moonlightmoth's Blood Knights (PC) review

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Disappointment with a Vampire

It is somehow fitting that Blood Knights should be so concerned with vampires, for it mirrors many of their attributes; the off-colour skin, the hollow eyes, the lack of a heartbeat, and yet somehow it retains an allure, something that intrigues you to linger and take a closer look.

It offers you an action-rpg with loot, moral choices, co-op (albeit only local), and whispers romance in the ears of those who long for that which so often seems rarer than the existence of real vampires; a genuinely great vampire game. Yet even the most gullible or desperate of Goth kids (or in my case, adults) can easily make out that this is not the game they are looking for. Blood Knights is, from top to bottom, truly dire.

Tonight I'm going to suuuck!
Tonight I'm going to suuuck!

Narratively the game presents itself thusly; a group of vampire hunters seek ‘The Blood Seal’ to prevent it from getting into the hands of an army of vampires who will use it to break the moon and cause some form of apocalypse. In order to help achieve this, one of the hunters is bonded to a vampire, and in a subsequent battle is transformed into one of the bloodsuckers himself. Having been left to die by his former comrades, Jeremy and the bound Alysa travel to reclaim the blood seal and in Jeremy’s case, to also find some cure to his hematological woes.

Alas little in the tale is of note, it doesn’t help that all the voice acting is atrocious, but even if this were Chaucerian verse it would merely raise it to the level of passable. I would have liked to discuss the characters, but in the absence of any personality, such an endeavor would be rather fruitless. They would have been better off with no voice recordings at all, as the line readings here do more harm than good, and the potential to give a voice to the characters in your own head seems like a welcome relief to the aggressively poor work on display. You do get a degree of choice at least, be it to side with the vampires or humans at certain points, but all the promise of a potentially different outcome to the story is unfortunately left unfulfilled.

More disappointment is to be found with the game’s visuals. You get lots of blurry textures, stiff animations, all very much in keeping with the general air of ineptitude, and nicely exemplified by a curious lighting effect where everyone seems coated in plastic. Late PlayStation 2 game? Early 360 game? It doesn’t matter; in a world where graphical power can and is overcome with unique styles and art design, there’s no getting around that this is an ugly game.

The concept artists had some talent at least.
The concept artists had some talent at least.

Action in Blood Knights plays out in a sort of semi-top down view, with a fixed camera above, following you as you move around the environment. You have no control over the camera, and its sluggish movements are rather infuriating as you move to the edge and out of view long before it can shuffle its way over, often to see you waylaid by enemies or falling to your death. It also doesn’t do the experience any favours during its misjudged platform sections, as the perspective is often such that is difficult to discern where exactly that next platform is in relation to you. One would also have thought that with the camera so far back so often, that it would be perfect for large boss areas, given that it ought to show all action at once, but again Blood Knights subverts your hopes in the worst ways, and somehow conspires to make even these moments frustrating.

Combat is thus; Jeremy uses melee attacks, Alysa uses ranged. You can switch to either as the situation demands (although there is short cooldown), and you basically hack and slash and shoot at enemies. Jeremy has combos and a variety of special powers, where Alysa has grenades and her own powers to supplement her standard dual crossbow attack. It’s all very easy, and bosses are a joke for anyone who knows what ‘kiting’ means. Vampire related attacks come in the form you’d expect; blood is sucked and transferred into health, and it is this element of the game which largely accounts for its ease.

Mercifully, the game is rather short, and took me less than 6 hours to complete on normal. On your way you will additionally find gear to equip, rings to augment your stats, and as per usual collect XP and use it to increase your level and attributes (Health, Strength etc.). The loot is perhaps Blood Knights’ best facet, regularly feeding you new and better equipment, and giving you something to look forward to beyond more repetitive gameplay and risible dialogue.

I would usually recommend that everyone should avoid Blood Knights, but a UK film critic once said that any idiot can watch a good movie, and I somewhat share that view on games. It takes something to actively seek out and purchase a train wreck such as this, and while it was undoubtedly my slavish love for all things of the night that pulled me in, I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants a good reminder of what incompetence is.

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