Wow, so much can change in just a few days; last week we were all heralding Trials Evolution, the first of a promising batch of new XBLA releases, offering bigger budgets and of course a new 400 gamer score limit. Roll on a few days and Bloodforge turns up, a game that initially plays like one of the worst games on the console to date.
It is not often I focus a lot of hate and disappointment towards a review, I’m a gamer, even the lowliest of scoring games give me some simple pleasures that will keep me occupied for a while, but Bloodforge really tested my patience for quite some time; but get your head around the many bad points and there is a fun, if a little short hack and slash game here.
The setting is introduced with an almost childlike approach to the story with the narrator talking……very…….slowly. We are introduced to Crom, a former warrior who has found his softer side and settled down with his wife, though for some reason will still wear his huge and fearsome mask made of horns and a deer skull. Taking a rest after a hard days slaughtering of wildlife he takes a nap and experiences a strange dream involving the Gods. Awakening and returning home he finds his town razed to the ground and ends up slaying his beloved by mistake when taking on the raiding party. Crom then curses the Gods for this deception and begins a quest to generally just bludgeon loads of people. To most this plot may seem very familiar and you wouldn’t be wrong as it is very similar to Sony’s God of War series, that is not all it borrows, but not at one single point does it rival Kratos and his timeless quests.
Setting off to kill the Gods responsible, Crom very quickly falls onto the side of a strange crow goddess that tells him of the Bloodforge and who also grants him the power to wield a strange gauntlet that allows him to syphon the remains of his blood splattered opponents; and so begins a hack and slash game where the bloodier you get, the more powers you are granted.
Starting off with a sword and crossbow, the game very quickly throws far too much information about varying powers available to Crom. His melee weapons the you collect along the way, the sword, hammer and Boneclaws all use a similar light and heavy attack combo system, making it very easy to pull off some very gruesome attacks, that is however if you can see them, as for all the decapitations and limb lopping the camera will often be your main adversary, with a semi-proficient lock-on system that holds the cameras focus on the nearest enemy, OK for one on ones and boss fights but if you are singling out a specific target from a group, say one of the huge tank like enemies it will be a struggle. Crom also has a few gauges to keep an eye on that offer varying special powers, one of which will fill up with the blood collected by his gauntlet and with a press of the bumper buttons will send Crom into a berserker rage that will slow the world around him down, allowing you to get in a few quick hits or for the larger foes, pull off a berserker special move that will then open up a button mashing mini game which, if you mashed quick enough, allows you to disembowel your opponent.
Though he is fully prepared for a full frontal attack, Crom does not seem to believe in defence and with no form of block or counter moves means a heavy reliance on the evade move, which will get you out of trouble but mess up combos and put you in a tough position as there is slight delay coming out of move, leaving you open to attack. To remedy this Crom can use his trusty infinite ammo crossbow that later can be swapped for a more vicious Void Hunter Bow that allows you to keep distance from your enemies and pepper them with light attacks before darting in for a gruesome finisher. The battles, which should be a brutal ballets of blood turns into a frustrating battle of wits with the camera making you purely rely on quick rush in and roll-out moves, over and over and over again.
The most annoying aspect of Bloodforge is in the dying, as even though the game is not very hard, with you winning most fights with relative ease, you will get hit; it is unavoidable without blocks or counters and with every hit your health will be whittled down, which is made even worse by the drip feed of health vials that, even when you do have some, barely give you enough health to fill even a quarter of your health bar. There are checkpoints that appear all over the place but they are more than a hindrance as they place you back in exactly the same state as when you crossed them, not much of a problem until you get to some of the larger boss fights where just to get to them you had to previously fight numerous spawning enemies, using up all of your health and powers only to face the boss with a slither of health. A quick death later and you re-spawn at the checkpoint facing the boss with exactly the same health as before, with no way out other than to pull off an amazing battle against all of the odds or replay the whole level over again, this realisation alone was almost a game breaker.
The graphics, or should I say art direction make the game look pretty good, using a simple palette of a couple of colours, usually black and whites which amplifies the effect of the deep red blood that spurts everywhere as you decapitate or chop away at legs and arms and whilst it looks good, other than a change of colour filter the environments stay mostly the same. The characters that populate the world look like something from Slaine (2000AD), with lots of muscles, weapons and animal skins for clothing but their animations fail to inspire with many moments of hovering and glitchy movements, plus there is some bad collision detection with certain combos leaving Crom literally standing on the heads of his enemies.
Though there is no direct co-op or online mode, Bloodforge does offer a leaderboard via Blood Duel, with a bar at the bottom of the screen showing how much blood has been spilt between yourself and the highest ranked friend who also owns the game and also a horde style mode where you will battle a set amount of enemies in an arena, with each round completed allowing you to create your own horde mode for your friends to try out.
Once you have gotten your head around the awkward camera, admit that a few replays of the levels are required to just get to the boss in one piece and also stop expecting anything like God of War, Bloodforge manages to be an entertaining game that has far too many expectations and is a little too expensive, even for an XBLA game. In the end, I think its biggest problem is that it is an 18 rated game that only a 10 year old would want to play.
Rating: Below AverageReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360/XBLA)
Bloodforge is now available on XBLA. You can order points card for XBLA from ShopTo here.