One of my favorite things to do in video games has always been to drive combat vehicles. Ever since getting into the Warthog for the very first time in Halo: Combat Evolved, I knew that I had found my match made in heaven.
You can imagine, then, how intrigued I was at Switchblade, an up-and-coming vehicular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game in Early Access that recently went free-to-play on Steam. Interested to see how it blended armored warfare with teamwork strategy, I booted it up — and I wasn't disappointed. Switchblade wonderfully combines the thrill of fast-paced vehicular combat with the tactical team-based objectives of MOBA games, and the result is something really fun.
Crush the competition
Blast your way to victory
While it lacks some features, Switchblade is an incredibly fun (and free!) vehicular MOBA game that has the potential to take players by storm if it continues to grow.
Pedal to the metal
In Switchblade, you play with nine other players in two teams of five. The goal of both teams is to destroy the enemy home base by breaking down the opposition's defenses, while simultaneously bolstering your own defenses and protecting your base. In order for attackers to reach a home base, they have to escort computer-controlled enemies called mobs to the defensive towers that surround it so that they can break down their (otherwise impenetrable) shields. Then, the attackers must blow up the tower's core. Once a hole is present in the defenses, the mobs that travel down that "lane" of the battlefield will attempt to reach the home base and the process repeats.
Along the way, there are defensive turrets that shred mobs, and they'll need to be disabled. Of course, the largest threats are other players — whether they're destroying mobs, knocking out turrets, or targeting other people directly, there's nothing more dangerous on Switchblade's battlefield than another player.
Speaking of players, everyone in the match can choose from five different vehicle classes: Armored, Fighter, Artillery, Scout, and Tank. Each class is designed to fill a specific role — for example, the Armored vehicles support others with healing and other utilities, the Artillery class is all about long-range sniping, and the Tank class is designed to be a front-line damage unit. Learning the strengths and weaknesses of each vehicle class is important, and learning how to play them all is a blast, especially since there are multiple vehicles within each class and each one of them has unique weapons and abilities.
What really makes the vehicles great, though, is how they all have ways of working well together, as well as with the mob units. Scout vehicles are incredible flankers, for example, and distracting an enemy player with one can create an opportunity for an allied Artillery unit to open fire on them. These synergies encourage team play, which is a crucial element of MOBA games, so it's great to see Switchblade nail that aspect of the genre.
Performance and features
Since it's free-to-play, I was worried that Switchblade's microtransactions would be invasive and damaging to the game. That's not the case. The majority of what you can buy with in-game currency is cosmetic, and while you can buy new vehicles, they're balanced well into the game's sandbox and aren't overpowered. Another notable thing about Switchblade is how smoothly it runs. Many Early Access titles are glitchy and unplayable, but Switchblade performs very smoothly, which tells me that polish is a priority for Switchblade's developers. It is worth pointing out that the servers can be pretty buggy, however, and the game becomes difficult to play with all of that lag.
Additionally, Switchblade has a glaring lack of features that hurts what would otherwise be a near-perfect experience. There currently isn't any form of custom lobby you can make with friends, nor is there any form of ranked competitive mode; there's only standard quick play. Furthermore, the character creator is pretty bare bones, and there isn't even a push-to-talk key in the settings, which is particularly annoying. Of course, the game is in Early Access, and many of these things are being worked on, according to the developer roadmap. Still, as the game stands right now, the lack of these things holds the experience back.
Final thoughts on Switchblade
While the lack of basic features is a bit grating, and server mishaps can take away from the experience, Switchblade is still an extremely competent vehicle MOBA. The developers are clearly dedicated and passionate, and if the game continues on its current path, it may become the next Rocket League.
Honestly, I'm surprised by how much I enjoy this game.
- Fantastic gameplay.
- Well-balanced sandbox.
- Excellent performance.
- Spotty servers.
- Lack of features.
Switchblade is available now on both PC and PlayStation 4 for free.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.