Fight or Kite: Naraka Bladepoint is battle royale but with grappling hooks

    
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Welcome back to the Monday after a holiday (at least in the US). Hopefully you were able to enjoy your family, friends, or game time. If not, well, here we are anyway. Honestly, I’ve had my head down and stuck in only a few MMOs lately. I’ve been trying my darnedest to level up enough to get to the PvP but it hasn’t happened in those games yet.

So instead, I bring you to a new battle royale by way of Naraka Bladepoint. If you boil it down to just its main components, all you’d be left with is your standard BR parts. Many players enter, but only one reigns supreme. But Naraka brings a bit of flash and flair and that just might put it the right spot for you. So if you’re looking for a straight PvP game with quick matches, Eastern aesthetics, and quick melee combat, then saddle up cause I’ve got the game for you.

Your standard BR gameplay loop

Let’s be straight out with it: The gameplay loop of Naraka is exactly what you’ve come to expect from a BR game. Click a location on the map to spawn, search around for gear, and kill anyone who gets in your way all while the area of the map shrinks down until only one team survives. At least that’s the main game mode. There are a couple other modes to add some variety, but it isn’t a whole lot.

In addition to the standard BR in ranked and unranked flavors, you also have Bloodbath mode, wherein you need to kill as many opponents as possible within a time limit. After that time, the top three players get a bounty on their heads offering bonus points for players to can take them down. With that, the players who are the bounty will also receive bonus points for kills while they are the active target. It’s a pretty cool concept that encourages players to target the stronger foes but also rewards those who are currently the leaders.

There is also a Bloodsport mode, which plays more like a tournament with several rounds and ladders. It attempts to balance out the classes by restricting weapons and even locking ultimate skills for all of the classes, encouraging and rewarding more skillful play. The mode is time-gated to every evening, which does help get players to gather at the same time. However, if that time doesn’t work for you, I guess you’re out of luck.

One way in which it has differed from other BRs is the inclusion of merchants around the map. You know how you’re always on your toes in a BR? That made it hard to look at exactly how I was picking up currency, but if you’ve got the coin, the merchants have the wares. They offer upgrades or just better gear in many cases, which is a nice way to reduce the RNG you might experience when looking for higher-tiered or specific gear.

Speaking of gear and loot in the game, while we have healing and armor potions, weapons, and armor, there are also gems and signets you can loot that will give you different boosts. Some offer percent increases for damage and armor, but there are some legendary level ones that will upgrade the final attack in a specific weapon’s attack chain. For example, the third attack in the long sword chain sends out a single wave slash (think Link’s full HP attack), but if you have equipped this trinket, it’ll be upgraded into sending out several slashes. It’s a cool way to upgrade your character during a round.

Fast combat with lots of skill opportunities

However, the most striking reason to play Naraka over many of the similar BR games is the action combat. For someone like me who never acquired a taste (or skill) for FPS games, the third-person melee focused fighting is a blessing.

While you only have two class abilities to activate during combat – one of which is your ultimate ability – you do have a grappling hook for zooming about the arena. You have to pick up ammo for it, so it has limited uses, but zipping around through trees and onto buildings is a lot of fun. It makes movement through the map a blast.

In addition to the two class skills (which you can choose along with a handful of others), combat itself consists of vertical slash (left mouse click), horizontal slash (right mouse click), blocking and countering (left and right mouse button at the same time), and dodges. So the combat really rewards players who are able to properly time their clicks. While I played the game with mouse and keyboard, it did offer controller support, which honestly I think would play better, at least for the melee. You can pick up some guns and bow and arrow weapons around the map too, so those may benefit from the keyboard and mouse combo.

Something else that’s a boon for the game is that certain heroes actually play more as support characters. Granted, you’ve got to do just as much in your face sword play as everyone else, but those heroes’ abilities can heal your teammates. Kurumi, for instance, has an ability that links you to other heroes to continuously heal them. This offers teams some actual coordination and reward for playing together well.

In my first few fights, I was dead before I could even gain my bearings. The combat is pretty quick. It’s not quick in the way that a single headshot will knock you out as in CS:GO or Valorant, but it’s still very fast. However, with a few more fights under my belt, I’m already beginning to get the pacing of it figured out a bit. I still preferred the melee in Ashes of Creation: Apocalypse, but that’s ancient history now.

