Recently bought Blade Symphony while it was on sale over Steam's Autumn Sale (it also had a discount on the Humble Store two weeks ago I believe) and while starting out I was slightly irked by its slow pacing, it's quickly becoming my favorite 3D fighter. If I had to describe it in a sentence, I'd say it takes the weapon variety and stances from Bushido Blade for the PS1, and implements it into a much more open and flexible fighting system, with little to no button mashing reliance to be found, as in other 3D fighters like the Soul Calibur series.
Basically, it's a sword dueling game with the setup of a traditional fighter. Best out of three matches, a lightly implemented combo system, grabs, etc. However, the reason for the slower pacing that I mentioned above, and the reason why I really like this game as a competitive fighter, is that it pretty much deals with button mashing by making combat revolve around a much more deliberate, careful system of timing your strikes, anticipating attacks, dodging, parrying, switching stances to fit the situation and counter your opponent's stance. The great amount of work they put into each character's combo strings make sure that if you're just clicking away like a madman, the game will leave you open as you close out of a combo, and if your opponent punishes you as you're recovering, it's because you weren't being careful and watching them as well as yourself. Also, I'm not sure about this, but if you clash a heavier-stanced attack with your opponent's that overpowers their lighter stance, you might do bonus counter damage, not sure though. Dealing heavy hits to a light attack in the right position just seems to inflict a ridiculously high amount of damage, which in itself might be a little overpowering, but hopefully this and other things will be balanced, changed and improved in future patches.
It's not a perfect system, I notice some slight moments of finnicky interactions between opponents and playstyles, and some stances and attacks feel a bit limited in their purpose and practicality, while others feel a little too powerful for the sheer amount of damage they do. The heavy stance, even if slow to come out and easy to read and predict, can knock out a full health bar in just three or four hits, sometimes two if you land a counter attack for a ridiculous amount of bonus damage.
Being someone who mainly plays as Judgement, a class focused on being slow but strong, and using the longsword weapon type, which is meant for the precise purpose of powerfully heavy-handed strikes, I do feel I have a slight advantage compared to the more agile play styles of Phalanx and Pure, which I was pretty bad at when I tried mostly because I haven't practiced with them yet, but I have faced opponents using all the four currently available classes, and had them absolutely wipe the floor with me, so I feel that there is still a major focus on the player's level of skill, their knowledge of the game's mechanics, and awareness of their opponent's actions and how to counter their play style when it comes to how well you do in battle.
If nothing else, I rarely have a perfect match against another player, and each victory feels well-earned. Some of the fights I've had over the 6 hours I've put into the game over the past week were quite intense, and very, very fun.
Right now, there are ranked competitive matches, which can be 1v1, 2v2, or as a jokingly unfair setup (which is how they describe it on their website)/test of your mettle vs. multiple opponents, 2v1! There's also a great Free For All mode where you can simply slash up everyone in the server or challenge a single opponent to a private duel, and it's all done seamlessly without any sort of leading screen in-between fights. All non-combatants are just phased out and become colored outlines that can't interfere with the fight. It's a really great, smooth-flowing system. There's also a beta steam workshop feature where people have already uploaded a handful of weapons you can download and use! In fact, you can download them in-game, and it'll automatically be added to your available armory so you can use it in battle right on the spot, and other players can see these weapons without needing to be subscribed to them. It's pretty amazing really.
The game's visual style is pretty impressive, and sometimes rather beautiful; it mixes traditional oriental imagery, such of Judgement's samurai outfit and the Temple stage urban imagery, including Ryoku's default outfit, breakdancing fighting style and the City District stage, and a bit of futuristic flair with the Community Mall stage, and some sci-fi themed outfits for each of the classes, particularly Pure's default.
It also has a great variety of music tracks that play during battle, which vary from more Oriental-themed tracks, to something I imagine would play during fancy fencing match, to my personal favorite which sounds a bit like an action-filled Mexican Standoff.
You can unlock different weapons and helmets by earning Notes through ranked matches, which compared to the prices of some of the fancier weapons and helmets, you get a pretty scarce amount of per match (I'm hoping they patch it to give you a little more than they do now). These unlockables are all cosmetic though, meant only for extra visual flair and style, pretty much everything available in the game gameplay-wise is fully accessible to everyone from the start.
Anyways, I've ranted for way too long, I really love this game though. You can check out the game's website Here
and read up about it for yourself! They've even got a live updating Duel tab where you can see who is fighting who and exactly how each match went, with statistics on remaining health, landed hits and blocks, damage amounts, it's completely insane how detailed and integrated this thing is into their website and Steam.
I think this would be a really fun game to have for our game nights, so if anybody picks it up during a sale or anything mention it on the forums and we can go a few rounds with it
hope to see you there!