I’m no game designer, but I imagine that having a solid blend of swordplay and shooting mechanics in a first-person perspective that don’t tie your fingers up in knots is hard at best and nigh-on impossible at worst. Usually, games get one right, and the other is just a hand-waved afterthought that’s usually bootstrapped by some sort of mechanic.

What, Bethesda? No, I’m not looking at you. I just have resting bitch-face, okay?! Geez.

One Chinese developer in particular, however, seems to have cracked the code with Bright Memory: Episode One. Developed by the one-man army of Zeng “FYQD” Xiancheng in Unreal Engine 4, Bright Memory takes the mechanics of games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry and very effectively shoehorns them into a first-person shooter that rivals the quality of many AAA games studios (though, in this day and age, that’s at times, a low freaking bar, so maybe I shouldn’t insult Xiancheng by comparing the two)

Bright Memory puts you in the shoes of Sheila, a mercenary for the Science Research Organization. Armed with a small loadout of guns, a sword, and access to supernatural powers; Sheila is tasked with preventing a military group unleashing an ancient power that can reanimate the dead.

Coincidentally, the antagonist sports a pretty sweet hairdo

The gunplay here is pretty standard fare. The weapons -albeit satifying to shoot- aren’t too special and everything works as you would expect. Using Sheila’s sword is relegated to the melee/use button and a series of mouse movements for attacks and building up combos. You’re more than capable of using guns, powers and your sword to cut through enemies without chopping and changing between the three, and you are ranked for how effective you are in battle (again, bringing up the comparisons to Devil May Cry).

The game only lasts for an hour or so, but there’s definitely enough here to get you hooked. Along with what more or less equates to “new game plus”, there’s platforming puzzles, boss arenas, plenty of wonderful-looking setpieces to ogle over, plus unlockable skins for your next playthrough of the game.

Swordplay feels a bit jank at first, but you get the hang of it

The game’s presentation is amazing. Graphics are crisp and well-detailed, sound effects are punchy, and the background music is well put-together and chosen for the scenes it appears. Bright Memory takes full advantage of what the Unreal engine has on offer and runs with it. Again, If I didn’t know any better, one could easily mistake this for a game developed by a well-funded AAA studio, not one guy who put together the game in their spare time.

The game controls well enough, but getting shit done is at times confusing. I played on mouse and keyboard and it was a very decent experience, but there was a bit of overlap with some functions and the dodge mechanic feels a bit too finicky. Maybe I’m just an uncoordinated oaf and need to ‘git gud’ I feel that both dodge and run don’t need to be tied to Shift, and kept separate, for example.

You’ll see this screen a lot

Some of the enemies and ‘arenas’ also feel really cheap. In one scene I was ambushed by five dudes, who I killed off, then they came back to life and wall-mounted flamethrowers started going off. Additionally, often you’ll find a pretty hardcore boss being flanked by several smaller goons. Expect to take a few goes to get to the end of the game. Thankfully, checkpoints are well thought-out and placed.

Overall, I eagerly await the full release (titled at time of writing Bright Memory Infinite) and can’t recommend giving it a go enough.

Available on Steam and GOG

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