Just minutes into the beginning of Bloodforge, you’ll probably tell yourself “this certainly isn’t God of War.” And though Crom has his moments, he’s certainly not Kratos. In fact, it feels like he’s trying a little too hard to be everyone’s favorite revenge-seeking maniac.
Developed by Climax and published through Microsoft Studios, Bloodforge uses themes of Celtic mythology to highlight the story of Crom, a retired hunter who spends his remaining days with his wife. But sadly, a dream involving a prophecy where he ticks off the gods spirals him into an unexpected world of fighting, blood, and a legend involving the mythical “Bloodforge.” In order to seek vengeance after his life becomes ruined, a goddess -- some masked woman who’s also a crow -- grants Crom a powerful blood-leeching gauntlet to help carry out his gruesome deeds.
Sound familiar? Of course it does.
Let’s start with the greatest experience ruiner, which is the game’s sloppy camera. More often than not you’ll focus in on single targets instead of your overall combat environment. In other words, good luck keeping a straight angle while fighting multiple mobs. If you’re pointing the left thumb stick forward as you fight (which is required for many major combos), the camera automatically focuses on whichever enemy you hit. In many instances you'll experience erratic angles followed by a slight sense of nausea.
Most battles feature what many hack-and-slash titles already offer: push-and-mash. With an easily exploited combat scheme, simultaneously mashing the two same buttons to create combos is all it usually takes to progress. As for your health, recovery runes become unfortunately scarce, which puts a great amount of emphasis on dodging attacks. Though mastering enemy move patterns is an enjoyable aspect of the genre, Bloodforge’s horrifically unforgiving save system easily ruins everything if you’re stuck. Should you approach an area unprepared for a heavy battle, your only option is to either retry until you succeed or start a new game. And if you start a new game, enjoy sitting through the entire beginning segment again.
If it weren’t for the horrific camera angles and “button masher 101” qualities, one might forgive Bloodforge for smaller flaws, including its mediocre voice acting and cliche soundtrack. There’s some potential present, but most environments feel like bland rehashes of areas you already visited. Unfortunately, the grim style of this game (lots of reds, blacks and grays) only takes it so far.
The most painful thing about Bloodforge is how it could have been better. Choppy camera angles paired with a sloppy and constantly recycled presentation make it resemble less of a game and more of a hungover regurgitation from its past brethren. The one remotely reasonable aspect is the initial asking price ($15), but there are still so many solid hack-and-slash classics -- assuming you haven’t already played them -- you could invest in for the same amount.
If you’re daring and looking for a relatively inexpensive (though clumsy) button destroyer featuring a Celtic carnage wonderland, Bloodforge might be entertaining. Otherwise, avoid the trouble and return to Bayonetta or God of War instead.