Console

[Review] Bloodforge (XBLA)

Maliciously tricked into murdering his wife, anti-hero Crom sets off to begin his journey to take revenge on the one responsible, all while slaughtering fallen gods in the most violent ways possible. No, this isn’t another popular Sony licensed triple-A title, but an XBLA exclusive. Bloodforge is set in a dark, Celtic universe where everything feels like a hellish nightmare. A high-contrast art style, brutally styalized action, and more than enough blood to keep the Red Cross happy may give this game a personality of its own, but do god-awful camera work and shoddy controls keep this downloadable title from reaching its full potential?


 

 

There is no denying the inspiration developer Climax took from famed franchise God of War. This is especially apparent in its gameplay. Juggles, combos, and brutal finishing moves that leave enemies in pieces is very satisfying, or, would be, if not for the real antagonist of the game: the camera.

Each of the three unique weapons has its own button-sensitive combos, but because of the camera’s severe case of ADHD, you are left button mashing as the world spins. This turns characters, environments, and everything else on the screen into a huge blur. There is a designated button for rolling out of the way of oncoming attacks, but like the rest of the game, doesn’t work that well. A delayed response from pulling the left trigger to Crom actually dodging gets frustrating as you find yourself repeatedly tapping LT. This does not make Crom roll any faster, only roll again and again. For a game that is so fast-paced and unrelenting, it feels at odds with trying to maintain self-control while doing something as simple as dodging.

Throughout his journey, Crom will get his hands on upgraded weapons. While being more aesthetically pleasing than the last, they do not give the player a sense of actually being more powerful, with the exception of lesser enemies requiring one or two hits less. Among the three types of melee weapons, (sword, hammer, and claws) you receive a bow. When upgraded, it quickly becomes one of your most reliable tools in the game, allowing you to stunt enemies while you deal with the other foes on screen. Doing little damage, it still pushes you to rely on getting up close and personal so you can continue your onslaught. The balance between melee, ranged, and camera control is, at its core, a game of rock, paper, scissors. Camera beats melee, melee beats ranged, and ranged beats camera. The only thing you can do is learn to accept this fact and decide whether or not you want to continue with the game, because as enemies get tougher, the camera remains just as unforgiving.

As the outstanding element as well as currency of the game, the blood you shed from your enemies will be collected and can be used to purchase magic. Three different types are provided, each being able to be upgraded, providing you spend the required amount of blood. With each new upgrade, your magic attacks become more and more epic. Holding the right trigger allows you Crom to channel it through melee attacks and deal shift attacks which eat up your mana bar. With a tap of the right bumper, you can perform rune attacks, which are essentially game changers. What used to a small portal to devour enemies quickly becomes giant shadow serpents devouring baddies whole and encasing others in crystal, preventing them from moving at all. Though not entirely original, it is nice to have a balance of different combat styles, all working very in sync with each other.

Another combat mechanic worth mentioning is the rage meter. While this is somehow incorporated into almost every game nowadays, Bloodforge takes it one step further. For example, tapping both bumpers initiates your rage which drains your meter, however pressing the bumpers simultaneously once more sets up a finishing move where you decide how viciously Crom decimates his opponent by how fast your press a button. While nothing new, the fatality-esque finishers are extremely bloody and I found myself chuckling at how deliciously macabre one Celtic barbarian can use his weapons on an indivual. It does get frustrating that when in rage mode, getting hit once will forfeit the rest of your meter and you have to refill the meter.

After every wave of demons you face, you get a ranking based on, well, your overall performance. It isn’t on how much health you lose, nor is it on how large your combo counter goes up. Rather, your score seems to judged on how quickly you can get through the horde. This doesn’t serve any valuable purpose, but does encourage you to try different methods in order to take out the waves as fast as possible.

 

Once you are done with the story, you and your friends can participate in challenges that are similar to the premise of the game HORSE. You cut, shred, and tear your enemies apart for the biggest score, then they can attempt to better you. You can select a modifier for each round, ranging from enemy health to exploding corpses. With each progressing round, you can add on to existing modifiers and create a unique experience. That is, if your friends have the game as well.

If you are able to tolerate the abominable camera throughout the length of the game, you will find a simplistic yet somewhat enjoyable experience. No matter how hard it tries, this is no hack ‘n slash blockbuster. However, this is as close as one can get with being a $15 arcade game.

