The “God of War clone”
descriptor gets thrown around too liberally these days, often haphazardly used
to classify any third-person combat game not involving guns. We understand how
diluted its meaning has become, and yet, we can’t help apply it to Bloodforge (though
to be fair, Bloodforge is based on Celtic mythology as opposed to ancient Greek). There
may be a small percentage of you out there who haven’t played God of War, but
in this case, we think the majority know what we’re getting at here. Granted,
imitation in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing -- we've seen well-executed games that ape Sony's formula come and go over the years -- it’s just a shame Climax Studios
neglected to clone any of the aspects that constitute an enjoyable game.
You are Crom, a war-weary
barbarian who’s decided to settle down with his wife and live a quiet, peaceful
life. Upon returning from a deer hunt, Crom sees his village aflame. In the
ensuing battle, Crom is tricked by the gods into murdering his own wife. You
can guess where things go from there, but we’ll tell you anyway: lots of uber-violent
killing, screaming, and scream-speech as Crom embarks on a quest of hack n’
slash revenge against the very deities who deceived him.
Visually, Bloodforge is
spectacular. Characters -- especially Crom -- are meticulously designed and
dripping with detailed texture work. Throw in some well-suited high-contrast
lighting and you have one of the most graphically exciting XBLA games we’ve
ever seen. Screenshots and trailers alone might entice some to purchase
Bloodforge outright, but they’ll likely regret the decision upon their first
Above: Graphically, Bloodforge is a step above other
Uncomfortable is the best
way to describe playing Bloodforge, as a slew of mechanical issues plague what
should be an unabashedly fun display of death-dealing. The ranges of your weapons’
swings are deceptively short and off-centered, and tracking enemies becomes
imprecise when Crom is surrounded. Instead of slicing a foe who’s within
hugging distance as you would intend, Crom might unexpectedly whiff at a different
enemy who’s standing three yards away.
All the while, a wild and
jerky camera shifts perspectives in the blink of an eye, taking the focus off
of oncoming enemies and obscuring your view of how your presently-engaged foe
is reacting to your attacks. Executions lead to further disorientation, ripping
you out of the moment to elaborately portray a slow-mo decapitation, then
snapping back to the fight just in time for an opportunistic enemy to stab you
in the back.
Above: Can’t see Crom? Neither could we
Though nearly every weapon
and spell is upgradeable, none of the resulting changes are significant enough
to enhance the unrefined combat to the point of enjoyment. Half of the combos
exist merely as an illusion of variety as opposed to practical combat options.
Powerful magic is available to help mix things up, though unfortunately you’ll
rarely have enough collectible mana to use the flashy spells.
But let’s assume you spend
the first hour adapting to the cumbersome mechanics (as opposed to enjoying
learning the ropes as a would be the case in a more well-designed game) and
learn to stomach the combat. What you’ll find is an additional four hours of
repetition and monotony. The small handful of interesting boss encounters can’t
make up for the lack of enemy variety, and the fact that there are no puzzles,
platforming sections, or even many opportunities to break from the linear (and
always very flat) path means that the game is as uninspired near the end as it is
at the beginning.
Above: A cool boss here or there can’t compensate for
an overall lack of variety
If a hack ‘n’ slash game can’t create a comfortable
connection between your inputs and the actions of your on-screen character, then
it has failed in the most fundamental way possible. From the dysfunctional camera to the bland and uninspired combat, it's an absolute chore to play through this game. It doesn’t matter how great
it looks on the outside - Bloodforge is rotten at its core.