Vehicles and MOBA. Things that usually don’t stick together but they just did! Switchblade is one such game that tries to integrate both vehicular combats in a strategic setting such as a MOBA. And if you ask me if it works, then I have to say not for now. But maybe it will! Probably?
The Liverpool-based developers, Lucid Games is one such team that took on what seems to be a high-octane but not really, strategic maybe, team-based definitely! Arena shooter in vehicles. War is the new sport and in this futuristic world, two teams need to compete in a frantic 5v5 battle to take down the enemy’s core. Players get the option to seamlessly switch between their two chosen vehicles of choice armed to the brim with weapons and support abilities. It offers both tactical choices as well as guerrilla tactics to secure a kill and take home the V.
As an early access game in a future free-to-play title, players that buy the game get access to the Founders Pack that includes all 16 current vehicles including all future additions, 16 exclusive Founders Vehicle Skins, 3 Day battle points boost, and the hard currency 500 Bit cash.
We start off with a little bit of a tutorial mode as you get to know the controls. If you played Paladins, a game having the same business model that went free-to-play as it graduated from its open beta, you’ll be safe to know it carries the same basic controls. The R2 button is the primary weapon attack and the L2 and two shoulder buttons would activate your other abilities. The left thumbstick would control your vehicle and the right would control the camera. But this is where it deviates from the other, both square and circle buttons are for your consumable items, the triangle button is for switching with your other vehicle, pressing down on the D-pad would open up your item shop and the X button to open up your skill upgrade tab.
But while the controls are similar, the way the game is played is different. On a team of five, there are different lanes on where to push your mobs to destroy enemy towers. And unlike DOTA or League of Legends, there are only two lanes to push forward, a central tower to destroy followed with two other towers in the second tier before reaching the center core in the enemy’s base. The game’s flow is also different and goes through a rushed pace making the entire experience one fast push more than anything. With turrets being easily put down, destroying the first tower can take as little as a few minutes in the match and exposing your mid-towers easily for a team push. And it doesn’t help that every vehicle can and will be out of reach for defense mechanisms to kick in. In fact, they’re out of range to what your vehicle can do. So simply standing back on an exposed tower core and blasting those bunnies with a barrage of normal attacks and offensive abilities can easily kill the match in a huge upset. And speaking of attack range, as long as you can see it, you can hit it!
And in this level of pacing, there’s barely enough time as mobs spawn instantly than having to wait a few seconds. This, in turn, gives no time to stop and get early items for the slower vehicles that won’t be able to catch up to their mobs.
Vehicles are categorized into five roles, first one being scouts. They have a higher focus on speed and disruption skills. Second would go into the fighter role which provides damage at close to mid-range. Artillery, however, would be fulfilling a sniper role hitting from long distances and Tanks would focus more on their defensive capabilities and higher health. Lastly, the Support role would as you guessed it, healing. Each vehicle has their unique capabilities and attributes to make others of similar roles provide different experiences while letting the players find their preferred playstyles.
Moving forward, backward and to the side, sorry! I mean progressing on a specific vehicle and earning mastery levels would unlock new skins for you to buy later on. Gives you the bling! While leaving you begging for coins later. They all come as unique paint jobs but nothing that really changes outside of it. Getting coins for purchasing such skins can easily be obtained through playing matches be it quick play or competitive. Coop vs. AI, however, is unlocked first for training purposes and is easily locked after a while. And because it’s an early access game with a very low population, even quick play can easily be a Co-op vs. AI mode if no one else is currently on. Thus it makes you wait a couple of seconds to over two minutes to start a match which gets filled with the bots.
Daily login rewards and daily challenges seem like the thing most common in free-to-play business models and this does not disappoint. You get coins in your daily logins as well as bit cash which depends on the current day’s rewards. Meanwhile, your daily challenges put you into the shoes of the different vehicle roles from playing tanks to supports or dealing core damage while rewarding you with more coins to get you started as a tycoon. Similarly, if a challenge seems hard or simply undesirable, a re-roll can be done once a day. However, failure to finish a daily challenge or when you simply don’t feel like doing it means it’s going to stick with you until you finish them.
Controlling your vehicle exclusively with the left stick makes for a very hard experience at first glance and the second as well as the third. Even now I feel like having an accelerator and reverse button mapped to the trigger buttons would provide a more desirable feel while abilities would be mapped on the shoulder buttons as well as either the D-Pad or face buttons for the extras.
The one single map currently available doesn’t feel memorable nor easily recognizable. Iceland comes off as a grassland with huge rocks and some platforms to jump on but aside from that, it’s simply just that. A simple and symmetrical map that doesn’t hold any advantageous positions and choke points for that last stand. Additionally, I feel there’s a need for high ramps to go into in order to flank a support role from above or simply have a one-time use power-up that spawns to tip the balance especially when a match becomes one-sided.
Overall, the game itself has the potential to succeed but a bit early for that big break. It lacked on the simple to master movement that a normal FPS would nail down through the middle and what ensued was a slightly clunky driving game that has you killing each other. Dying in the game also means you’ll be able to see everything from enemy positions and their directions of travel as well as their possible targets. The consumable and stat upgrades offer little in the face of a high leveled enemy. But what really makes good use of casual play is hitting enemies immediately earns you experience and currency rather than taking the final hit on an enemy or mob.