Bloodforge Review

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Price: 1200
Developer: Climax Group
Publisher: Microsoft
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No

Thanks to Microsoft for providing a copy of this game for review.

Blood doesn’t make a game. Sure, for some it’s a major part but there has to be more. Without it, that poor little red pixel on your monitor or TV is confined to being part of a beautiful painting or a dirty kilt. But with blood, it gains purpose. Unfortunately for Bloodforge, if you haven’t already guessed by the name, blood is actually pretty central to the title.

Forged by Climax Group, the idea behind Bloodforge was quite possibly conceived by a boardroom full of designers throwing books of ancient Greek and Celtic mythology at each other whilst God of War and Arnie’s Conan films played in the background. As you may have spliced together from that brief picture, you play as Crom, an incredibly muscular, scarred and altogether faceless barbarian turned loving husband. The game starts off showing Crom somehow shooting a deer while wearing his signature helmet composed of a horned animal skull. The fact he has no peripheral vision in the thing is bad enough: it’s made of cracked bone for Crom’s sake, not much defence against a giant Cyclops unfortunately…

You see, Crom is your average angry barbarian. Suddenly he has flashbacks (Or possibly flashforwards, the story is very confusing on that part) to an unknown time where he fought one of the many faceless bad guy’s you’ll eventually come upon anyway. He crosses a mountain ridge after regaining his strength to find his village in flames. Naturally this makes him mad, sending him on a killing spree.

While this is a tutorial mission, which are meant to be tedious in their own special way, this unfortunately sets to mood for the entire game. You shift through wave after wave of enemies, slaughtering them with relative ease. Upon reaching your village and again, slaughtering a few more enemies, you’re treated to a neat cutscene which shows Crom yet again defeating another inept enemy. Sadly, by some devilish sorcery, it’s not a bad guy at all! Crom has just killed his own wife! Shock and horror abound. Crom doesn’t seem overly distraught but again, thanks to his giant skull helmet, his real feelings are hidden, removing any emotion from the entire scene which could have been quite gripping.

And so begins your journey of slaughter. The controls are rather simple, with X and Y performing fast and heavy attacks respectively, while B has Crom firing his crossbow at enemies from a distance. You can combine all three for some interesting combos but usually a good mashing of either button does the job just as well. There’s no real challenge or danger for even the most inexperienced action adventure player as enemies rush as you in droves, chipping away at your health while you bat them away like flies.

This is the very essence of the game, clearing waves of identical enemies to get to the big bad boss fights which, unfortunately, don’t offer up anything new. That’s not to say that using tried and tested gameplay mechanics is bad but the way Climax have implemented them is so half-hearted it generates the same response from the player. There’s big fists to dodge and the occasional extra enemy to fend off but nothing to inspire. Even the character design is in a sense, boring. A giant Cyclops that shoots lasers from its eyes, who created these guys? A Bond villain?

But while the gameplay may be uninspired the real disappointment comes in the polish. Once it had crashed three and I’d resulted to reinstalling I was treated to the plethora of bugs and glitches that inhabit the actual game.

Sluggish controls and massive FPS drops that make combat near impossible to enjoy are the least of your worries. The camera controls and movement end up making seasickness a more deadly foe than any three-armed harpy witch might. The camera constantly sways from side to side, apparently trying to follow Crom’s movements but getting stuck in walls and around enemies means that you often miss whatever the crude combat has to offer.

The problems don’t stop there though for the poor camera. The 300 inspired monochrome colour scheme (except for the vast quantities of blood-red you’ll see) leave environments feeling dull and lifeless, which actually most of them are anyway, but this enhances the fact. Since there’s no way to block, you’ll constantly be rolling around using the ‘dodge’ button which is temperamental at the best of times. With the bland colour palette making it hard to tell where Crom is and the sickening camera movements dodging is a guessing game most of the time.

On top of this is the equally bland combat system and as mentioned, there are a wealth of combos to perform but even with the three melee weapons to choose from you’ll better off either staying at range with the crossbow or mashing the X button. In a brawling fighter that is supposed to pride itself on its multiple options for carnage, Bloodforge forces you to take the button mashing route if you really want to proceed without giving in to motion sickness.

That is, if you can even progress without being sent back to the start of a level. While no one fight is especially difficult the mass of enemies that are thrown at you, coupled with the sparse health refills and poorly placed checkpoints mean that you’re always at death’s door. With checkpoints restarting you with the same health as you entered them on and resources scarce the begin with you’ll often find yourself having to restart entire levels before being able to complete them.

In the end, Bloodforge is a bloody mess of an arcade adventure brawler. If the dodgy camera, bland colour palette and sluggish controls weren’t bad enough then the uninspiring combat and repetitive corridors will send you into a rage to rival Crom himself. There’s no fun to be had here, with nothing but a monotonous slog through endless corridors that put the genre to shame…

The Good:
+ The game looks pretty nice in screenshots…

The Bad:
– Abysmal Camera Controls
– Bland Colour Palette and Overall Design
– Boring, Repetitive Combat

The Score:

Graphics: 7
While the colours may be sparse the overall look of the game is great.

Sound: 6
There’s a lot of clanging and Arrgh’s! But Crom is your average testosterone fuelled angry barbarian and there’s no prizes for voice acting here.

Story: 5

An interesting story ultimately ruined by the main character’s lack of emotion and the general absurd chain of events that are never truly explained.

Gameplay: 3
Bland, sluggish combat and an overall boring set of mechanics make the gameplay ultimately forgettable.

Lifespan: 1

There’s no reason to play this again. Hell, there’s barely enough reason to play it the first time round if you can muster the strength to do so…

The Verdict: 2
Forgettable, bland, repetitive and ultimately boring from the start, there’s little that redeems Bloodforge from being cast into the pits of arcade hell. Try it at your own peril.

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