BlazBlue Entropy Effect Reviewed on the Steam Deck


I first saw this game last year in July 2023 at the BitSummit in Kyoto, Japan. It was already running on a Steam Deck at that time so I knew that we could expect excellent Linux support for that one, and I was not disappointed. BlazBlue is a very well-known series of fighting games from Arc Systems (a Japanese publisher) and Entropy Effect is a kind of derivative from the series. You will find the same characters you can play in the fighting games, but this time used in a roguelite 2D platformer. Note that you don’t need to be familiar with the fighting game itself as this title stands completely on its own.

BlazBlue Entropy Effect

The whole story behind the game is a little strange at first. You play a floating robot (an ACEr) whose mission is to find out what is hiding behind some strange vision of the future (or the past?) that is refered to as a Phenomena.

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: Floating robot in the city

In order to do that, you have to pass a series of challenges in a Mind Training machine, where you will get to play one of the Evotypes (i.e. one of the characters of the BlazBlue series), trying to make them beat the different levels of the mind training phase. If this sounds a little strange and boring, well, it kind of is, but once you get past that, the game becomes crystal clear: you select a character, and you have to go as far as possible to complete the run on a single life.

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: Selecting Mai as Evotype

The way you play follows the golden rules of action platformers: you can jump and execute double jumps. You can only unlock 3 characters at the beginning, and you then have to choose one or the other to try your luck at the run. Depending on your character, you wield different kind of weapons: revolvers, spears, swords, that give you a very different feel. Revolvers, for example, have no range limit, while the sword is much more focused on close-combat. You can do normal kinds of attacks with the X button, dash with the B button to avoid getting hit, use a special ability with the Y button, and execute two more Legends with the triggers that have a cool-off period before you can re-use them. It’s all about moving fast, avoiding enemy strikes, and hitting them hard with a mix of attacks to get rid of as many of them as possible to avoid being overwhelmed.

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: Fighting with Revolvers

Note that you don’t get hit when standing touching an enemy - only when they actually attack you, which is great. You have a health bar visible at all times on the bottom left hand corner, and you replenish it by resting if you find that option throughout your run, or using a single heart that give you back some of your health. Managing your health is the other tricky part: you don’t ask yourself the question when you manage a perfect run, but if you got beat up half way, do you get some rest to refill your health, or prefer to get a boost to increase your attack powers? Trade-offs, trade-offs!

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: in-game

Each level is fairly short, so you should be able to get to the end of stage boss in less than 10 minutes every time. Every stage is divided into a series of 5 screens, which are like small areas where you get attacked by waves of enemies. Once you beat them, you can move on to the next sub-area, and decide what kind of attribute you want to boost from there on. There are many categories, Umbra, Light, Blade, Electricity, Toxin… that give you additional skills in their own tree-like system.

There are a large variety of skills you can unlock - some boost your magic, some boost your HP, some boost your weapon, some others boost your special abilities, and it’s not usually just stats. It can also make them evolve in many surprising ways. One boost of the Umbra abilities lets you summon some tentacles coming from the floor that attack nearby enemies automatically. Another power creates a black hole when you use a special ability, sucking enemies in and damaging them in the process. And there’s a lot more. Just like for all roguelite games, the tree of abilities is mostly given to you randomly, but you can usually choose at the end of each sub-stage between 3 different options.

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: in-game 2

Enemies are very different from one level to the next. In the first stage, you fight some kinds of ninjas, robots, and some geometric shapes that pulse deadly rays at you. When you start the game you get crushed in no time, but things get better - every time you lose, you can progressively boost your abilities and HP level, to ensure your characters get stronger over time. In a matter of hours you will be able to get to the end of the stage 1, and get to meet one of the bosses (there are 2 different ones, and you get them randomly as well). Not all of your abilities are permanent once you get them - only the ones you manage to fully unlock (not partially).

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: one of the first bosses

I must admit, I got my ass kicked by the level 1 bosses probably 20 or 30 times before I managed to beat them. It’s not that they are very complex to beat - they follow relatively simple patterns - but they simply hit you hard, and when you first encounter them you hardly have enough power to damage them enough before they kill you. Once the balance of power becomes fairer, it’s a lot easier to give them a tough time and win the fight, as long as you reach them with enough HP left. So you may be wondering… do you have to die anyway to be able to beat the bosses? Well… probably not. You COULD, in theory, beat the first level boss at least even with minimal upgrades. You would just need to avoid all of its attacks perfectly every time, and keep hitting it for a long, long time. Since the first boss has 30000 hit points and you only do some 200 points of damage at every hit, short of upgrades you are in for a long, long fight. The unlocked specials you get on the way, through several runs, will certainly help to inflict devastating attacks and shorten things up.

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: after the run

Outside of the run, during the phase where you play the floating robot, Entropy Effect brings a lot of options to make your characters evolve over time. You can collect crystals in the game by defeating bosses, and once you have enough of them you can unlock implants. Implants can give you new ways to boost your characters, such as increase attack power by 10%, and the like - you have maybe 50 different types of implants and that takes a long time to unlock just a few. You can then decide to add the implants to your character - at the beginning you have only one slot, but progressively you can unlock a few more.

Also, when you come to the character selection screen, you can leverage the other previous runs you did by merging the other characters you used with the character you selected. In effect, you are transferring some of the boost and special powers from your previous runs to your current character this way, making you a bit stronger than if you were starting from scratch.

BlazBlue Entropy Effect: combining several characters’ abilities

All of this adds up to make your runs progressively easier. Not easy, but easier. Once you get to master the first level, the second level opens up and it’s brutal again - so you know the drill: lose, accumulate points, boost your stats and try again.

The game is extremely addictive. I usually don’t care so much for roguelites because I feel that they tend to be too hard and too frustrating. Entropy Effect gets this delicate balance just right, by making it hard enough yet giving you just enough boost in between runs to give you a clear sense of progress. I remember, run after run, moving from being crushed by the first level boss, to being able to cut down its health by half, and then by a three quarters, before finally being able to get rid of them after a few more attempts. It’s very rewarding. Since the runs are very short, too, you don’t feel as much pain to start again.

While the game is priced as an indie title (about 30 USD), the quality of the production is absolutely amazing. Be it the music, the sound effects, the graphics and animation, the perfect controls, this is by far one of the prettiest games in its genre that I have come to see so far. This is a testament to the know-how of Japanese game developers, when it comes to getting something really polished out of the door… well, they deliver. On the Steam Deck, Entropy Effect runs at 60 fps with 6 or 7 Watts for the GPU - which is low enough to keep you playing for a long time on a single charge. On desktop, for some reason the game gave me an error when launching it with the default Proton 8.x, but worked flawlessly once I changed it to Proton Experimental.

There’s also a DLC available at launch right now that adds a few more goodies (a couple of mp4 wallpapers, three avatar skins and a few pictures related to the Phenomena story) for a few bucks more. Since it came with my Steam key, I can tell you it’s probably not worth it, it’s very light in content for what it is. I am not sure if there are plans for more DLCs down the road, but the developers have been super reactive to the problems faced in the game and have released fix after fix on a weekly basis since the January 31st release. Kudos for the gamer support!

Overall, an excellent game, and the first great surprise of 2024! (Last year, in early 2023, I was absorbed by Dredge from Black Salt Studios, another great surprise…). I have to admit that this has also re-ignited my interest in coming back to the BlazBlue fighting games. The well known halo-effect!

We have a review in video below as well, if you want to get a sense of the game in movement:

Disclosure: we have received a Steam key from the publisher to review this game.