"Should Have Forged on a Bit Longer"
Bloodforge is one of four titles in Xbox LIVE Arcade's "Arcade Next" promotion running through the months of April and May. How it exactly got this moniker I'm not sure, but if it's representative of the future of Xbox LIVE Arcade, I would appreciate LIVE Arcade to continue doing what it did in the past. Bloodforge's gameplay does nothing new, and it feels horribly generic aside from its control scheme.
Bloodforge is a basic third-person brawler reminiscent of God of War and Ninja Gaiden, just without the excitement, because its mechanics have been well explored and executed better in those series. Basic controls consist of a weak and heavy slash, a crossbow shot, jump, and a dodge button. Along the way, the player picks up different weapons and is able to equip runes that execute different area-clearing attacks. Despite having a list of attack combos available to view, the best way to get through levels is by pressing the X-button until an enemy is dazed and then following it up with a decapitation attack.
The star of the show is Crom, a Celtic Warrior who is attempting to avenge his wife's death in a world where gods constantly help and hinder people. The game tries to be cinematic, but it feels like it's trying too hard when compared to the basic gameplay. To give an example, when starting a new game, the Crom kills a deer, the game then gives control to the player while Crom carries the deer on his back, Crom passes out, and then the game has the player walk over to view their village on fire. This leads to Crom picking up his sword again and then walking over to the first enemy encounter of pressing X ad-infinitum.
The graphics in Bloodforge are great and horrible at the same time, and it's mostly due to art style. Taking a cue from the movie 300, there is a heavy desaturation evident throughout the world, with a generous splash of red throughout. The character models look great, but the experiment with colors hurt my eyes after a while. I was wishing for some blue and green to come out and save my vision, but it never appeared. Aside from being something that may just be an artistic choice, the amount of color makes it hard to see any hit effects or cues to dodge enemy attacks. When enemies are dazed there is a faint green box above their heads that is supposed to alert the player, but when facing a crowd of enemies, it's hard to see. The camera also doesn't do what the player needs it to do either, either getting stuck in one place, or just plain giving the wrong angle from which to view battles. If I'm avoiding arrows and fighting a Cyclops who is constantly slamming the ground, why is the camera fixated on the right side of the arena, looking at three other guys chasing me?
Bloodforge has an identity crisis and doesn't know what it should be. It never really feels like a game from the current generation of systems, feeling completely generic with nothing memorable aside from its graphics. The story made me groan, and being forced to watch it despite my many attempts to skip cinemas wasn't helping me understand it or feel anything for the game's world. Aside from gameplay, the save point system may force players into an unwinnable situation due to health not being restored between save points. It's frustrating to have to start a game over completely because of unforgiving save points.
I would describe Bloodforge as the child of Ninja Gaiden 3 and Zeno Clash. There's an interesting art style that draws in the player, but there are too many mechanics thrown at the player in an attempt to hide shallow gameplay.
GameDynamo's Score for Bloodforge (X360)
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