Panzer Paladin is a retro 2D side scroller developed and published by Tribute games. The world is being over run with monsters, and only you and your monster beating paladin armour mech can save the world. But you’re going to need weapons, lots of weapons. Lets cut through some monster trash in our Panzer Paladin PC review.
The story of panzer paladin is relatively simple, you’re part of a peace keeping force that uses giant mechs to protect the world from evil demonic invaders, and the dark prince has sent his Weapon Keepers to claim the earth for his own. Your job: beat the absolute crap out of them, take their weapons, and save the world.
It’s not a subtle story by any means but for a game like this is it really shouldn’t be. Opening with a larger than life all-stakes plot is the perfect way to get people in the game quickly, tell them whats happening and get the action moving. The cutscenes consist of nicely rendered sprites with some text over the top, and there’s a few characters introduced to set some atmosphere, but ultimately you’re not playing any retro 2D side scroller, let alone Panzer Paladin, for it’s plot.
That being said, it’s still a nice little story to give some fun level of scope to the game, and drive some context behind your actions.
The gameplay of Panzer Paladin shakes up the typical 2D side scroller formula by having you collect your panzer weapons on the fly throughout the level, with each one having a durability that once expires destroys that weapon. The weapons in panzer paladin function more like consumables, allowing you to never worry about losing that cool weapon you just found because they all break anyway.
It’s the finite nature of the weapons which all the other mechanics in the game stem from. Firstly, you can choose to purposefully destroy a weapon before its durability runs out from hitting things too hard, which releases ‘magic’ stored inside it. These are essentially buffs. Some heal you, some increase defence, some increase your attack. Its a standard array of abilities, but the depth lies in knowing when you should destroy a weapon. Sometimes you wont want to risk losing all your best weapons before the boss, sometimes you’ll see an ability which feels too good to pass up, and you’re willing to risk not finding another sword for that sweet health boost.
Another aspect is the level checkpoints; checkpoints in Panzer Paladin can only be activated by sacrificing one of your weapons to it to by stabbing it into the checkpoint altar. Not a huge deal if you’re fully stacked, but if you just found that cool spear and need to clear the rest of the level, suddenly it feels like giving up a limb. You start to wonder if having a checkpoint is even worth it if the rest of level has to be cleared with only fists, and spoilers if you chose hard mode, that answer is almost always no.
You can choose to play as Flame instead, the pilot of your mech. Sometimes this is necessary, forcing you to temporarily abandon the mech to proceed then re-summon it later. This also happens when the mech is destroyed, leaving only flame to traverse the level by herself. It’s perfectly doable, but the problem I found is if you lose the mech, it stops being fun. I found it better to restart the level rather than push forward, especially as Flame can’t pick up the dropped weapons, significantly reducing viability.
Each level is a nice mash up of enemies and platforming, with combat being a simple hit it until it dies. It’s the enemy variety that really shines through, with a few staples being across all levels but then each level has its own hazards and enemies based around the location, weirdly fitting into the aesthetic. Each level then culminates in the Weapon Keeper, who happens to be a well known cryptid or myth relevant to that geological location. These boss battles are simple in mechanics, buts the fights are heavily dependant on how many weapons you have going in. I reached the end of the china level and the cat beast demolished me three times in a row because I had run out of weapons by that point.
Overall, the gameplay of Panzer Paladin is deeper than it looks, and provides a nice balance between technical skill and light decision making. My biggest complaint with the game is while it takes about a dozen enemy attacks to down your Paladin armor, falling into one spike pit will kill it instantly. This is easily done as well, as nearly every jump feels like it needs the extra height afforded by the up attack to clear it. It seems like a small gripe but one that saw me constantly frustrated with the game and having to put it down and pick it back up again.
The art style of Panzer Paladin is nothing holy unique, it is lovingly made and extremely well executed. It perfectly emulates the retro feel and style of older titles, but also adds it’s own unique flair to the enemy creation. Every screenshot of the game feels like each pixel was considered carefully, layering each element together intentionally to make these beautiful backdrops and unique enemy designs.
The animations aren’t over done either, being intentionally stilted rather than overly fluid to fully emulate the feeling you’re playing an older game. With the pixel art talent on display throughout the game, I have no doubt that the animations could have been made incredibly fluid and beautiful, but that wasn’t the vision of the game so wasn’t implemented. It shows a great restraint and love for the titles in seeks to emulate, something worth commending.
The music and sound design of Panzer Paladin honestly can’t be talked about extensively. There’s no voice acting due to the nature of the title, the sound range is intentionally limited to emulate what was capable at the time. The soundtrack didn’t feel like anything outstanding, but each track for the levels definitely gave a sense of push forward and nothing felt off or jarring in terms of sound design in my time with Panzer Paladin.
Panzer Paladin PC Review – Verdict
Panzer Paladin is a labour of love towards more classic titles, and it partially succeeds in capturing that magic. The story sets the stakes high, the gameplay and characters feel energetic and driven, and the visuals are rich and varied enough to make you want to keep pushing forward. The gameplay can be unforgiving at times, not because of any learning curve or special techniques, but more annoying quirks from the era thy developers tried to emulate. If you’re a fan of those quirks, I would heartily recommend Panzer Paladin as it’s a clear vision with great execution. If however you get easily frustrated with single mistakes that set you back significantly, think twice before picking up Panzer Paladin.
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