Brandish: The Dark Revenant (PSP) Review

By Gabriel Jones 23.02.2017

Review for Brandish: The Dark Revenant on PSP

Ares isn't a royal knight of the king's guard, the finest warrior in the realm, or even the God of War. He's just another mercenary who probably shouldn't have gotten out of bed this morning. Wanted for murder and pursued by the bounty hunter Dela, he's cornered at the precipice of a massive chasm. It seemed that his journey will end before it ever officially began. Thankfully, an errant explosion caused by Dela's magic shatters the ground beneath them. After surviving a several miles fall, Ares discovers a forgotten labyrinth, one that nobody has ever escaped. The only potential way out is an ominous tower in the distance.

Brandish: The Dark Revenant is a real-time dungeon crawler. In order for Ares to survive the underground maze, he has to contend with vicious monsters, devious puzzles, and murderous traps. His skills as both a fighter and a mage will be tested to their fullest extent. Further complicating matters is the fact that weapons are a limited commodity. Maybe it's something in the ore, but almost all of the swords the hero comes across will break after so many uses. Making do with limited resources is essential part of spelunking.

Despite the overhead view, approaching this game as one would an entry in The Legend of Zelda franchise is a mistake. The L and R buttons are used to turn Ares; the D-pad is for moving forward, backwards, or strafing. This is a dungeon crawler after all, and Falcom went the extra mile by making the controls fitting for the genre. Eventually, moving the protagonist around becomes second nature. The perspective becomes a boon for explorers, as it helpfully shows nearby points of interest such as doors or fiends. The mini-map is another welcome tool for navigating the many floors of the maze. Keep in mind factors such as walk and turn speed before approaching an intense situation. Botching inputs at the wrong moment will put a quick end to the journey.

Screenshot for Brandish: The Dark Revenant on PSP

Mechanically, Falcom's game will appeal to anyone familiar with Legend of Grimrock. Both titles have what can be described as a "dance of battle". Since this game is grid-based, with the protagonist and any nearby monsters moving a square at a time, winning fights is all about positioning. When it's just Ares and one adversary, fights devolve into blocking their attacks and assaulting their openings. Combat becomes several times more interesting when multiple foes are thrown into the mix. Some are also too powerful for a shield to handle. The hero has to stay one step ahead to avoid getting boxed in. Strikes from the side or behind do critical damage, so that's all the more reason to avoid getting surrounded. While having a sizable arsenal of swords and spells is nice, proper movement is what keeps this adventure from ending prematurely.

One of the most important talents to master is jumping. As one can expect, its intended use is to leap over holes. However, that's ignoring the surprising amount of utility the jump offers in other scenarios. During battle, it can be used to soar over monsters or as a hasty retreat. With exceptional timing, it's even possible to hurdle certain attacks and projectiles. The speed of the jump also makes it great for escaping rampaging boulders, or covering travelled ground more quickly. Bunny hopping to destinations can look a bit absurd, but it's hard to ignore the added dimension that the jump provides for every situation.

Screenshot for Brandish: The Dark Revenant on PSP

Rather than just throw together a motley crew of imposing but mundane boss fights, Falcom went the creative route. Yes, the bosses are capable of dishing out as well as taking some serious punishment, but they're also cleverly constructed. They take full advantage of the game's mechanics to challenge the player in new ways. At one point, Ares must duel to the death with a master ninja. This boss specialises in keeping distance, forcing the hero to push him towards either end of the arena. However, he's liable to teleport out of corners, blindsiding his opponent with a nasty dash attack. The battle descends into chaos when the ninja summons help. There aren't all that many fights, but they're memorable and quite spectacular. A lot of effort and care was spent on crafting special encounters around the limitations of the game.

As is common with Falcom's output, the level of difficulty is fluid. Brandish: The Dark Revenant can be a very tough game, but it can also be really easy, it's all up to the player. This means that if they want a serious challenge, they should refrain from constantly saving their progress, or rapidly quaffing the generous healing potions. On the other hand, there's no shame in relying on every possible resource, if they help get the job done. Whatever the case, the adventure is endlessly fulfilling. Each floor is packed with exciting content, and painstakingly uncovering the entire map can lead to big rewards.

Of the many floors Ares will overcome, there are none more annoying than the second floor of the dark zone. This area is notable for having hundreds of pits that are shrouded in complete darkness. The only way to figure out where these holes are is by either falling through them, or using dozens upon dozens of iron balls. These spheroids mark the pits on the map, but it gets mind numbing having to go through the process of dropping them at every step. This is the only floor - out of dozens - that if excised completely would improve the game.

Screenshot for Brandish: The Dark Revenant on PSP

While the storyline is practically non-existent outside of the intro, most players will be too enchanted with exploration to notice. The few side-quests offer significant rewards, so it's worth taking them on. Detours can lead to magnificent upgrades such as increased inventory space, or rare artefacts that confer unique benefits. Upon completing Ares's campaign, the player receives a ranking for their performance, which is a nice touch. The ranking system tracks several factors, including time, number of deaths, and amount of gold on hand. There isn't any locked content tied to rank, but anyone looking to replay the game will take it into consideration.

Dela mode offers veterans another ten floors to trudge through. Since accessing this campaign requires a completion of the main game, the challenge is appropriately scaled. In other words, expect no quarter. Resources are far more limited, and mistakes are typically fatal. Still, consider this an opportunity to appreciate just how much thought went into the mechanics of the game. It's brilliant how everything comes together, when the player is forced to deal with some truly dastardly scenarios.

Screenshot for Brandish: The Dark Revenant on PSP

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Falcom is best known for their trademark Ys franchise, but their other less popular games shouldn't be overlooked. Brandish: The Dark Revenant is a fantastic dungeon crawler that seamlessly blends puzzles and action. Almost every floor is expertly crafted, and the pacing is excellent. The threadbare plot and near absence of NPCs keep the focus squarely where it matters, the labyrinth. As expected of a Falcom product, the soundtrack is great as well. All in all, this game can't be recommended enough.

Developer

Falcom

Publisher

XSEED Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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