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On 05/08/2012 at 05:25 PM by Nick DiMola
Smooth combat is requisite for a brawler in 2012.
From the very first moments of the game, it’s made clear that Bloodforge is heavily inspired by the God of War series. So inspired that developer Climax Entertainment decided to crib a sizeable portion of that experience in order to create the Microsoft Studios published brawler. However, calling it derivative of the Sony series would be giving it too much credit. Copying only the most basic of elements from the popular series, Bloodforge is a one-dimensional game that won’t hold most gamers’ attention.
The apparent thievery begins at the source. Bloodforge tells the tale of Crom, an angry warrior who is tricked by the gods and accidentally slays his own family. Seeking vengeance, Crom sets out on a quest to kill everyone who has wronged him and anyone who stands in his way. Sound familiar? It should, because it's the exact basis for the original God of War. Did I mention that Crom is really pissed off all the time too?
After being acquainted with the story, players are given control of Crom and released upon the game world. The gameplay quickly presents itself to be extremely similar to that of God of War, but before long it becomes clear that Crom's agility is nowhere near that of Kratos'. Combos don't often execute smoothly and navigating around to deal with the wealth of enemies can be a clunky affair.
The biggest problem comes from the unreliable staggering of opponents. It's never clear when you're combo will knockback an opponent and allow you to continue attacking them. Often your attacks will land with little impact, especially on some of the larger foes. This can make it very hard to properly use Crom's arsenal of moves effectively.
Regretfully the move set is mostly ineffectual as are the majority of your weapons. Most "combos" don’t deal much damage and only the sword manages to be particularly effective for the bulk of the battles. The hammer can absolutely deal damage, but it's often too slow to avoid being hit and the crossbow is too weak to do anything useful. Most of the special moves don't carry much weight and can only sparsely be used because the bar it draws from isn't frequently refilled.
By performing kills after making an opponent dizzy (one hit before death), tapping the Y button will perform a brutal kill. These are pointlessly violent, but help build up a blood meter, which can be used to activate a berserker mode. Only after countless uses is it apparent that while it makes you faster and stronger, it's often harder to land hits and avoid getting stuck in a combo while you miss enemies and your blood meter discharges.
What makes all of the combat even more of a challenge is the simple fact that there's no indication of how much life any given enemy has at a point in time. Subsequently, this makes it impossible to vary your approach to combat. Typically in a brawler if you had some indication that an enemy you were engaging would die soon, you might fight more aggressively, rather than the conservative approach of chipping away a life bar. Without an indication of health, you're forced to tackle each battle with conservative tactics, which frequently makes the already long battles take even longer.
This is facilitated in part by the lack of readily available health. Sparse health drops are scattered throughout the world, making it very tough to keep up with the constant onslaught. The issue really comes to a head in boss battles when you die. You'll be respawned with just half of your health; an amount that won't likely get you through the battle, especially with particular bosses.
Boss quality and challenge is also all over the board. The first fight against a giant Cyclops, which was copied straight from a similar battle in God of War, proved extremely easy and was even complete with quick time events. However, other boss fights are incredibly hard thanks to a flurry of unavoidable attacks. While a block button would've made these encounters much more tolerable, players only have the option to roll away from an attack (bet this sounds familiar too…).
Rolling during the middle of any battle establishes its own brand of problems unrelated to the typically clunky action. Because you're often blitzed by enemies, rolling is happening nearly all the time, which causes the camera to go into spasms. If you happen to roll up against one of the invisible walls, the camera will get stuck oscillating back and forth uncontrollably. God forbid you happen to head into an alcove where the camera manually moves into a static location, you'll have an unbelievable amount of trouble making it out without getting slaughtered.
Bloodforge's drab color palette, puzzle-less environments, and flat experience don't make any of the rest of the gameplay any more tolerable. I've always been a vocal detractor of the God of War series due to its repetitive nature, but Bloodforge makes it look like a masterpiece of the genre. If Climax's intention was to copy that series, they should've paid closer attention.