The second entry in the inaugural Arcade NEXT XBLA promotion from Microsoft is Climax Studios’ Bloodforge. Up to this point, Climax Studios has had a nearly unbroken run of ports, spin-offs, and media tie-ins, with the occasional original title thrown in for a bit of variety. From the PlayStation port of the first Diablo to the Ghost Rider movie video game adaptation, it looks like Bloodforge could be Climax Studios’ breakout title. In much the same way that Return of the Jedi is the weakest entry in the original trilogy, but still a great movie (except for those damnable Ewoks), Bloodforge may end up being the weakest title in Arcade NEXT, but a damn good title nonetheless.
It’s good, is what I’m saying.
The story for Bloodforge is…passable. It’s a story that has been done before in various forms across various mediums. In this case, Crom was once a great warrior. Having seen his fill of blood and death, he sets aside his warrior ways (but not his bitchin’ giant antler skull helmet, of course) and settles down for the simple life. A prophecy naming him as the Destroyer spurs the gods into action against him, resulting in the death of his wife and the beginning of a bloody quest for revenge.
The first thing that you notice about Bloodforge is the way it looks and the way it moves. Motion capture was used as the foundation for character animation, resulting in smooth combat and motion within the dark world of Bloodforge. Almost everything is in shades of black and white, with the biggest exception being objects of interest and blood. So, you know, there’s a whole lot of red, a whole lot of the time. You know, because there’s a whole lot of blood. It is copious and a great contrast to the depressing palette.
The strength of Bloodforge is not how it looks (though the visual appeal is important), but in how it fights. The gameplay itself is repetitive, consisting of entering an area, beating all of the enemies, and moving to the next similar area to repeat the process. Most of the enemies, especially larger enemies, have incredibly simplistic and predictable AI patterns. While this does make it easier to plan strategies for each character type, it removes some of the challenges that more in-depth AI could offer. You also have a hard time keeping track of where you’ve been when you’re in an area with multiple paths, because everything looks the same in the black and white stylized world, and you have no real map to speak of beyond the on-screen mini-map.
All that taken into consideration, the combat itself is incredibly entertaining, and more than enough to make up for these flaws. As you progress through the game you come across new weapons with new combos that you can quickly swap to and from. Combat consists of two melee attacks (quick and heavy), a ranged attack with a crossbow, a berserker mode, and rune attacks that can be leveled up as you go. Each weapon has its own unique combos, with a long list of different combos assigned to each.
Like I said, Bloodforge is a good game. Against Trials Evolution, Minecraft, and a Fable hack-and-slash, though, I personally think it will end up having the least impact. It’s unfortunate, but when you bundle titles together like this in a promotion, there’s always going to be one that has to come in last. In spite of providing you with repetitive gameplay and no map to speak of, Bloodforge gives you a great action game with a lot of visual style, combat variety, and friend competition. Bloodforge will be available this Wednesday for 1200MSP.
|Great combat mechanics with a wide variety of playing styles|
Stylistic graphics and animation that exceed downloadable expectations
|Repetitive gameplay and simplistic, predictable AI patterns|
Stylistic graphics make it hard to differentiate areas with no maps system to speak of