Solid class and cosmetic customization options

There are only nine classes currently in Naraka, but that isn’t actually a problem because of the way the classes are designed in the game. The devs here have gone the route many other games have as well with heroes rather than classes; however, the weapon pick-up system makes me see them more as classes anyway.

In many BRs, you simply play a hero with set skills and weapons, but if you pick up the katana here, you have katana attacks, and if you pick up a spear, you have spear ones. It just gives your character more of a feeling of ownership. I feel less as if I am playing a developer-designed hero and more like I’m playing one I created. To me, this is a huge reason I love MMOs more than single-player RPGs. I love the ownership and feeling of creating my character and choosing their abilities. When a game simply gives me a hero with a preset choice of skills, it really takes a lot away from my being able to connect with the character.

Also, I expected that even if I could customize my heroes’ combat my way, I’d probably be locked into a limited set of visual customizations, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, and perhaps as should be expected from an import, the character customization is top notch.

You have your full range of sliders from the eyes and eyebrows to the size of your ears and even earlobes. But it doesn’t stop there; Naraka even have one of those photo matching systems. It isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty dang awesome!

Small goals in the form of daily and weekly quests

If you’re anything like me, you might also be a fan of the carrot at the end of the stick technique for keeping my interest in the game. You know, maybe I just have a short attention span or a lack of imagination and ability to plan for myself, but I really need some dailies and short term goals.

Naraka fills this need with a fair set of daily and weekly quests. The rewards aren’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, but that isn’t really the point. The fact is it has achievable short-term goals that can hold my interest while I’m otherwise playing the game. One nice feature in the daily system is the ability to re-roll your quests – one time for free with a small cost to roll again.

Comparisons to Shadow Arena

Now, I mentioned Ashes of Creation: Apocalypse earlier because I honestly enjoyed the hell out of it. I think if it wasn’t released into the world at such a bad time with so much other noise, it could have actually been worth playing more long-term. Alas, it’s dead and gone, but we do still have Black Desert’s Shadow Arena.

Due to the visuals and the nature of BRs these two games have a lot in common, but I think Naraka is more of the game I would’ve like to have seen Shadow Arena become. Granted, this is coming from a non-Black Desert Online player, but Shadow Arena’s heroes do lock you into their skills and weapons, so there isn’t a huge difference between one fire gauntlet hero and the next. In Naraka, though, depending on which two skills you’ve slotted and how you’ve allocated your hero, one Tarka Ji could play very different from another. I did enjoy Shadow Arena’s skill combo system, but I don’t think Naraka has that sort of combo attack.

Naraka also uses the expected search and looting system for finding and equipping gear, whereas Shadow Arena’s was much more obtuse and sort of unnecessary. However, the PvE elements in Shadow Arena were fun. In other words, it’s easy to want to draw a line connecting these two games, but they actually play very differently. If you didn’t enjoy one, you may find the other one more your speed.

Lockboxes, battlepasses, and similar shenanigans

The biggest downside of the whole game has to be the number and complexity of lockbox and similar RNG features in this game – especially since this isn’t even a free-to-play game! It has an actual sticker price on it.

In Naraka you can buy premium currency, which will let you directly buy some premium skins and packages. You can also buy into the battlepass, which unlocks additional skins and such while you’re playing. There are also lockboxes that can be purchased; fortunately, they are bought with in-game currency, but you can also gain additional ones through the battle pass and so forth.

So while I can appreciate that we have a ton of customization options, many of them are paid or RNG-to-earn. We’ve largely come to expect this from free-to-play games, but since this is buy-to-play, it is disappointing. Everything about the game feels like free-to-play but the box price, so I can only imagine that it will go that route at some point, but who knows.

Ultimately, if you’re in the market for a well-made BR that leans heavily on Asian-inspired martial arts and melee combat, then this may very well be the game for you. Issues with monetization aside, it is fun to play, and there are so many levels of gear and skills and other ways to customize and level up that you are certainly not going to run out of things to do.

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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