Bloodforge is Climax Studio’s entrant into the ‘Arcade NEXT’ promotion on Xbox and it does something quite extraordinary from minute one.
Through the implementation of fantasy cliché and overused themes Bloodforge magnificently manages to feel well worn and tired from the off. Now that is some feat.
But let’s not get off on the wrong foot here, let’s us at least first fill things out with some backstory. Stop me if you’ve heard this one………Great warrior Crom has left behind his warring ways to lead a peaceful family life hunting and farmi……STOP!!!
Yep, basically our hero, the aforementioned ‘Crom’, wants some peace and quiet, a few snuggles off the missus and a warm cup of Horlicks in the evening. The Gods decide that’s a tad boring for a video game so unleash the hordes to slaughter his people and burn his village to the ground while Crom snoozes following a hunting trip. Crom awakes to see the sky lapped by the flames of his burning home and tears headlong into the fray. It’s at this point that he’s tricked into slaying his own wife and rightly being a little miffed plots revenge on the Gods.
Now I know I’m slating the story and the obvious lack of imagination that has gone into this game but I’m not completely writing it off just yet. Bloodforge is certainly not the first game to either run well-worn themes or even ignore the need for plot altogether and some games positively flourish on their dumbed down simplicity and basic gameplay, so long of course as it’s implemented with skill and craft.
I’m sad to report that ‘skill and craft’ are two things that are disappointingly absent from Bloodforge.
The gameplay is a stuttery affair plagued by troubled frame rate issues and dodgy camerawork. The hack and slash gameplay is far from being fluid and precise, something that in this genre is pretty much paramount to a game’s success. Instead it becomes a bit of a button basher and borderline tedious worryingly early on.
However, there is still a smidgeon of light at the end of this tunnel. That light is the fact that sometimes all we want as gamers is pure dumb bloodshedding mayhem. And that is something Bloodforge can deliver. The blood flows freely from the start, severed limbs are plentilful, heads bounce merrily along freed from their necks and the snow covered ground is painted a dark red in seconds. It may be jerky and it may be basic but at times it’s also a whole lot of fun and a great release.
The problem though is that Bloodforge doesn’t want you to quickly step in and out of the action, it instead wants you to spend serious time in Crom’s world on the path to revenge and when the gameplay is so problematic that isn’t something you’ll probably be wanting to do.
If the Bloodforge battling was a quick challenge level alongside a deep and well thought out RPG game then it would be superb, as it’s actually the meat and bones of this title then it’s, quite simply, not good enough to carry the game.
The control scheme is simple enough. X button for light attack, Y for heavy with the added element of stringing basic combo’s together. To be honest you can get through most situations by simply bashing away at the X button. Crom has a few weapons at hand, the traditional sword, the hammer and the claw. Each have a slight variation to the others but it’s not enough to make any of them particularly enticing to use. Crom also has his trusty crossbow, unfortunately using this makes the game even more numbing to play, as enemies are kept at bay thus negating entirely the hand to hand combat foundations the game is built upon. Sure it’s handy at times but I strongly urge you to use sparingly. Then there’s also the rune attacks in which Crom calls upon the friendly Gods to assist him, again though it’s nothing to get excited about unfortunately.
Graphically the game does actually shine, albeit in a washed out way. The desaturated look works brilliantly well and will undoubtedly catch many eyes scanning the screenshots. It’s a look I hope will be used again as it is quite stunning at times, sadly this time the gameplay lets’ the looks down and as every developer should know by now gameplay trumps graphics every time.
The voice work is solid enough, the soundtrack moody and bellowing and the effects suitably realistic, again if only they’d put a decent game underneath it all.
All in all Bloodforge is a bit of a let down. Dogged by poor camerawork, tedious fighting and glitchy frame rates what could have been a great, if well-worn, barbarian romp becomes a poor gaming experience. The enemies are largely despatched by hammering away on the X button or standing back and letting fly the crossbow bolts, even the boss battles take a similar route, the story holds few surprises and when a game’s best point is it’s looks it’s almost certainly headed for destination disappointment. 1200 MS points is a heck of a price to pay for that ticket.
Some gamers will certainly enjoy the amount of blood being spilt and the simple gameplay on offer, plus some of the execution moves after stunning an enemy are superb, also Bloodforge comes with a full 400 gamerscore to pick up, but, if you want a game that feels fulfilling and fun to play then you need to get your kicks elsewhere as this one is more tired and well worn than Conan’s codpiece.