Bloodforge Hands-on Preview -- Black, White, and Red All OverBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Mar 06, 2012
When first glancing at Bloodforge at last week’s Microsoft’s Spring Showcase, it occurred to me how there aren’t many new IPs in the third person melee vein in the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace. The game comes from U.K.-based studio Climax, a developer that has been around long enough to have tried their hand at many, many genres. With Bloodforge, they hope to provide an affordable downloadable alternative to $60 retail action games like Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden.
No, Bloodforge won’t have the production values of those games but they were certainly huge influences as cited by the Climax spokesman who talked while I played. To its credit, this 14-month project can be mistaken for a $60 game as evidenced by the relative polish and the motion capture animation. I was further impressed with the variety in enemy sizes including one boss who was five times the size of my playable character.
Bloodforge will certainly have a lot more narrative depth than say, a Dynasty Warriors game. Your main character is Crom, a Celtic warrior who right from the beginning is well-motivated by revenge. It almost seems like a premise right out of God of War that this protagonist was fooled into killing his wife, an event orchestrated by one of the gods. So we find our hero travelling from realm to realm in search of this accursed god. Guiding him along his journey is a mysterious female character with questionable loyalties who will play a larger role in the overall story as the game progresses.
The game doesn’t exactly have the kind of asynchronous multiplayer that’s all the rage these days, but it does offer a sort of enhanced leaderboard. Climax has included an optional progress bar at the bottom of the screen that allows you to match your playthrough progress against those of your friends. On top of that, Bloodforge will also offer a series of unlockable combat arenas that players can customize with modifiers like stronger enemies or lower health for Crom. These customized challenges can then be sent to friends, who can then up the ante should they beat your challenge.
I used to be a pessimist that the design trend of making a game black and white would result in a slew of mediocre titles would choose that artistic path as mere gimmick. Yet after Limbo, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and Escape Plan, it seems that studios willing to go black and white manage to deliver solid gameplay as well. I’m hopeful about the effectiveness of Bloodforge’s look as well. The dark fantasy desolation and wilderness of Bloodforge makes it a place I would neither want to live in nor visit.
The one color that does shine through is the blood, the redness of which is accentuated by the black and white. The emphasis on high contrast and strong silhouettes gives the game an obvious graphic novel look. There are four environment types including the mountain level that I was currently playing and a swamp level that will have some subtle shades of green.
Bloodforge’s upgrade system focuses more on weapons as opposed to experience. And you’ll only have to worry about managing three weapons: a sword, a hammer, and a claw. The player starts off with about 10 moves per weapon and upgrades come in the form of new moves and combos, which will be made available as you progress through the game.
And it’s of little surprise that the studio is trying to hone that balance of making Bloodforge accessible to players who want to button-mash their way to the end as well as gamers who want to take advantage of the potential combat depth and the lore of this new IP. As the Climax spokesman put it that day, “At its core, it’s about chopping people up. Lots of fun.”