much more fluid action. It does have some innovations that have not been replicated since such as being able to pick up and throw a lot of the objects in the environment and an automated guard mechanic that triggers if you are not pressing any buttons. The standard defensive options are a roll evade (which is dedicated to the right analog stick in Heavenly Sword but has evolved to a button push + left stick in more modern games) and countering (which is harder to pull off than in most other games). The main aspect of the combat that was lacking was the small amount of combos. The game has three stances (ranged, speed and power) which basically acts as three different weapons but there is little variety within them. Heavenly Sword also doesn’t have a jump button which also reduces the variety in combat (although you can hit enemies into the air and perform different combos that way). Weapon pickups are restricted to be solely additional throwing material and there are no items. The game is broken up into five chapters and you alternate between close combat action and shooting segments (bow and arrow, cannon) where you use six axis to guide the projectile in slow motion. I kind of like the shooting segments but it really depends on how you view the motion control of the six axis controller, it you think it is very gimmicky then this game will frustrate you. It took me a while to get a handle on the motion controls but once you do it is satisfying guiding arrows & cannonballs into enemies.
Pick it up if you see it cheap anywhere (I picked it up for $20 AUD), since it is a roughly a 5hr game. Included are some interesting behind the scenes videos that are a must watch if you want to appreciate the amount of work that went into the game in all departments (sound effects, music, voice action, mocap, art design etc.).
Ninja Theory’s next game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is due to be released this year (October 5th 2010) and will be published by Namco Bandai Games. It is being described as a tactical action adventure and looks to be based on two main characters working in tandem. The same lead game designer Tameem Antoniades returns and screenwriter Alex Garland (Sunshine, 28 Days Later) is working on the screenplay for Enslaved. It looks to a promising project with my only fear being the change in publisher from Sony to Namco Bandai and whether they have the same amount of resources available to them to release a polished product.