Although we've seen some noble attempts to bring the 2D fighting genre to touchscreen devices, the lack of physical controls often means that they're watered-down imitations of their home console relations.
Blade Lords thankfully manages to adopt a simplified approach that makes it more suited to a touchscreen interface, but it also brings with it some rather insidious freemium tactics, too.
You take on the role of a young swordsman who is on a mission to rid his beloved homeland of evil. Wandering around the expansive world map, you run into various one-on-one battles where the judicious use of cunning swordplay and magical special moves is essential to ensure victory.
Attacks are divided into three types: weak, strong, and special. By mixing up the first two you can create devastating combos that make it difficult for your opponent to respond.
The third attack should be reserved for when your rival's defences are broken - by holding down your finger on the 'special attack' button, you can unleash a more powerful strike - but these consume orbs, which take time to replenish.
Cut me up
When you're not slicing up enemies you can distribute points to your stats and purchase better weapons and equipment. The game uses two forms of currency - coins and gold - and these are dished out at the conclusion of each bout. You can also obtain them using an in-app purchasing system if you want to speed things up a little.
Blade Lords features a solid control system which doesn't try to throw too much at you at once while also allowing you to be quite skilful once you've mastered it.
Although it's very much in the same mould as Street Fighter, there are no complex motion-based commands to remember - you're just tapping buttons in sequence to string together combination attacks.
When you factor in the gorgeous presentation and wonderfully rousing music, it's hard not to fall in love with Blade Lords. It's just a shame that its free-to-play nature ends up undermining the good work done elsewhere.
Having to grind to get enough cash to buy a cool sword is one thing, but the game will often put you in a situation where you need to have a certain item to proceed, and unless you're willing to invest some serious time the only quick way of moving forward is to buy more coins or gold.
Gold or glory
To make matters worse, Blade Lords uses a mechanic where your weapon breaks completely, forcing you to either wait out the half-hour time penalty or buy a new one. This seems like an especially spiteful system, as it's clearly intended to make you reach for your wallet - there's no real justification for it happening, other than greed.
It's a real shame that these issues are present because Blade Lords doesn't put a foot wrong anywhere else. Freemium games live or die by getting the balance right, and this particular example leans too heavily towards forcing you to spend cash rather than simply making it an optional extra to enhance progression through the game.
As it stands, Blade Lords is still worth a look as it costs nothing to download - and the forthcoming online duel mode should add even more enjoyment. Just be aware that you may hit a brick wall later in the game unless you're happy to spend some real-life cash.