Anyone who knows me decently will immediately tell you my two favourite gaming genres are Fighting Games and Roguelikes. This meant that BlazBlue Entropy Effect was a match made in heaven for people who, like me, have these two genres close to heart.
Ever since the rumour of a BlazBlue sidescrolling platformer was being developed, there was a sense of mystery and doubt as to whether the game would deliver or not, especially since this was not being done by Arc System Works, the well-known developer of the beloved Fighting Game franchise. Instead, 91 Act was at the helm, a relatively unknown Chinese company that had seemingly come out of nowhere with a massive task on its hands: honour BlazBlue’s name.
BlazBlue Entropy Effect stars you, the protagonist, as a robot in an unfamiliar situation, trying to get clues as to what happened and what is currently going on. You meet different beings who leave you a bit confused as to which entity you should trust and which you need to derail, but at the end of the day, only one thing matters: you need to enter the Training Terminal and rack up as many points as possible to be able to undertake the Ability Tests which will be asked of you.
It is quite a lot to take in, and the game feels quite confusing at the start, but progressing slowly will let you get an understanding of what is happening around you.
As one can deduce from BlazBlue Entropy Effect and its promotion, this is a roguelike featuring many of the well-known BlazBlue characters, such as Ragna the BloodEdge, Kokonoe, Mai Natsume and soon also Es. Shame there is not Hazama yet (tsk tsk) The game is basically a 2D sidescrolling platformer with roguelike elements, in that no two runs will be the same. You will navigate a number of levels, currently 4 since the game is in Early Access plus one big map, very reminiscent of Dead Cells if you will, that is procedurally generated, meaning navigating the block twice will have you run different paths altogether.
The gameplay is definitely the core experience of Entropy Effect, and just like its story, there is quite a lot to take in. You start off in one of the four randomly selected areas and work your way through each and every one until you encounter the boss fight, which is generally the same for every area. Upon beating the boss, you will proceed to the next area, until all four have been visited. After beating the boss of the fourth, you will be transported to the above-mentioned Dead Cells-esque location, with portals and platforms and plenty of vicious enemies ready to strike.
We have mentioned that there are a number of different characters available to be selected in BlazBlue Entropy Effect, but we did not go through the different playstyles that each of them carries. BlazBlue the fighting game is known as a series that has a very wide range of tastes covered with its roster, so it is only natural that Entropy Effect will carry this particular property in this 2D title, and it does that fantastically.
All the available characters play entirely differently from each other; Mai Natsume focuses on speed and evasiveness to kill the enemies with her pole, while Hakumen is slow but his sword hits very hard. Kokonoe uses her inventions like a water gun or missiles to dispatch the opposition, and Noel Vermillion uses her shotguns to blow the brains off of the Samples that you encounter.
The objective of BlazBlue Entropy Effect is to get as far into the level as possible, to rack up points to unlock Ability Challenges, as also briefly mentioned previously. Levels are composed of a number of rooms, where after clearing the enemies you are given a choice from which to dictate what the next room will be. Exchange gives you the opportunity to, exchange, the points earned so far to restore HP, buy an HP potion, reduce Entropy, buy AP [Ability Points] or get a powerup, known in the game as tactics.
Training is the normal, wipe the room levels, which are the basic and most common rooms in Entropy Effect. There is also Enhanced Training, where you encounter tougher opposition or also, very similarly to Hades, survive an endless onslaught of enemies for 45 seconds. Sortitio is a random wheel of fortune type of room where you may get a bonus at random. You may also get a “Better Luck Next Time” card which leaves you empty-handed. Rest guarantees you a very high Entropy reduction which generally is 70% or higher.
We have mentioned Entropy a couple of times and heck, it’s even in the title, so it is definitely about time to delve into this mechanic. Entropy is a sort of unavoidable penalty that kicks in once you get to the later levels of BBEE. An amount of Entropy is added after every room you clear, independent of what you choose in the selection shown above.
This leads me to believe Entropy increase is attributed to what you choose before, so after beating the room you have the entropy from the last choice added to your total. The higher your entropy levels, the more difficult the game becomes since it will create new, adverse effects in your campaign. This can be enemies dealing more damage, your character dealing less, and even a chance for enemies to heal or respawn altogether, among other negative effects.
This means that Entropy has to be kept at the lowest possible value at all times. This is where the decision-making takes place in BBEE; considering powerups are earned every two training rooms cleared, it puts players at a hard time when entropy is getting close to the 100s, which is when the effects start to kick in. Rest will take care of rising entropy for sure, decreasing 70% or more of the current levels, but Resting means forgoing the possibility of earning more powerups. The Exchange may work out nicely in this scenario since it may present players with the chance to reduce entropy AND bag yourself a new talent, if you have enough in the bank of course.
Having touched upon BlazBlue Entropy Effect’s gameplay and mechanics, we have to talk about the graphics now. Entropy Effect is an incredibly gorgeous game, with a superbly created futuristic setting that, while contrasting a bit with the now older BlazBlue titles having minorly outdated graphics, creates a beautiful setting. Unfortunately, exploration is not one of BlazBlue Entropy Effect’s strong suits, but given it is a roguelike, it does not make up one of the core aims of the game.
Still, the game in motion looks stunning, and its many effects make it a joy to watch while playing. It is one of the prettiest looking roguelites for sure, and this is more impressive when taking into account that the characters are all recreated in the smallest of details, even retaining some moves from the fighting game. Characters can even combo their moves together to create a deadly flurry of moves that will take chunks out of any enemy.
The UI Interface also adds to the futuristic setting, presenting players with a very neat, compact set of icons at the bottom of the screen, denoting the different attacks available on the left as well as the powerups unlocked on the right. The icons do not make much sense by themselves, but hovering the mouse over them will reveal what powerup they consist of. Generally speaking, the controller is the way to go with this game, although since the game is only on PC, the mouse can be used regardless just to hover over the icons.
BlazBlue has also been synonymous with very good soundtracks, and Entropy Effect delivers in that department as well. The music is repetitive in every level but is catchy just enough to keep you going while never being outright boring. It complements the fights quite well, but also never takes centre stage. Each one of the four main environments has a unique theme, which plays for the duration of the level. They blend quite well with the backgrounds of the level too, creating a subtle unison that helps players remain engaged with the action.
BlazBlue Entropy Effect overall thoughts in Early Access
All in all, BlazBlue Entropy Effect is a superb 2D roguelite, somehow merging the best of both worlds into one. A fighting game recognized by millions of fans, and a genre which keeps players engaged over and over. For the first foray into gaming, 91Act has done a brilliant job, and considering that the game is still in Early Access, one might say the best is still yet to come. BBEE has amazingly solid foundations, and with the promise of a full year of development before the title comes out of Steam Early Access, one can only imagine what marvels the finished product will be.