 

 

[+Brutal and enjoyable combat][+Good blend of melee, ranged, and magic attacks][+Finishing attacks are deeply satisfying and fun to watch][-Abysmal camera and sub-par controls feel sloppy and completely hinders experience]

 

 

 

One of the best aspects of Bloodforge is without a doubt, the soundtrack. The piece used for the actual Bloodforge feels dark, tribal, and still entirely captivating. The rest of the music, while fitting, doesn’t carry the same awe, which is a little disappointing. It was pleasing to be reassured the music didn’t suffer from a lack of attention as well.

Aside from a unique art style, the game also does the boss characters very well. Though only a handful appear throughout the game, each one is unique and requires a different strategy to defeat. The design of each monstrosity is also worth applauding. One in particular stands out as after defeating her, you then fillet her lengthwise, and proceed to go to town on her heart.

If anything, I truly enjoyed the boss encounters. Just when you feel that the level has dragged on a bit too long, fighting one of these horrifying deities brings each stage to a satisfying end.

 

 

 

[+Impressive and well put together soundtrack][+Boss battles are unique and visually disturbing][*Limited amount of different types of enemies gets tedious quickly]

 

 

 

 

At 1200 Microsoft points, the sheer amount of content that Climax shoved into this game almost make it feel like a steal. Almost. With a little more polish and some re-vamped core mechanics, Bloodforge could have passed as a retail title. Granted, it would not have done very well, especially in the state it’s in, but nevertheless, you are definitely getting a little bit more than your money’s worth.

Bloodforge is, at its core, a game that stands for everything hardcore and epic. Gratuitous amounts of blood, shameless acts of violence, and a twist that even M. Night Shyamalan would shake his head at in disapproval are abundant.

With thirty achievements totaling 400 gamerscore, five avatar awards, a challenge mode, and a longer than usual story mode for a downloadable game, (roughly 5-7 hours) Bloodforge definitely gives you plenty of bang for your hard earned 15 dollars.

If you like homicidal kilt-wearing maniacs who scream bloody murder in everything they have to say, while cutting the heads off of executioners, minions, and even demonic alien babies, you probably already know you are going to either love this game, or pass on it. While I hated the game itself, I found myself coming back to it, even though I had already beaten it.

Despite its flaws, and believe me, there are plenty of them, Bloodforge is a game that just doesn’t care. Combat is visceral, Crom is a semi-interesting protagonist, and the level design (especially one near the end of the story) is inspired. If the setup for a game like this doesn’t sound interesting to you, actually playing it will not change your mind in the least. However, if you have been waiting for somethinglike this to hit the 360, your day has come. You could obviously do better than Bloodforge, but you could also do a whole lot worse.

 

 

[+Longer than most arcade games][+Tons of achievements as well as avatar awards][+Challenge modes add replay value to an already full game]

 

 

 

Before buying Bloodforge, I wasn’t really sure how to feel about such an ambitious downloadable game. The premise intrigued me enough and although the story was unoriginal, the visual style really made a difference in the tone of the game. I can’t say I didn’t dislike parts of it. In fact, I disliked a lot of it. However, after completing the story mode, I found I still had more to do. As mentioned before, if this doesn’t sound like your type of game, it isn’t. There is not enough here to turn skeptical heads. If you are one who enjoys blood, and lots of it, this is a great way to pass time, especially if you have friends who own a copy. For 1200 points, you cannot find a game with more content.  There are also plenty of achievements to keep those of you who can’t miss a single point satisfied.

So after all is said and done, you have to ask yourself a few questions. Do you have a predilection towards insane amounts of violence and oceans of gore? Do games that unabashedly copy from other games tickle your fancy? Are you okay with a merciless camera that knows no bounds to your torment? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then do I have the game for you. Say hello to Bloodforge.

 

 

Final Breakdown

[+Brutal and enjoyable combat][+Good blend of melee, ranged, and magic attacks][+Finishing attacks are deeply satisfying and fun to watch][+Impressive and well put together soundtrack][+Boss battles are unique and visually disturbing][+Longer than most arcade games][+Tons of achievements as well as avatar awards][+Challenge modes add replay value to an already full game][*Limited amount of different types of enemies gets tedious quickly][-Abysmal camera and sub-par controls feel sloppy and completely hinders experience]

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