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Bloodforge
 

Bloodforge

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
 
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Developed by: Climax Studios
Published by:

I was hopeful when I first witnessed Bloodforge, one of XBLA’s more recent entries. It appeared to be a lengthy title that would provide hours of classic beat-‘em-up gameplay intermixed with a potentially intriguing story. For only 1200 Microsoft points, you will get the option of playing several hours an engaging, albeit gory plot. However, that’s assuming you don’t immediately disregard Bloodforge for its overwhelming issues.

Graphics

Graphics in Bloodforge are adequate, but nothing spectacular. I was impressed with their depth and realism (especially for a XBLA title), but was nonplussed with the overall color palette. Games with grisly and gory undertones tend to revert to a palette quenched with grays, blacks, browns, and reds. Bloodforge is no exception. This gives the game the sense of foreboding and despair it needs, but ultimately causes it to look rather drab. Furthermore, the different levels of Bloodforge consist of little more than repetitions of labyrinthine corridors and tunnels. Personally, I could have used a little more diversity.

Sound

Sound in Bloodforge is exactly what I imagined it to be. From the moment the game begins, you are assaulted with the sounds of blades rendering flesh, savage war cries, and a multitude of grunts and groans as enemy’s heads, limbs, and torsos are relinquished from their bodies. The protagonist, Crom, is a vicious warrior who doesn’t mind voicing his opinion in typical, hardened fashion. His gravelly voice complements the story, but can get annoying quickly. Other characters are voiced appropriately, but seem like cookie-cutter copies of characters with which gamers are undoubtedly familiar.

Gameplay

I had the highest hopes for Bloodforge’s gameplay. The previews I watched hinted at a fun, fast-paced style with a wide range of moves. None of these aspects turned out to be anything I enjoyed, however.

As the protagonist, Crom, you play a man who hides his face behind an animal skull and an avalanche of post traumatic stress disorder. As a recent veteran of several horrendous battles, Crom desires nothing more than to hang up his sword and retire to a peaceful village with his wife. That dream is quickly shattered when Crom’s village is burned by invading forces. In a desperate attempt to save his wife, Crom slaughters every invader he can see, only to accidentally kill his wife in the process. Overcome with grief, Crom vows to enact bloody revenge on the perpetrator of this unprecedented disaster.

If this storyline sounds at all familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard it before. Bloodforge is essentially a copy of the story pulled from the God of War franchise. The only thing more unoriginal than the story is the buckets of blood your character forcefully rips from his enemies. Using a variety of weapons, such as his sword, a hammer, and huge claws, Crom will decapitate, eviscerate, and disembowel every enemy who stands in his way. These actions will shed more blood than Freddy Krueger and certainly earn Bloodforge the mature rating it proudly sports.

I was originally excited about the wide availability of moves for each of Crom’s weapons. However, I found that each weapon’s move list is essentially the same and doesn’t exude a great sense of variety. Every move is a combination of either quick or slow, more damaging attacks. I quickly abandoned the slower moves after I realized that they left me open to retaliation. I resorted to using only quick, agile attacks which allowed me to avoid damage, but caused me to mash the same series of moves over and over again.

Standard attacks can be intermixed with more damaging moves, known as rune attacks. These include the ability to capture enemies in mystical crystals or summon vicious serpents to devour opponents. These moves look cool, but don’t really give you the overwhelming edge you need in combat.

On that note, combat in Bloodforge seemed unnaturally difficult to me. Several enemies have an incredible amount of health and can dish out unforgiving levels of damage. You can heal Crom through the use of consumable artifacts found throughout each level, but these artifacts are few and far in-between. As a result, I often found myself at the mercy of an enemy or boss I simply could not progress past.

I don’t mind difficult challenges, but I was overly frustrated with how inefficient Crom was at fighting. Crom’s attacks don’t track enemies very well. I would initiate attacks, only to have Crom swing his sword haphazardly at the empty space to the right or left of an enemy. Crom can roll away from danger, but his dodges cause him to pause awkwardly, leaving him open to further punishment. Moreover, the enemies Crom fights are all around 9 feet tall and will quickly obscure him from view as they close in for the kill.

Faced with these issues, my tactics boiled down to unleashing a series of quick attacks and then rolling away to avoid damage. As I attempted to adjust the camera to compensate for my many dodges, I was met with Bloodforge’s most blatant flaw. The camera dips and zooms sporadically, causing combat to wobble and spin. I actually got physically nauseated while attempting to follow the camera’s movements around the screen. This created an experience more egregious than fun.


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