Bloodforge Review (Xbox360)

At first glimpse, Bloodforge, the new hack-and-slasher from Climax Studios, looks promising. The art style is that classic Sin City look, where the contrast is pushed up on everything but the blood. Your first hands-on interaction with the character has you leading him home while the narrative unfolds alongside you, leading you into thinking you’re playing a smarter game than one that just bombards you with cutscenes that take you out the action to tell the story.

Then the game bombards you with cutscenes that take you out the action to tell the story.

It’s an eye... I think

Not that there is much of a story. I played through the first few levels three times to try and fathom exactly what the hell is going on. I certainly didn’t get it, but maybe you’ll have better luck. The events unfold thusly: Your character, Crom, is out hunting one day. He decided to take a nap, and when he wakes up, his village is on fire. He runs back home, to find some form of demon/monsters attacking his wife. After killing them, he runs into his house and slays another, which turns out to be his wife in disguise. Crom mopes for a bit, then you kill a boar with your crossbow, then you hand-and-slash your way through some more baddies, then a god (whose voice acting is on par with that found in Just Cause 2) comes and leads you through the game, then you go stab other gods and stuff.

The game isn’t very specific when it comes to the story. But that doesn’t mean it won’t fill the gaps with vast amounts of cutscenes, each one more badly animated and voiced than the last. And after each one the game’ll chuck you a few avatar awards for being a patient son-of-a-gun. I’m not sure why its avatar awards rather than achievements, but there you go. Probably something to do with being on the XBLA.

While I did mention the art style being somewhat of a talking point, it is unfortunately hampered by the quality of the graphics. It looks like a game that was released circa 2006, such as Infernal: Hells Vengeance, or Bionic Commander, (Kudos to the two people that got the former reference), and unfortunately the games attempt at gore falls flat on its face when it looks about as realistic as a stick drawing with no head. While it is only an XBLA title, if you look at games like Sine Mora and Trials, you realise how much better the game could look.

Not only are the graphics below par, but the general aesthetics and designs do nothing to help the game redeem its flailing presentation. Worlds and enemies all look exactly the same and add to the repetitive gameplay. While the first enemies you encounter look good, and Crom himself is designed well, the rest of the hordes of enemies you battle all look the same. Like someone bred a Slavine from Dr Who with an angry boar. Furthermore, not only are the levels bland and repetitive, but they’re needlessly confusing. Paths fork at almost every opportunity, and neither way seems to be right or wrong. You feel like you’re getting lost, stuck in liner corridor going round and round the same track, and then you reach the end, and move on to another world, where the same happens again.

Lets all have jam sandwiches! said Crom; and everyone in bubblegum forest cheered verily

As hack-and-slashers go, the game has a plethora of combos at your disposal, but none feel particularly meaty, or satisfying to pull off. Couple that with the fact the game throws the same damn piece of music at you for every single encounter, and combat soon becomes a chore. And if combat isn’t enjoyable in a hack-and-slash game with no story; you’ve got yourself a problem. In combat, you can choose from a variety of weapons including a hammer, a sword, and a set of ‘bone claws’. Blood from your enemies is the currency used to upgrade each weapon, and so the more blood spilled, the more powerful you can become.

There are other features to combat too, but they all seem so needlessly complex. Every single button on the control is used for one thing or another. The shoulder buttons activate berserk mode, as well as the right trigger adding an electric charge to your attacks if you have enough mana. You can also summon gods with RB when you have full mana that manifest themselves as special attacks to help you out in the heat of battle. Even though you’re supposed to be killing gods, but whatever. The game is confusing enough without pondering every little detail.

The boss fights are nothing short of a nightmare to finish. I thought the gaming community moved on from repetitive attacks and quick time events when it came to bosses, but apparently not. Aside from the mini-bosses which are essentially enemies that pack a bit more of a punch; the final bosses consist of little more than hacking away at whatever body part is exposed until you have the opportunity to perform a quicktime event. It’s nothing short of embarrassing when compared to games like God of War or Shadow of the Colossus.

If we give him a mask, we don’t have to animate his face, right?

What Bloodforge tires to do differently to Splatterhouse, Dante’s Inferno, and any other game like it, but better, is incorporate a multiplayer score system and a ‘Bloodduel’ option, where you can compete against your friends for the highest score. However, this feature seems like a bit of a moot point if neither of you can bring yourselves to play the game...

If I’ve come across as harsh or bitchy in this review, that’s because the game genuinely angered me whilst playing it. Not only was it boring and a chore, badly written and animated, and full of glitches, but it just seems so lazy. There are such better games out there in the genre that got it right, so how can this game be so bad? There’s no counter option, the dodge causes the camera to have a fit, there’s no lock on, you can’t tell where you are when you’re in a brawl with numerous enemies; the list could go on and on and on, but I’ll spare you. Even though reading the list would probably be more fun than playing the actual game.

Top Game Moment: Turning it off after nearly being brought to tears after playing it for three or so hours.

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