Developer: Climax Group
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: April 25, 2012
Price: 1200 MS Points – Available Here
The Xbox LIVE Arcade has been really missing out on a solid hack’n’slash style game in the vein of God of War or Ninja Gaiden lately, but luckily Climax Group is releasing Bloodforge to try and fill this gap for players that are feeling the void. But, the question is, can Bloodforge satisfy what they are missing?
Part of the XBLA “Aracde Next” program, Bloodforge features the new 400 starting gamerscore and 30 achievements. So, it’s being pretty well totted just for being a part of the program, with a lot of people getting interested just from how the game looks. Does the game deserve this attention based on its gameplay, is the real question, which can be found out as you read on.
Bloodforge tells the story of a Celtic Berserker named Crom who has tired of battle and settled down with a wife. Finally living in peace, his dreams remain trapped in the battlefields of his past. One day however, his dream is different foretelling his slaying of the ruler of the gods, Arawn. When he wakes, Crom finds his home under attack by Arawn’s forces to try and prevent Crom’s prophetic dream from coming to pass. Unfortunately, even gods fail to understand self-fulfilling prophesy.
The story is broken up into 6 chapters, each ending in a boss. There actually is a fairly solid story of Crom seeking vengeance against those that took his wife from him, though anyone versed in these style of games may be able to deduce plot points before they happen. This isn’t really a bad thing either as the game delivers exactly what the player expects. If I had to sum up the game in 4 words though, it would be “God of Berserker Gaiden”.
The characters themselves though are really a mishmash of different Celtic mythology. Most come from Irish mythology specifically, but others derive from Anglo-Saxon and Welsh. It is really interesting to see a game feature less widely known deities, though the lack of mythological continuity is kind of a let down. A series that went through the Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, etc. mythologies separately, might have been more engaging for newcomers to those mythologies.
When the information first started releasing about Bloodforge, a lot of people were very interested by it’s Frank Miller-esque art style. Largely dark, with a scant few colors outside of black and white does keep the art consistent throughout the game. The major other color is obviously the red blood strewn about willy-nilly by player and foe alike, which there is a lot of and is essential for Crom’s progression of power. Blood remains after every battle, collected on the snow, and often precedes Crom, so player’s can uses it as a land mark when exploring the areas for secrets.
Most of the chapters have there own unique environments, with environments that vastly differentiate between each other. From the snow covered rocky terrain of Crom’s home, to murky swampland, to the perfectly geometrical based homeworld of Arawn. There is a little problem with navigating though, which is good that blood can be used as a landmark, but with some of it being splashed where Crom hasn’t been yet, it doesn’t always prove helpful for indicating where you have or haven’t been yet. Which leads to trying to decipher actual landmarks, but this is often difficult from the very dark surroundings that often look almost the same.
The music of Bloodforge fits the setting and mood, with a lot of drums and deep horns. It fits the levels and plot point as well, if there is heavy rain that’s punctuated with lightening, then music is punctuated with hard drum beats. The music never really feels out of place or gets on your nerves either, which is a good thing as the gameplay will do that in and of itself sometimes. Though the music does have a very big range, mainly being a lot of beats and crescendos.
Voice acting is done fairly decent, with characters fitting the voices and dialogue. The more overly masculine characters have far less to say and even in one case less articulate, but it never feels over done or stupid. Crom as a character comes off as less spoken, more used to speaking with his sword than his words. He is generally talked too more than anything else, which is good as his dialogue at times can make you roll your eyes, but the game wasn’t really made to have profound dialogue. It’s more of it is what, it is, now go kill some dudes.
Bloodforge is entirely hack’n’slash gameplay, not trying to shake things up with puzzles or platforming, which is actually a good thing because you know exactly what the game will be like after the first half and hour. This isn’t a bad thing either, it doesn’t get too boring or feel too repetitive because there is a large amount of variety when it comes to the enemies. It does require a lot of dodging though, health can only be recharged through health that you can find, but use whenever though if you run out you’ll be running on minimum health until you find more.
The game also only features 4 different weapons for Crom; a sword, a hammer, claws, and a crossbow, but they are upgraded regularly through the campaign, so they don’t feel outdated as it goes along. You can only use one weapon at a time obviously, so it really comes down to personal preference for what to use in combat or whichever you get the most blood with. The crossbow you can use with any of the other weapons, but until it’s fully upgraded isn’t very useful accept to keep a combo going. After it is fully upgraded though it is a little over powered, but doesn’t gain much blood, though it will make short work of almost every enemy.
Blood in the game acts as an upgrade system, but the only thing you can really buy and upgrade are special magic attacks that aren’t really necessary. They can be helpful in a bind, but like health they don’t recharge and must be filled by finding it, so more often then not you’ll either never use it for fear of needing it later or it use all up and have it empty most of the time.
Outside of the campaign the game also features challenge arenas, where the player can face rounds of enemies. The challenges also allow the player to use one mod point per wave to make the game harder or easier. Use of mod points affects the amount of blood received, either positively or negatively, and then those blood scores can be used to challenge your friends to try and beat them.
The game isn’t completely bug free though, but the major problems are gone by the second half of the game. Jumping at some of the earlier enemies can sometimes get Crom strangely stuck on their head for a bit, which can cut into the flow of battle. The camera is a bit glitchy too at the beginning, getting caught on some of the game objects and jittering because of it. This doesn’t happen in the later levels, so if you can just get past it, it’s fine.
Bloodforge is a solid hack’n’slash that fans of the genre should find enjoyable and fun. The game is a bit short overall, but as an arcade game it isn’t really a problem. The difficulty curve can be a bit formidable at first, maybe even requiring to restart a chapter to have more health at the boss, but with the second boss being the hardest from there the game isn’t nearly as frustrating and is a lot more fun. The mythologies as well are a nice break from Greek and Roman, making the game a bit more unique and certainly more interesting. This is one you should consider checking out.