There will be blood? Yeah, we kinda figured that.
XBLA’s “Arcade NEXT” promotion continues with the release of Climax Studio’s Bloodforge, the developers behind the 1998 PlayStation version of Diablo. Published exclusively on XBLA by Microsoft Game Studios, will Bloodforge live up to the hype in the sword and sorcery genre or will it just fade into the oblivion like so many other games trying to stand out in a sea of pixeled steel?
The story of Bloodforge evolves around the fate of a former warrior named Crom, who is forced out of retirement from his warring ways, living a peaceful life with his wife, and back into battle. All the violence of war that has been with him throughout every day of his life, is now behind him. Returning from hunting in the woods, Crom has a vision and awakens to the burning smell of his village, where he finds his wife butchered by marauding intruders. Crom doesn’t take very kindly to this and embarks on a journey to bring any and all who are responsible for these atrocities to their demise. Meeting various people along the way, including the gods themselves, Crom realises his fate is intertwined with others and he has a bigger fight than he thought, but this doesn`t deter Crom one bit.
Bloodforge is a game based heavily on artistic style and violence, with both playing heavily on the players experience. The game really nails the graphic design to give a gripping feel for the world in which Crom calls home. The shading and colours are done in a way that really makes you feel the grit of the land. It looks and feels like a motion comic, or a graphic novel, which is extremely accented with finishing moves during fight sequences, which I will discuss later. As far as the artistic design goes, think among the lines of the film 300, based on Frank Miller’s 1998 comic book of the same name; a very nice style that really accents the fighting and of course, the epic over-the-top violence. I love the look of the game, at first I found it a little hard on my brain, trying to focus on the fast pace of the action mixed with the beautiful style, but I got used to it in no time.
The violence in this game is really what makes it. It brings an absurd amount of blood to the table, constantly reminding the player that our hero Crom, is as nasty as they come. He is the classic anti-hero, very similar in style to Robert E. Howard’s famed character, Conan of Cimmeria (possible homage moment: Crom is name of Conan’s Hyborian God in Howard’s tales of the barbarian). No matter how violent and unspeakably evil Crom gets, we still want him to succeed. The fighting is fast, intense and bloody, leaving the usually snow covered landscape coated in a sea of red. The blood is always prevalent and is used for instruction on where to go, you simply follow the trail of blood across the land. Unfortunately, the trail of blood to follow is not even needed. There is only one direction to go in this game so no indicators or markers are needed, but they are still present, and only serve to remind you there is no chance of exploration. Sometimes you may be given a choice of two or three directions, but all of them will lead around a corner and into the same larger area. Along the way you will find various objects and/or blood that you will pick up to use for items such as health, magic, etc. I won`t get too detailed into that as its very by-the-numbers and you’ve seen it a million times in a million other games, nothing new in that department at all.
The fighting mechanics are also fairly generic and consist of running up to enemies, button smashing out some combos and using “push this button now” action sequences while fighting bosses. Speaking of enemies, they are extremely original in terms of appearance and really added a lot to the style of the game, especially the various bosses and non playable characters you encounter. When ending a fight sequence, the last attack on an enemy can be a cinematic attack, which ups the gore factor a lot. Crom collects the blood of his victims and once his blood meter fills he is able to unleash a rage mode where he is faster and stronger for a short period of time. The best aspect of rage mode is selecting an instant kill. When doing this Crom devastates whoever he chooses with one of the most gore-tacular scenes in the game, totally eviscerating the competition. Save this technique for the big, tough to kill guys.
While fighting, the camera can sometimes get in the way as well, doing things like focusing on a rock up close if you’re too close to the rock wall. It didn’t happen too often and is pretty common in this style of game, regardless, its nothing a future update probably wouldn’t fix. Aside from the campaign in Bloodforge, there is an option in the main menu for Blood Challenge where you are forced to battle hordes of enemies, wave after wave, until you finish a complete stage where you can then challenge an Xbox Live friend to see if they can complete the same with a better score.
There are no mulitplayer modes in Bloodforge.
Bloodforge is not for everyone, some will find it generic, too straight forward, or just a mindless button smashing game. Which, to be fair, it is. However I had a blast playing it and I personally loved it. If you’re a fan of games like God of War and Conan, then Bloodforge is probably for you. In terms of gameplay and the amount of content, I think this game should have been priced at 800 MS Points. In terms of graphics, style and art, 1200 points is a steal. Bloodforge shows how XBLA is continuing to raise the bar graphically. Again, this game is not for everyone, but it is what it is… and I like it for what it is, a senseless violent romp.