Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC (Steam)
Release Date: January 24th, 2019 (date Switchblade went free-to-play, still Early Access)
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Lucid Games, support from Wushu Studios
Publisher: Lucid Publishing
A MOBA is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. The genre began years back with Aeon of Strife and Defense of the Ancients, custom modes for StarCraft and WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos. Since then, the genre has seen massive success with DOTA 2 and League of Legends. Yet, despite multiple attempts, very few other contenders big or small have emerged. Lucid Games is looking to change that with Switchblade.
Switchblade is a free-to-play MOBA that tasks players with suiting up in different vehicles and taking part in a massive tournament. Each of these war rigs has been outfitted with a variety of armor, cannons, rockets, blasters, energy shields, life-draining fields and impressive suspension systems. So, let’s check them out. Here’s my Switchblade review.
You’ll start off by creating a character to represent you, a pilot to crew these monstrous vehicles. After customizing them to your liking, you’re required to check out the tutorial. MOBA veterans will recognize most of what’s going on but this is very helpful for newcomers. Two teams of five players fight to destroy the others’ Core Towers, while supported by a steady stream of weaker, “minion” vehicles. Unlike many MOBAs, these weaker vehicles are still quite dangerous, so don’t take them on at close range unless you’re asking for a quick, embarrassing respawn.
For each match, instead of being locked into a single choice, you’ll pick two vehicles. Do you take a sniper and a tank, polar opposites? Or is it better to take slightly different damage dealers, so you can figure out which one’s special abilities you like best? Regardless of what you pick, they can be swapped in and out on the fly in the middle of the game, giving you some tactical flexibility. It also adds a nice layer of strategy to the game that I haven’t seen in other games in this genre.
The main menu system is a bit weird, as you physically walk your avatar to different stations to purchase skins, customize your look and start searching for matches. With that being said, it’s not overly distracting and everything is spaced out well. If you have trouble finding matches, you will eventually get bots to fill in for the missing players, and the bots seem fairly competent.
Since this is a free-to-play game, let’s talk about the microtransactions. They seem decently balanced, with the usual discount on larger, bulk purchases. There’s always a bonus of currency that you’ll earn for logging in on different days and ranking up different vehicles, so you can earn this currency outside of purchasing it. If all you’re interested in buying is the vehicles, it’s important to note that you can do just that. The Legendary Pack is $19.99 USD and includes all 16 vehicles that are currently in the game, plus any future additions.
This is a MOBA, so there isn’t really a story and that’s okay. With that in mind, I do want to draw attention to the vehicle descriptions, as they’re pretty amusing. There’s some interesting bits of background lore to be gleamed if you go through these different vehicle profiles. Evidently, a vicious empire fell, primarily thanks to the act of a rogue sniper who used his vehicle’s cannon to snipe the mad emperor a moon away. A major corporation is buying up designs and making minute improvements that completely fix them. To top it off, the game of Switchblade is Earth-based, for puny earthlings: on the Moon, things are tougher (even the young kids!) and they play Moonblade. Moonblade sounds absolutely ludicrous, over-the-top and awesome. So, I have a small request for Lucid Games: please give us an insane, Moonblade-themed expansion.
I’m happy to report that Switchblade looks really good. From the frosty mountains of Iceland, to the lush green fields and rock formations you’ll be roaring over throughout the match, it all looks good. The different vehicles each have a unique visual flair, which is good, since you’ll need to learn to identify them at a glance quickly. My biggest complaint by far is the lack of variety in the map, since there’s only one map right now. The developers are working on another map however, there’s no timing as to when it might release.
Switchblade runs fairly well on PC. In all the time I played it, I never encountered any bugs or glitches and the framerate stayed consistent all throughout. The aforementioned lone map is an arena in Iceland and it looks really good. The image quality is crisp and if you do have an older PC, there’s a variety of graphics options to tweak.
Regardless of what vehicles you choose, you’re going to be blasting others (and getting blasted yourself) into thousands of pieces. With all of the cacophony and chaos of countless vehicles being blown to pieces, great audio design helps to channel things and keep things clear. All of the different rigs sound powerful, with rockets roaring and energy weapons crackling. Machine guns on towers have a steady boom that you will learn to fear and get out of range when you hear. The announcer is usually pretty clear, communicating which towers are under attack. There’s also a steady soundtrack that’s appropriately composed of electronic beats.
All in all, there’s a lot to like here. The structure of the game is solid, the vehicles themselves are a lot of fun (my personal favorite remains the life-draining Vampire) and there’s a couple of neat twists that change things up, keeping this from being just another MOBA. While the lack of map variety is disappointing, it’s something that will change in the future. In the meantime, if you have a PC or a PS4 and you’re looking for a new MOBA to try out, or you just want to blow other vehicles up in a variety of ways, this is definitely something I recommend checking out, especially at the low cost of free-to-play.