Have You Played… Blade Symphony

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Remember the multiplayer mode in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast? It inspired a well-known piece of games writing, about the etiquette that its tight, frantic lightsaber duels inspired. Blade Symphony is a whole game built upon that multiplayer mode, with a more nuanced combat system than its obvious inspiration, and a better version of the same spirited community.

After selecting your character and sword type – all real swords, with their own weight and combat style, with many more to unlock alongside the usual comedy hats – you’re dropped into an arena. In dueling mode, that’ll mean queuing in winner-stays-on one-on-one fights. I prefer to play in free-for-all, where people shift across period appropriate dojos, slicing through scenery, getting in messy scraps, and still occasionally breaking off for one-on-one fights in separate rooms.

The fighting system is based around combos and shifting through combat stances. Each move is performed with the keyboard and mouse and it’s graceful to perform and behold: you might start an attack with two quick, light blows, then shift to a heavier stance for a slower, more powerful third strike. Each successive chained attack is more powerful than the last, and the combo persists across shifts in stance. That means you’ll have to learn to mask your intent, hiding stance changes in roll or flip animations. Fights are about out-maneuvering, out-thinking, as well as over-powering.

But really it’s the etiquette that makes me love it. I’m no good at the game, but before each fight, everyone still bows to me as a mark of respect. Afterwards, as I lay crumpled at the feet of my better, my enemy might play an in-game taunt or bow again, but it’s always in good fun. It’s $15/£11 on Steam.

20 Comments

  1. Knightley4 says:

    Yep. Bought it with a friend because of the “Jedi Outcast” name as well. Got bored after a couple of matches though.

    • Continuity says:

      yeah me too, its one of those games that’s not fun until you’ve mastered it and its bloody hard to get there.

    • ssh83 says:

      Yeah… this game is nothing like JK2. The stance “combo” severely limit your options to an extremely linear level. Each stance is not so much a “combo” as a linear series of attack animations. “Hiding” your stance change is a feeble attempt for a surprise, as you will still only be able to do 3 possible attacks after each move (or reset “combo”).

      Saw an opening for 2 quick side swipes? Can’ do that here. Want to bait the opponent with a big slash? Can’t do that here.

      To be fair, this game has many things that JK2 doesn’t have, but it took away more than it added. The low conversion rate of player base is evidence of that.

  2. Wowbagger says:

    Does it have controller support or am I likely to get creamed playing that way? It sounds like my sort of thing regardless.

    • RickyWL says:

      Keyboard + Mouse > Controller by quite a significant margin. Aiming is pretty important in this, so you’re gonna be at a disadvantage using a controller. I’d recommend it if you’re alright with using a kb+m.

      • Wowbagger says:

        Thanks for your input – I’m ok with M + K but find it uncomfortable so tend to avoid it for everything other than strategy games.

  3. RickyWL says:

    Really great game, got over 850 hours in it. There’s also going to be a fairly large patch within the next month, which will bring some new game modes and maps which have been needed for a while due to the dwindling population.It’s well worth picking up though, there’s a lot of depth to the combat.

  4. ncnavguy says:

    Is this a multiplayer only game?

    • RickyWL says:

      Some bot support, but it’s awful – it pretty much is multiplayer only.

  5. Gog Magog says:

    Playing on “one hit one kill” servers in JK was a profoundly dramatic experience. I kept going to this one server that had a rendition map of the hangars and the reactor from “Duel of the Fates” (that’s the fight scene of Phantom Mace).

    None of the silly hack-and-slash of the movies.
    Two people charge each other, blades meet for a moment, then one falls. No music but for the hum of an endless pit stretching forever underneath.

    … I also remember a lot of people using “n*gger”. It seemed to be a rebel-kinda thing, raw nonsense rudeness for the sake of it, and when someone would call them on it they’d be glib and like “well, that’s just like your opinion n*gger” (in essence, not in movie quote). And they’d all call each other that and it was very obviously amicable and really quite weird. I only knew few of these people (“knew”, on the internet, right) outside JK and they all attested as much; childish and offensive for the sake of it. A bit like a way to masquerade the genuine camaraderie they find themselves feeling after decapitating the same old people for a long time. Naturally they’d extend it to outsiders because they thought it was really fucking funny. I should note that none of these people were in any way Anglophone, or had even a basic understanding of English for the most part. I played on Hungarian servers constantly because I also didn’t speak a lot of English at the time (like, 10 years ago?).

    So that was a weird part of my life. In retrospect, I probably should’ve just hung myself instead of hanging out with these people because pc.

    • tormos says:

      man I hope “I probably should’ve just hung myself” is a translation error

      • Nate says:

        hey, even a lot of native speakers don’t realize the proper form is “should’ve just hanged myself”

  6. Radiant says:

    This looks amazing!

    Also found some tips on how to play:
    link to youtu.be

    • Radiant says:

      Very thankful for the in post youtube preview thumbnail RPS.
      That could very easily have been a recipe for really good quiche lorraine.

  7. Wytefang says:

    I don’t think that piece of writing is as well-known as this writer thinks it is. I’ve mentioned that to over 10 different gamers of various interest levels and experience (but mostly hardcore, live on the internet type of players who would be familiar with games writing/journalism) and no one had ever heard of this article/piece.

    Regardless of that fact, however, it’s a fun article to read. :)

    • Morangie says:

      Are your friends all young children? I ask because the linked article is from Ye Olde Days of Yore, when New Games Journalism was an exciting new capitalized thing. That article and Kieron’s Darwinia review were the prime examples I remember. These days, NGJ is just RPS on any given day.

      Blade Symphony is excellent. If you liked the Jedi Knight lightsaber multiplayer, you’ll like this. It isn’t as hard to pick up as it first seems either, just try the 4 classes until you find the one that suits you and stick with longswords until you know the basics. Don’t join the arenas with players ranked Master in your first game either :). The in-game tutorial isn’t very good so grab the expanded one on the steam workshop which covers everything.

  8. Creeping Death says:

    One of those games I would really like a demo of to try out the combat before buying. Even if it was just a tutorial mission or vs a dumb ai.

  9. Leprikhan says:

    I will be honest, I would have rather that they just made “Dystopia 2”. I still want that, actually.