TGS '07: Bladestorm Hands-On

We cross swords with Koei's epic wargame in Tokyo.

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TOKYO--After wading through the thick tides of people at the Tokyo Game Show without a sword, wading through the throngs of opponents with a fully-armed crew in Bladestorm was pure pleasure. We cut straight to a kiosk and began a brand-new demo in which we created our mercenary. We could choose either male or female, with a solid set of customization options. We decided on a saucy-looking female warrior, and then found ourselves in a tavern, gabbing with a one-eyed bartender.

From there, we got to choose an assignment for either the French or the British. In case you aren't familiar with Bladestorm, it's a hack-and-slash action game that takes place during the Hundred Years War. Rather than play one of the heroes, such as Joan of Arc, you play a mercenary, freely taking missions for either side. We jumped on with the French and went to battle against the British.

When our mission began, our sassy warrior woman was standing with a crew of about 10 infantrymen. We quickly took the lead, and guided them into battle against a huge knot of British troops. Once engaged, we could have relied on our character's special commands to turn the tide in our favor, but we decided instead to see how the battle would go if we played it completely straight and let our boys fight on their own.

Given that they outnumbered us three-to-one, they chopped us to pieces, and soon there was a squad of about 30 troops chasing our one woman across the countryside. Fortunately, she was fleet of foot and soon met up with some French allies, at which point we turned the tables on our pursuers. The allies we ran into were cavalry, and with them we were able to ride down the British resistance like dogs, charging through their ranks, plowing over their men, and generally stabbing them repeatedly.

Once we had their divisions in a confused mess, we swept off for more opponents to fell. No matter where we went, the graphics were gorgeous. The environments were lush and realistic, the character models animated well, and when you consider how many of them were on the screen at once, that's awfully impressive. Small battles tend to include at least 100 units. And that's what makes the game so fun.

Rambling about the countryside, you'll see a knot of dangerous-looking foes, only to rumble within their midst and execute a couple of power moves. When you do this, the enemy goes flying like candy out of a bashed piñata, and you and your troops feel like real battlefield studs. This feeling only increases with level, as you gain control of more and more powerful units.

Although we've seen some of those levels, Koei representatives assure us there are many more unseen. And considering the hell we've raised with just the low-level soldiers, we can't wait to partake in the carnage inflicted with units of deadlier skill. When we do, we'll make sure to jot down all the gory details for your reading pleasure. Otherwise, you'll be able to see for yourself war's awesome toll when Bladestorm ships later this year.

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