It’s no secret that Reki Kawahara has built himself quite the franchise with Sword Art Online (which all makes us wonder where the next installment of Accel World is) in the fact that he has four television anime series, an animated movie and a virtual library of console and mobile games. Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is the latest installment in the series that has been improving with each title that has been released. Get ready to trade in your sword and grab a gun because the world of Gun Gale Online awaits us!
Title: Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet
Platform: Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Windows
Developer: Bandai Namco Entertainment, Dimps
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: February 23, 2018
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet, once again, has you take control of our favorite hero Kirito as he shows us just how overpowered he trul—
Wait… is this a character customization screen? I… I don’t have to play as Kirito!?
OH MY GOD, I DON’T HAVE TO PLAY AS KIRITO! THANK THE SWEET VEGGIE IN THE SKY THAT I FINALLY DON’T HAVE TO PLAY AS KIRITO!
Okay, to be fair, Accel World vs Sword Art Online gave you tons of options to play as other characters aside from Kirito, but Fatal Bullet actually gives you, the player, the starring role in the game. It lets you befriend Kirito (and Asuna, and Klein, and Silica, and Agil, and Yuki (wait, didn’t she die? Oh, nevermind), and Leafa and Sinon and… well.. pretty much every character from the Sword Art Online universe) and be accepted as part of their group. While getting to play as the characters from the franchise felt good, there’s something more intrinsic when you, yourself, are accepted as one of them. I really loved this move as this was something fans of the series have been asking for quite a while now.
The character customization is a little bit limited as you’re given basic gear to start the game off with and that is represented by your character. This means you’re left with the usual options of male/female, face, eyes, hair, all of their respective color combinations as well as voice options. Be that as it may, it still offers enough to craft yourself a unique looking avatar. Once you create your character you meet Kureha, your childhood friend who invited you to come play Gun Gale Online with her. She boasts that she’s this fantastic player, but realizes that you just started so she’s going to show you the ropes, thus the tutorials begin…. And boy do they begin.
The initial tutorial was fine. It taught you about the combat system, how to switch weapons, how to aim, run, jump, etc. You got to run around a simple dungeon and kill a rather simple boss at the end. I would have been fine with the game had it ended there, but it didn’t. The game entered a period where it mixed a tutorial with its story mode. It talked about the city SBC Glocken, the different currencies, where to buy weapons, etc. etc. Then it got to the point in the story where you meet up with an advanced AI named an ArFA-sys. You meet up with an extremely rare one called a Type X. In short, it’s an AI-controlled character that will assist you in battle as well as help manage your finances and storage. I have to admit that using an AI character as a banking system is a pretty clever idea.
Yes, there is also a character customization and tutorial on the ArFA-sys as well. I understand the need to inform the players about the systems in your game, but it took a LONG time to get to any sort of combat action and that almost caused me to stop playing the game. There is nothing I hate worse than to be restricted by a wall of story and tutorials that prevents me from jumping right into the action and start leveling up.
Granted, once you slog through the beginning, there are a TON of quests for you to pick up and do. The more you progress through the game, the more places you unlock and in order to save time, the game allows you to fast travel to different locations, cutting down on travel time. Some would argue that this would detract from exploration and taking in the sights of the world; however, here in Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet, the world doesn’t really seem all that imaginable. The landscapes are rather dull and while I understand that this is an apocalyptic dystopian setting, a little more variety would have gone a long way here. I do have to admit, though that the graphics were much improved over earlier games in the series so it is nice to see the level of detail growing each time a new title comes out.
The combat system is really hit or miss (because it’s a shooter? Get it?). What allured me into trying out Fatal Bullet was the fact this is a 3rd person shooter that has the mobility to it. There was a game I played on PC a while ago called GunZ: The Duel that played in a very similar fashion to Fatal Bullet… or at least it looked like it would have played in the same fashion. Therefore, I wanted to give the system a try and I believe that the combat system here was tailor-made for a keyboard and mouse setup. I only played this on PlayStation 4 so I cannot really say this for sure, but when you’re in manual mode, aiming and shooting is absolutely horrendous. It doesn’t matter how much you adjust the sensitivity, it just doesn’t seem feasible to play the game in that mode.
It does have an assist mode where the game will auto aim for you, but by doing so, it means that you lose out on the ability to target an enemy’s weak spot and score critical hits. This leads me to imagine that aiming with a mouse and keyboard would have made the manual system really shine and allowed you to easily score critical hits. Assist mode was fine for me but made the game feel just a little bit cheap. You literally just squeeze the trigger until it’s time to either reload or dodge an enemy attack. You can only switch to manual mode when an enemy stops moving, you stop moving and get that window to aim the sensitive reticle to fire away. Those windows are pretty small so it’s almost worth it just to stick with assist mode and blindly fire into enemies.
Completing quests, killing enemies and running dungeons a yield a bounty. Your bounty score is determined by what enemies you kill, what items you collect if you killed any marks, and so forth. If your bounty score is high enough, you will earn bonus rewards at different thresholds. You can then exchange your credits and your SP points in the city’s Governor’s Office for new weapons, ammo, skills, etc. It offers enough quests to make areas replayable and to keep you coming back.
Of course, if you don’t want to just go out and grind, there are different modes that you can play as well. There are co-op missions that will have you team up with friends or ai-controlled allies to take on bosses. The bosses you face are pretty much the same ones you encounter during the solo player campaign so there really isn’t much variety there. If they had unique bosses for that mode, it would have provided more of an incentive to go in and conquer some of them. Imagine sitting there with a friend trying a boss the two of you haven’t seen or encountered before. Talking strategy, coming up with a gameplan and then overcoming it (or just have one friend wait while the other one Google’s the strategy) would have made for a great experience.
PvP is pretty much co-op with a twist. Your team is going up against another team of players in order to kill a boss, but you also have to strategize to keep the other team at bay, too. Anytime there is PvP, there are bound to be issues with balance. Given the fact that some of the weapons in the game are, flat out, much more powerful than others, running into an opposing team with better equipment than you is going to result in a not-so-fun time. If you feel like rolling the dice and seeing if you end up with an equally-skilled opponent, then hop into PvP and see how it goes.
Overall, there were a lot of steps in the right direction taken with Fatal Bullet, but I just don’t think the game is quite there to be an overall great experience. While taking your own custom character through the story is a welcome experience, the combat system just doesn’t feel like it was thought out nor implemented as well as it could have. After that, it just feels like a single player MMORPG where you’re killing for gear, gaining levels and powering up your character for the inevitable conclusion. If you play through the entire story, it’ll give you around 40 hours or so of entertainment. Fans of the series should love this game, but there is still much that can be improved upon.
This game was purchased for review.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet
Vastly improved graphics and the ability to play as a customer character make Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet an attractive game. Even though you swap swords, fantasy and magic for guns and an apocalyptic dystopian world, the combat system leaves a lot to be desired on console. It feels like it was made for PC and the assist mode just makes combat feel more cheap than engaging. Still a solid improvement over previous games, though and still worth a play!