domstercool's Bloodforge (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

Interesting premise can't save Bloodforge's hacky gameplay

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and there’s no doubt that development studio Climax has been inspired by Sony’s God of War series for Bloodforge. It’s not just the gameplay that’s strikingly familiar; even the story is reminiscent of Kratos’ revenge against the gods. The star of Bloodforge is a hulky mountain of muscle that wears a antler-bearing skull helm and goes by the name Crom. He’s angry because he was tricked by the Celtic god Arawn. Arawn created an illusion causing Crom to mistake his family for enemies when his village was assaulted. Wanting vengeance for the death of his family, Crom sets out to smash all the gods that get in his way until his hunger for revenge is quenched, all while shouting and grunting mercilessly. That sounds quite familiar doesn’t it?

If you’ve played any sort of God of War title, you’ll know what to expect with Bloodforge. Crom comes with the ability to attack with a mixture of light and heavy moves with his sword, which can be chained together to make combos, and the buttons you press in order will determine which combo will be performed. I found them to do pretty much the same thing. Combo wise – compared to the diverse combo options you have with Kratos in God of War – Crom seems limited. Later on, Crom eventually comes to own a hammer and some hand claws, changing his move set to allow for stronger, slower attacks or faster, weaker attacks.

Addition to these melee weapons, Crom can also use a crossbow to fire from distance. It’s quite slow between shots and its use seems to be more to stun the enemies so you can bash them in a shower of blood, and boy does the game like to show you how bloody it can be. When enemies are stunned, you can perform a heavy attack that will show a cinematic “fatality” of sorts. Crom will chop some guy’s legs clean off or decapitate them as a fountain of blood splurts out from where the head was once placed on the enemy’s neck.

Creating all this havoc builds up Crom’s rage metre. Once activated, the screen tones with white and Crom does additional damage. Apart from the fancy screen effects, it doesn’t seem that Crom is doing anything different in animation that would assume he’s hitting harder or dealing more damage. On top of rage, you can also use the magic bars to cast spells to help you clear a group of enemies. After all the ruthless beatings, you can use the blood as currency to upgrade the different magic available to make them stronger, the basic stuff featured in this type of game.

There’s no doubting that Bloodforge stands out on the Xbox Live Marketplace due to its striking visuals, detailed models and environments with the use of the Unreal Engine 3. Its style reminds me of the recent film Immortals, with a dark comic book vibe that oozes out of the television. Blood glows on the screen as it colours in the dark blacks and greys of the environment and beastly-looking characters.

Sadly, Bloodforge’s redeeming qualities start and end with its graphics. First problems are with the camera. It’s simply bad and so nauseating that I had to adapt to how it displays the game with a constant vignette effect and shuddering. Every time you land a hit on someone, the camera shakes. Even doing something as simple as running causes it to wobble, making anyone with motion sickness begin to hurl his innards towards the television.

In battles, the camera doesn’t help either. It likes to obscure your view and doesn’t focus on the enemies correctly, as it employs some half-arse auto camera lock on system that has a mind of its own, refusing to let you override it with the right stick’s manual camera movement. It’s really annoying because Crom has no way to block attacks, counter or lock on to a target – which would be a hell of a lot better than the automatic crap that goes on with the camera. Crom can only roll out of the way and when you cannot see who is attacking you then your only option is to take the hit or just spam roll if you think someone is going to smack you from behind. Not fun!

Set pieces aren’t all that great either. Bosses look good, but they are all defeated by simply mashing at them, dodging an attack and then doing a quick time event. It feels like there was an opportunity to do something crazy here, but disappointingly that’s not the case. Environments repeat themselves often to the point where I went the wrong way after a brutal fight because I lost my bearings in the level. This should be pretty hard to do since the game is extremely linear. All you do is follow pathways to the next area, fight, and then rinse and repeat, but somehow I managed to do it.

In short, Bloodforge has an interesting premise and a great choice of setting with the Celtic take on a God of War inspired brawler. It’s just a huge shame that all they have done is simply cloned that game, without even getting the basics correctly implemented. It would have been at least decent if it was a total copy cat of God of War. What we have here instead is a game that looks great visually with a catching art style, but spoilt by a broken, vomit inducing camera, pointless combos that don’t seem to do anything and boring combat with nothing else to do. There’s not even any platforming or tasks involved – just walk forward and kill. It’s too tedious.

If you’re into mindless bashing, you might somewhat enjoy Bloodforge, but I think most people will be fine with just skipping the title and saving their Microsoft Points for some of the other great stuff coming soon to the Marketplace.

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