Die by the Blade Review (PC)

Who thought dying to swords could be this much fun?

die by the blade review
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Games with swords speak of quiet promises. The moment you see a strong, silent character with a katana in hand, you know they mean business. Die by the Blade hones a neat set of sword skills that can put other games to shame, and tries to raise the bar in combat system design.

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Challenging, fun, and addictive, Die by the Blade reflects a game design decision that holds a lot of potential. Unfortunately, due to its limited creative and artistic direction, it feels like an experience worthy of multiple expansions and single-player campaigns that aren’t yet actualized.

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Die by the Blade launches on May 16 and arrives on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

A Slash in a Flash; Nothing More and Nothing Less

Die by the Blade gore
Successful attacks and death animations feel incredibly satisfying.

Die by the Blade, just like its combat system does not hesitate at any point. From the moment I picked the game up to the end (as I felt battle-scarred), the game made me realize how bad my reflexes are. Do you know what takes immaculate reflexes? Mastering the blade.

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Games like Sifu and For Honor have taught us how complex melee combat can feel, and Die by the Blade gracefully takes it up a notch. Starting with a simple Katana, the game teaches you about different stances. Holding an upward stance can lead to the chopping of your opponent’s head. A mid-stance done right can stab your opponent in the heart, leading to an instant kill. A downward-stance attack can completely break their moveset.

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As I write this, my hands are still shaking thinking of how quick yet powerful these duels felt. Every round lasts almost less than a minute unless you’re having a face-off against a friend who may hold a grudge against you. Think of those cinematic sequences in Ghost of Tsushima. The moment the fight begins, all it takes is one correct slash of your sword to kill your opponent. That’s how realistic and detailed Die by the Blade is.

If you’re a fan of slower action, well, there is some good news for you. The game’s combat system balances attacking and defending in a neat way, which certainly left me impressed.

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Die by the Blade’s Blocking, Parrying and Rolling Entail Different Things

Death by the Blade combat
Mastering stances becomes the key to understanding your opponent.

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In a poetic sense, combat in Die by the Blade feels like spaces between musical notes. That’s where the music is, after all: in those silences and evasions. A neat mechanic in the game is how you block attacks. You see, there’s no button for this. Rather, you match your opponent’s stance. If they’re landing a slash from above, keep your stance up! Your character will automatically block this attack.

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The game’s Resolve system makes this even more interesting. When you’re simply walking or evading attacks, your resolve is built up. However, you break this by being aggressive or successfully delivering attacks. If your opponent’s Resolve is completely down, enjoy the splash of blood across the screen as your sword opens them up in super gory ways.

If you’ve played enough games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, parrying may come easy to you. Die by the Blade rewards you for this, and parrying at the right times can instantly shift the tides of battles. Combing this with rolling every now and then, and you’re basically untouchable.

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So, I’m Fighting for Honor… That’s It?

Die by the Blade characters
The game’s progression system made me think of arcade games that don’t take themselves too seriously.

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At first, I believed that Die by the Blade was simply a project that tested the limits of a complex combat system. However, as I played this game, I realized how the devs truly wanted me to take an interest beyond just the game’s mechanics.

The beautifully crafted landscapes are a deft addition to all that’s going on in Die by the Blade. Combine that with a soundtrack harmonizing with the clashing of blades, you practically have a love letter to fans of samurai, swords, and everything in between. Unfortunately, it was never clear to me what direction I was working toward, other than unlocking new swords and characters.

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Die by the Blade weapons
Different weapons have a unique feel to them… but you’ll have to master the basics first.

Even though every battle happens between two characters who seem to come from diverse backgrounds, I wish there was more to this. Maybe it’s the Mortal Kombat fan in me that seeks a game with rich fighting mechanics and an even richer campaign that follows it.

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The devs even added detailed bios about characters and weapons that wrap the narrative of the game in different themes. However, unlocking them could have been more fun when supported by different storylines. Yet, none of this ever takes away from the story as such.

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My only criticism of the UI itself lies in blurry text and a mixed approach to different kinds of interfaces. Walking around and selecting a tutorial felt cool (something like Sifu), and I wish there was more of that. Instead, the menus felt like a mobile game we’ve all been too familiar with in the last few years.

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In the end, none of these small complaints led me to have a strong opinion against Die by the Blade. Right after I’m done writing this review, there are a few more rounds of swordplay waiting for me. Yes, I may struggle at parrying and delivering better combos right now, but in the long run, I’ll make the devs proud.

7/10

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7 out of 10

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Written by Tanay Sharma

Articles Published: 476

Tanay wears more hats than Red Dead Redemption 2 characters. He's a musician, writer, voice-over artist and adores interactive media. His favourite games are the ones with memorable stories and characters. He's pursuing a master's degree in Behavioural Sciences. No, he won't read your mind.