Coming from PQube and out now for Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch (with an Xbox One version coming next week), AeternoBlade II is Corecell Technology’s action platformer sequel that also includes Metroidvania elements. We played it on a PS4 for this review.
Released as a very ambitious but ultimately somewhat disappointing action adventure, the original AeternoBlade came out for the 3DS back in 2014 and made its way over to most of the other major consoles of that era a year later. This included the Vita, on which I played it back then after I was lured in by attractive 2.5D visuals and an interesting time manipulation mechanic. The game never quite lived up to its promise for me and wasn’t that well received by other media either, so I was surprised when PQube announced it was releasing a sequel for the game. I’m a sucker for a time bending theme though, so I jumped right on board.
I’m glad I played the first game though, since AeternoBlade II doesn’t offer much in terms of a narrative introduction or gameplay tutorial at the start of the game. You still get to play as Freyja from the first game, but within a few minutes you also get access to other characters even though the intricacies of combat and the character’s abilities to manipulate time aren’t explained very well. This is a missed opportunity, because at its heart AeternoBlade has a very interesting concept.
What eventually ends up happening is that you learn the controls as you go along, with action that includes plenty of combat as well. It’s a little clunky at times, but once you get comfortable with the controls you can mix up the combat with some of your time manipulation tricks, which is neat to do. Although some enemies will require you to use time manipulation, you can do away with most of them through regular combat – not relying on any time bending abilities.
These abilities are far less optional when it comes to the game’s boss fights and the puzzles, which I both enjoyed. There’s a dynamic difficulty setting for the boss fights as well, which means you’ll get the option to scale down the difficulty if the game senses you might need it. There’s a good diversity of gameplay types throughout the game as you switch between platforming, combat, boss fights and puzzles, although it never quite feels like it all gels together organically (perhaps because the visual perspective also changes when you hit a different gameplay type).
I’ve already mentioned your abilities to manipulate time, and have to say they’re some of my favorite parts in AeternoBlade II. You can slow down time, rewind time or even play an echo of your last few actions, which is especially useful when engaging in combat with multiple or stronger characters. Your abilities also translate well to the game’s puzzle designs, which sometimes make clever use of these various tricks as well.
It’s been about five years since the original AeternoBlade though, and four since that game launched on the PS4. It felt a bit visually dated for a powerful console like the PS4 back then, and the sequel doesn’t do much better in this regard (even though platforms like the 3DS and Vita were dropped). What also doesn’t help is that AeternoBlade II launches in the same week as Trine 4, which is a puzzle platformer that is absolutely gorgeous in every sense of its presentation. The animations, audiovisual effects and character models in AeternoBlade II say “modest budget production”, but it’s one where the developer was clearly very ambitious in its ideas so it’s harder to ignore than it would be in a little indie game.
That may sound a little harsh and AeternoBlade II is certainly better looking than its predecessor in many ways – you just don’t want to go into it with expectations that are too high. What you should expect instead is an interesting sci-fi/fantasy blend on the puzzle/action platforming genre that lacks a certain degree of polish that keeps its best ideas from shining through as much as they perhaps should.