BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment's Gamescom Event: Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet - Demo Review

  • System: PS4, Xbox One, PC-Steam
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Developer: Dimps
  • Release Date: Early release: 2018

What to Expect

As the 5th game in the franchise, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is a continuation of an action game franchise with a focus on story and online play. Within the Sword Art Online lore, Gun Gale is an online, virtual reality world where players battle each other primarily through guns and explosives. This obvious departure from “sword arts” is reflected in the game. Fatal Bullet takes place within Gun Gale, and just as in the lore, the game focuses on guns for its core gameplay. While close combat and action still exist, Fatal Bullet shakes up the formula with its third-person elements

Who it Caters to

According to Randy Le, Associate Brand Manager for Sword Art Online games, Fatal Bullet “promises an all new original story supervised by its series creator, Reki Kawahara.” Fans devoted to the lore of Sword Art Online will jump at this new addition. Those who were on the fence or uninterested with the original series, however, might want to give the new set of Gun Gale a shot. Those adept at shooters, interested in team-based gameplay, or looking for an interesting story will likely find that Fatal Bullet hits its mark.

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet Trial Version Trailer:

Gameplay

At its core, Fatal Bullet is a team-based game. Like the previous in the series, Fatal Bullet has you teamed up with AI-controlled party members who assist you during skirmishes and boss battles. During the demo for Fatal Bullet, you were allowed to pick between two main characters: Sinon, a proficient sniper that appears during the Gun Gale arc, and Kirito, the dual-wielding protagonist of the series. Each character contains their signature weapon from the arc as well as a unique set of skills called the “Skill Palette.” Blue Skill Palettes indicate skills connected to weapons, while yellow Skill Palettes indicate rechargeable item selection such as grenades, anti-ailments, and first aid kits. Although in the demo the Skill Palettes weren’t customizable, the skills displayed were relevant to each character’s mission.

Sinon, as a character whose dominant strength is her range, has a main weapon and a secondary weapon. The main weapon is her sniper rifle, and the primary weapon you’ll be using. She can shoot it on the run, making use of the game’s auto aim feature, but the true strength of sniping is precision. The L2 button on the PS4 pad allows you to look through the scope. As you move, the scope of your shot widens, but if you stand still or crouch, the scope narrows, reducing the variance of your shots.

To assist her deadly aim are 4 skills associated with her sniper rifle: explosive shot, a buff that increases the damage of next shot, Phantom Bullet, an ability that allows the next bullet to hit an enemy undetected, a prone position stance, a maneuver that leaves her crouching, but tremendously increases the accuracy of her shot, and Hawkeye, an ability that--although uncertain--seems to detect enemies regardless of obstacles. Her secondary weapon is a submachine gun. When distracting an enemy, close combat, quick movement, or rapid fire is your goal, the secondary weapon works perfectly.

The associated Skill Palette with this weapon promotes a support or infiltration role. With this weapon, she is able to fire Curing Field, a healing spell that heals anyone that steps into its sphere, HP Recovery Shot, as its name implies a single shot that heals allies, Speed Form, a buff to movement, and lastly Conceal, a skill that hides Sinon’s presence as she moves through enemies. Knowing when to play the damage dealer, aiming for critical headshots, when to play a support role to keep your team healthy, and when to initiate an advantageous battle will influence victory and defeat. Fortunately, Sinon’s stage favors her skill set. Her stage, a combination of an early open field and later an ancient city, allows her to use distance and height to her advantage.

Distance is obvious, as enemies are unable to fight from far ranges, but height requires a little more savviness. Both Sinon and Kirito share a new green luminescent tool, a grappling hook that pulls them to the location of wherever you target. It can be used to gain quick horizontal distance if you target the ground, but more importantly, it allows you to access new heights, allowing a better vantage point to control battles. In an open field, Sinon dominates enemies who risk being out in the open, and in an urban landscape, Sinon can access perches, overlooking enemies and supporting allies.

Kirito is favored close range combat, and although he lacks a secondary weapon, his main weapon is effectively a meshing of two. His main weapon is a light saber and a handgun. While the handgun pales in comparison to Sinon’s weapons, it compliments Kirito’s skill set. Kirito’s skill set is as follows: Electrodynamic Stun, a buff that makes Kirito’s next bullet paralyze an enemy, Dual Orbital, an attack where Kirito lunges forward and spins his sword, damaging enemies in a wide radius, Vorpal Strike, an attack that you can charge for higher damage, and Power Form, a buff to Kirito’s damage. While Kirito struggles at far range, he decimates any enemy close to him. His stage, an indoor factory, favors close combat. To prevent enemies from overwhelming allies, Kirito embodies the saying, “the best defense is a good offense.” While Kirito can’t heal his team members, he specializes in demolishing enemies before they can act.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

As a person previously uninterested in the Sword Art Online games, Fatal Bullet did a good job catering to a new audience while remaining loyal to its fan base. While I do enjoy the third-person shooter elements, in its current form the team elements need to be fleshed out. Fatal Bullet is heavily focused on your individual decisions, as allies act more as distractions than core components to your success. Obviously, this is still early, and as the game develops, I’m hoping to see how much control the player gets over their team, but more so, how the team members become vital assets to the battle.

Honey's Pros:

  • A successful attempt at expanding its audience to newer players unfamiliar with the series.
  • The grappling hook allows for unique movement, often times being quite fun.
  • Weapons come with an assortment of skills, making each weapon become more like a team role.

Honey's Cons:

  • While the game remains faithful to Kirito with his abilities, lacking a secondary weapon means losing out on more skills/potential roles he can play.
  • Team members don’t seem too important, but it’s still very early in the development process.

Honey's Final Verdict:

Sword Art Online has made a successful attempt at expanding its genre, and I truly feel that players who are biased against the franchise should try this one out. Gun Gale’s setting has certainly made for a more tactical battlefield, and if this gets developed further, it could make for a very fun action game. Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet definitely deserves your attention.

Care to tell me your thoughts on the game or just want to marvel at why we’re going gunslinging in a game with “Sword” in its title? Whichever is fine. We’re always welcome to new readers and comments!

Sean

Writer

Author: Sean "Coopa" Hoang

A motivated writer hoping to share his passion for video games, literature, and visual media. I'm the main streamer of FinestKO, a variety game stream with roots in the fighting game community. Whenever there's time, you can usually find me broadcasting or writing for the next article.

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