Bleak Sword DX: A Challenging Indie Game with Pixel Graphics – PC Review
Indie developers frequently create some of the most unique and creative video game experiences available. With no publishers or moneymen breathing down their necks, indie devs are typically free to experiment and create games that are unlike anything else. Bleak Sword DX, an indie game that likely slipped under your radar between recent triple-A releases, offers a refreshing and challenging experience for gamers seeking a horrifying and twisted pixelated adventure. With its unique level design and jaw-droppingly gorgeous retro visuals, Bleak Sword DX delivers a truly immersive and engrossing gameplay experience.
Bleak Sword DX has a unique approach when it comes to telling its story. It doesn’t rely on text-heavy segments or frequent lore drops, instead relaying its narrative through visually stunning abstract cutscenes that occasionally pop up between worlds and boss encounters.
However, while these cutscenes provide glimpses into the journey you’re undertaking, it is evident that the story is not a core component of Bleak Sword DX. Instead, the game’s focus is entirely on fleshing out its compelling gameplay mechanics. So, if you’re looking for an intriguing, detailed storyline, Bleak Sword DX is simply not for you.
The first thing that catches your eye in Bleak Sword DX is its enchanting and gory pixel art. Each world is beautifully crafted, immersing you in its dark and atmospheric setting. The level design is truly unique, with no two areas feeling the same. At all times, the camera works tirelessly to ensure you are kept at the centre of the action, allowing you to be swept away by the dynamic visuals while never being lost in the noise from eerie dungeons to sprawling landscapes, Bleak Sword DX offers a visual feast for fans of retro aesthetics.
In terms of combat, Bleak Sword DX uses the typical attack, parry, and dodge system, akin to games like Elden Ring. We hesitate to say it’s a souls-like, but like those games, it expertly crafts a complex and challenging combat system that manages to remain entertaining no matter how many times you die. And yes, you will die a lot.
Bleak Sword DX is an incredibly challenging experience and one I was not prepared for as I had no prior knowledge of it or its original mobile variant. Bleak Sword DX, as its name would aptly suggest, is unforgiving at its core and has no intention of apologising for it. However, it isn’t unfair and can be mastered with skill and patience. It is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who lack a fondness for games like Dark Souls, but it also isn’t cruel and respects your time and effort at every turn.
“Much like its enemy variety, Bleak Sword DX offers a gameplay experience that is constantly changing.”
Enemy variety is a big factor in any arcade-style game, and, fortunately, Bleak Sword DX provides plenty of it. The enemies you face are called Beasts and defeating each one will fill a Bestiary, which you can go back and reference, with short readings under each. You’ll encounter everything from bats, slimes, soldiers, spiders, harpies, and even plants, all of which actively want to kill you. So, you’re going to have your hands full trying to defeat the assortment of enemies in each level.
Much like its enemy variety, Bleak Sword DX offers a gameplay experience that is constantly changing, switching between different styles of combat and encounters whenever it can. For the most part, you’ll find yourself engaged in intense one-on-one battles, strategically maneuvering your character to deliver precise strikes and parries.
Naturally, these standard encounters demand quick reflexes and precise timing, rewarding players who master the game’s combat mechanics. You can abuse the dodge roll mechanic just a little, as it allows you to roll around infinitely without consequence, and the parrying can be a little too forgiving sometimes. But, for the most part, these standard combat encounters offer up enough challenge to feel rewarding.
However, Bleak Sword DX doesn’t stop there, as it also features exhilarating horseback segments, where you gallop through the treacherous landscapes, fending off enemies with your trusty blade. These horseback sequences inject a sense of thrilling momentum into the gameplay, providing a break from the classic combat encounters.
“Bleak Sword DX remains a gem within the indie game scene.”
Bleak Sword DX offers a vast amount of content, including multiple worlds containing countless levels, a bestiary to fill, and a combat system to get to grips with. Unfortunately, despite all of its attempts to offer up fresh new ways of enjoying its content, it does eventually begin to feel repetitive.
While the core gameplay remains engaging throughout, the simplicity of its combat will slowly settle in as you realise there isn’t much to it beyond what you experience early on. This may cause some players to lose interest over time. In particular, the parrying system can be a little forgiving sometimes, and constant rolling can make you almost immortal.
Despite its minor flaws, Bleak Sword DX remains a hidden gem within the indie game scene. Its beautiful pixel art, unique level design, and challenging gameplay make it a worthy addition to anyone’s library. If you’re a fan of retro-inspired visuals and enjoy the satisfaction of overcoming difficult obstacles, Bleak Sword DX is definitely worth a try.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.
Bleak Sword DX
Bleak Sword DX provides an enchanting experience that will keep you engaged throughout your journey. It may not be for everyone, but if you're up for a challenge and appreciate artistic pixel graphics, this indie title is well worth your time.