Panzer Paladin Review — Kill, Break, Repeat
With fresh combat mechanics, plenty of features, and a ton of replayability, Panzer Paladin is the latest great retro-action platformer that is worth your time.
2D Platformer, Action, Indie
Review copy provided by the publisher
Panzer Paladin is the newest indie title that is looking to take its own attempt at the retro action-platformer genre. While it has apparent inspirations from beloved franchises from the NES and SNES era, Panzer Paladin has distinct features and mechanics that let it stand out on its own as a fun challenging experience that is worth playing for any fan of its genre.
Playing as a woman named Flame, you control a mech known as GRIT where you travel to different locations around the world to take down a group who is summoning creatures using special weapons that have rained down from space. With the game taking place across the globe, the stage select screen is presented as a “World Tour” showing off the map of the globe with all the levels available. Outside of the mandatory tutorial, you can choose any level you’d like to go to, although the difficulty seemingly increases in the order of the levels listed. It is nice to have the freedom to go about the game any way you want, but there is also no real benefit in which order you decide to go down.
Each level provides a relative challenge that only gets more difficult as you progress, but for those who are looking for a different experience, whether it be casual or brutal, Panzer Paladin has three difficulties for players to choose from. After completing the main story, a remixed mode unlocks which essentially works as New Game Plus. It brings a new perspective for the levels you’ve already accomplished with harder enemies and placement than before. Alongside the completion of the story is also a tournament mode where players are faced with taking on every boss in succession.
“Panzer Paladin has distinct features and mechanics that let it stand out on its own as a fun challenging experience that is worth playing for any fan of its genre.”
The gameplay of Panzer Paladin is pretty standard and boasts hack and slash combat, throwable weapons, dashes, and blocking abilities with your shield, but the game is a bit more unique thanks to its weapon breaking mechanic. When controlling GRIT, you can carry up to four weapons with each having a durability meter which varies depending on the weapon. At any time when using a weapon, it can be broken which can give you a buff or cast a spell, which even includes gaining wings to fly. Having your weapons as a resource adds an extra layer of strategy when undergoing encounters despite there being a slim number of weapon breaking abilities available throughout the course of the game. Any weapons that are picked up when your equipment is full are sent into your inventory which can be swapped in and out on the fly.
The majority of the game is structured similarly where there will be two checkpoints followed by a boss at the end. That said, another refreshing feature in Panzer Paladin is the checkpoint system. Checkpoints are optional, which isn’t a first in the genre, but to activate it, players must sacrifice one of their weapons to do so. Equally as cool, if you’re running low on weapons, on your last life, or are confident that you will finish the level without dying, you can take the same weapon back out of the checkpoint and use it the same as before.
As you begin each level, you are spawned as GRIT, but Flame is still able to leave the mech at any point in the level or is forced out if GRIT is destroyed. Normally there is at least one section at every level that will require you to eject yourself and explore through smaller portions by scurrying through a tiny hallway or swinging across large gaps. There are even instances where it feels more optimal to fight fragile and exposed outside of the suit than in it. Bosses are diverse with each having their own special mechanics, but you don’t feel particularly accomplished once defeating them.
In between missions, GRIT can gain more health by sacrificing weapons in your storage inventory by visiting a laboratory. As a nice upgrade, it can be easily maxed out during the story’s beginning hours with the laboratory having no use after.
Being a retro action-platformer, Panzer Paladin is an attractive title for speedrunning, and thanks to developer Tribute Games, there is a mode specifically built for those trying to get the best time possible. In speedrun mode, you are able to see your top three fastest times on every level in the game which includes a “Ghost Replay” function that allows you to see the exact path and execution of your best time.
“While it doesn’t revolutionize the genre, Panzer Paladin has some great features and mechanics. “
Arguably the most unexpected and fun feature in Panzer Paladin is the blacksmith, where weapons can be designed both aesthetically and in relation to their stats. These weapons are released online where another player can potentially earn your creation after defeating a reoccurring boss that appears in the first half of the story. This has the potential to give you really cool or hilarious looking weapons like a flyswatter.
While it doesn’t revolutionize the genre, Panzer Paladin has some great features and mechanics. The story is left to be desired and there isn’t as much depth in the weapon breaking system than I wish it had, but it checks all the boxes and goes the extra mile without ever really needing to. Whether you’re a casual player or a speedrunner, there is plenty of content here to keep you busy.