The second release in Microsoft’s Xbox "Arcade NEXT" promotion is the dark hack ‘n’ slash action game, Bloodforge. Developed by Climax Games and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Bloodforge places you in the boots of Crom, a retired warrior looking for revenge after his family is slaughtered by the god Arawan. Through combos, button mashing, and a heavy reliance on dodging, you’ll have to impale hundreds of mindless thugs before the end of Crom’s journey.
I wish that I could tell you how awesome this game is. I’d be proud to tell you that Climax delivers an innovative combat game that has the polish XBLA games have always aspired to create. I’d love to reveal a new XBLA game that demands your $15. Unfortunately, I’m stuck telling you about an XBLA game that feels like an abandoned full-price game.
Like a lot of new attempts at creating an original franchise, Bloodforge borrows from the best and brightest games instead of innovating. From start to finish, Bloodforge plays like an obvious God of War clone. With endless combos, button-mashing slaughter and gigantic boss battles, the developers of Bloodforge didn’t have to think too hard to craft their game. The unfortunate result of being derivative is that Bloodforge fails to remotely come close to the games it pretends to be.
Without hesitation, Bloodforge is easily one of the most broken games I’ve had the opportunity play. And I’ve enjoyed some garbage games in my time (BulletWitch, Bodycount, and Top Gun: Hard Lock). While on their surface, Bloodforge’s graphics are impressive for an XBLA title, in action the game has frequent major problems with collision detection.
On numerous occasions, while trying to kill a group of mindless minions, I would jump and get stuck in air or below the level. This didn’t just happen once or twice, it would happen two or three times per hour of gameplay. In one instance, while fighting a giant boss battle, the boss’ giant arm slammed down on me and instead of dying under the weight of the arm, Crom just went through the border of the graphics.
In addition to the collision detection issues, Bloodforge suffers from Zach Snyder envy. The core graphical style of this game screams 300. You know, the movie soaked in sepia, particle effects, slow motion, and spurts of excessive blood. Well, through the entire first stage of Bloodforge, I got the feeling that this game was originally intended to be a licensed title for the original 300 film. While many video games have been influenced by 300, this game is more than just influenced – its derivative. The entire design aesthetic screams there was a design team without anything original to say.
Graphical challenges aren’t the only issues Bloodforge has. It has a fair share of gameplay issues as well. First, the camera is often too erratic for combat. This occurs most often when battling a boss or a crowd of 4 or more enemies. Because Bloodforge does not have a lock system for combat, the camera erratically tries to navigate through a crowd. If you’re a gamer with motion sickness issues, I warn you now to either take your meds or avoid this game entirely. There is nothing smooth about the camera here.
Second, Bloodforge enjoys a challenging difficulty level that rewards combo-focused gamers and penalizes hack 'n’ slashers just trying to get to the boss battle. I respect the developers willingness to challenge gamers; however, with all of the other issues I’ve detailed, I can’t imagine most gamers will be patient enough to battle the same band of mindless drones over and over.
Third, this game requires a lot of repetitive battling. Some boss battles took me over an hour to defeat and the perfection required to persevere was maddening. While I respect the developer’s willingness to challenge gamers, I don’t know if it was the smartest business decision considering the game’s many other flaws.
One of the better aspects of Bloodforge is the storytelling. While I found the plot pretty generic, I enjoyed the voice acting in the cutscenes. It was obvious that Climax committed a lot of time to creating a story with polish and sizzle. Bear in mind, Bloodforge isn’t exactly high art; at least when compared to most other XBLA games, Bloodforge’s cutscenes will reward persistent battlers with some decent storytelling.
In conclusion, one of the overwhelming feelings I had while playing Bloodforge was that this game was intended to be a full-price console release. However, due to some unknown circumstance, the game was either stopped or limited for arcade consumption. Perhaps, Microsoift felt gamers only spending $15 would be more forgiving of the game’s broken gameplay. Unfortunately, that just won’t fly in an ecosystem that has $10 classics like Braid and Limbo. Bloodforge is a disappointment in its current state and unless there is a major update down the pike, I don’t recommend this game to anyone. You’d be much better served playing one of the many other games Bloodforge has been born from.
CraveOnline received one advanced copy of Bloodforge for the Xbox 360 from Microsoft. We received the code on April 19, 2012 and were held to the embargo date of April 23, 2012, at 9am PDT. Before starting our review, we played about 70% of the main storyline.