Wulverblade is set in Britannia in the year 120. Rome has conquered most of Britannia, but the north remains defiant. The Roman Empire has sent its Ninth Legion north to conquer the remaining free tribes of the island, but standing in its way are Caradoc, Brennus, and Guinevere, warrior guardians of the northern tribes, and the Romans will soon find that they are overmatched.
Wulverblade's story is inspired by true historical events, but it's not a historical simulation, at least not in the way you'd think. Wulverblade is a throwback to classic side-scrolling brawlers like Golden Axe or Streets of Rage. Enemies come at you from offscreen to the left and right, you fight off them all off and then move to the right for a bit, and then the process begins anew. The game is more than a button-masher like those games of old, though, you'll need to time your blocks and attacks well if you're going to survive. The game may look simple on the surface, but there's a depth to the combat system that becomes apparent once you start playing it. Wulverblade is a difficult game, designed for gamers who enjoy a challenge and are not easily frustrated, and it's not shy about punishing you from the very start. Getting through the first level and the boss that awaits you at its end is a challenge on the normal difficulty setting, and even if you lower the difficulty level you'll still be in for a fight. The game supports co-op play, so you may have an easier time making it through the game with a friend at your side.
You can play as any of the three heroes, the difference between them being where they fall on the speed versus toughness scale. There's enough of a difference between them to notice the difference, but not enough of a difference to really make a difference, if you know what I mean.
Had Wulverblade been released at the time of Golden Axe, it would have probably been the most controversial game of its time. It's not shy about portraying the visceral violence of 2nd Century combat, complete with copious bloodletting and dismemberments. And if hacking an enemy's head off isn't enough to drive fear into the remaining enemies, beating them with their fallen comrade's head can be used to emphasize your point. There are also actual weapons lying around that you can scoop up and use, which both adds more variety to the combat and forces you to change tactics in order to use each type effectively.
Wulverblade has an impressive art style that evokes thoughts of a graphic novel, and the hand-drawn animated story scenes are a joy to watch. In addition to its striking graphics, Wulverblade includes a surprising amount of historical background information on the events that inspired the game. The depth of information goes well beyond that you typically find in a game, but Wulverblade never forces you to digest any of it. Personally, I found it all very fascinating, but if it's not the sort of thing that you're interested in you can ignore it and just focus on the gameplay.
Wulverblade will appeal to a subset of action gamers the same way a shmup or a game like Super Meat Boy appeal to a subset of shooter and platform gamers. It's not for everyone, but if you want a challenging side-scrolling brawler that will put your skills to the test, you'll love Wulverblade.
Final Rating: 78% - Wulverblade is like Golden Axe, except with more challenge, better graphics, and lots and lots of blood.