I first played Naraka Bladepoint just under a year ago when it came out of early access and launched on PC. As a console scrub, I loathed getting destroyed by my mouse and keyboard superiors, but I saw some real promise that I was confident would translate well onto console.
Fast forward a couple of years and Naraka Bladepoint has been lured to the green team by Microsoft to make its console debut on the Xbox Series X|S and Game Pass. After attending a hands-off demo before it hit the subscription service, I was hyped to try this unique battle royale with a controller on the Series S and to see if it had the potential to win over players of other battle royales like Apex Legends or PUBG: Battlegrounds.
So now that this competitive console gamer has played around a dozen games of Naraka, how does that promise hold up?
In truth, the answer is pretty mixed. The first few bot-filled games you get placed in when you jump into Naraka are, of course, incredibly good fun (and a real ego boost) but as the games stacked up and the number of actual opponents increased, I felt an all too familiar air of frustration.
This is not because the game is bad – it’s far from that. It’s actually because it’s so close to being excellent. Naraka is a breath of fresh air, and its success on PC is testament to that. But due to some clunky interfaces for console players and combat being a bit hit-and-miss, I’m currently on the fence about whether I want to sink any more time into it. I could risk it, or I could go back to a comfort pick like Apex Legends or Warzone.
This is the exact feeling I had with another great take on the battle royale genre that launched recently: Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodhunt. Boy, that game seemed like it was going to just hit the spot. Like Naraka, it boasted a unique setting and concept, it had some cool ideas for character abilities and mechanics, and the movement and verticality added something a lot of the other BRs can’t.
However, when you put a wide variety of weapon types into a game, they all need to feel satisfying to use and be somewhat viable. This is something both Bloodhunt and now Naraka fall short on. The third-person ranged combat in both games leaves a lot to be desired, and in Naraka, there appeared to be some melee weapons that just weren’t worth picking up, even when they were high-tier loot (I’m looking at you, nunchucks).
This is mighty frustrating, as despite a few technical difficulties on the Series S (some notable frame rate drops and connection interruptions) I genuinely enjoyed every single one of my games in Naraka – even the ones where I got horrifically outplayed.
The different in-map mechanics, the design of the map itself, the movement, the variety of abilities, and the reward and progression systems are all great – but just like Bloodhunt, a lack of polish in combat is not making it the genre-busting game it could be on console.
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I still urge you, whether you’ve played games similar to Naraka before or not, to give it a try on Game Pass. I believe I will dip into Naraka every now and again for a quick, frantic hit of battle royale action because, even though it has some limitations, it still comes close to rivalling some of the best battle royale games in the business. I’ll also definitely swing back in to try its upcoming campaign and new battle royale map too when they both drop later this year.
Naraka deserves praise, and has already proven with its PC version that it can attract and retain players. It’s just that, on console, there’s nothing that can quite stave off that pang of disappointment I’m feeling right now.