Bloodforge, the latest title from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories developer, Climax, was lauded as being an Xbox LIVE Arcade game that would push the boundaries of what XBLA games could manage visually. It was also to be everything a hack-and-slash fan would want; fueled by savage dismemberments, bloody battles, and competition with other players on your friends list. Bloodforge definitely delivered on all of those promises, and is easily one of the best looking XBLA games, but it’s a shame that it comes nowhere near anything that resembles fun or even slightly enjoyable. Not only does it suffer from mind-numbing repetitiveness, but also an awkward and bouncing camera, game ruining glitches, and crashes that hard lock your system. If it were possible for a videogame to call your mother a dirty slut, I’m sure it would do that too.
Right out of the gate, the third-person game lacks anything original. You take the role of Crom (which some of you may recall is the god that Conan the Barbarian would shout to, although this game has nothing to do with the series or characters) who is a warrior that was tricked into killing his wife, (again nothing original here as it is the same story told in Hercules and again in the God of War series) by the god known as Arawn. Vowing vengeance, Crom meets up with Morrigan (again, not too original), a witch who tells Crom that he can get his revenge by using a gauntlet she offers and by entering the Bloodforge to find his prey.
If the story wasn’t enough to make you cringe, hold onto your hats. There is nothing more to Bloodforge than pressing X and Y to hack and slash and occasionally B to fire your crossbow for when you get bored of swiping at your foes. As you enter each chapter of the game, it is broken up in to multiple arena battles where you will need to finish off the group of enemies that appear before moving on. That’s basically the makeup of the entire game. Fight a group of enemies, take 3 steps, fight another group of enemies, take 3 steps, and repeat ad nauseum.
Each time you finish off a group, you will be given a ranking on how well you did, but there is never a report or breakdown of what you did well or what you could have improved upon. It just feels like a randomly assigned letter grade to get you on your way. Add in a camera system that continually sways up and down while it is behind you, and more times than should be allowed, it would jar violently up and down and would even get focused on a wall or an obstacle while in the middle of a fight, solidifying the game’s combat as simply atrocious.
To help you persevere through the abysmal combat, you have three weapons that you can come across throughout your journey, each of them having three upgraded versions to try and salvage some diversity. Crom also has a few Rune Attacks that he can call upon when he has collected enough blood to purchase them, as well as 8 different types of rune artifacts that can be collected throughout the environments, each having different benefits, such as allowing you to do more damage, or get resurrected should you fall in battle.
Crom can also enter “Rage Mode” when he acquires enough kills to fill a meter which will then allow him to either 1-hit larger enemies or just do more damage to multiple lesser foes. The foes that you do run into repeat through the course of the game and the only real variations that you will find are the couple of enormous and rather impressive bosses that you encounter.
Through the campaign, you are able to compete against friends and compare scores to see who is doing better through the various chapters—or at least that seems to be the idea. In the first few battles, there would be a competition meter at the bottom of the screen that was to compare your scores to those of the people on your friends list. The problem is that it would compare my score to people who didn’t even own the game, and not even bother with people on my friends list who actually did. Also the meter disappeared after the first couple of chapters and was never seen again for the rest of the game.
There are so many things wrong with Bloodforge that it seems all the attention went into its visuals and nothing else. As good as the game looks, the gameplay is tedious, the story is as unimaginative, and the camera system will not only frustrate but give you motion sickness. It really is too bad as the game looked as though it had quite the potential, and Climax is known for some great titles, but even the additional separate gameplay features of challenge rooms, issuing challenges to friends, and the addition of the unlockable full Crom costume for your XBL avatar isn’t enough to save this game from itself.