British developer Climax Studios has an eclectic roster of games under their belt, with the underrated Silent Hill: Shattered Memories sitting alongside titles like EyePet & Friends and Rocket Knight. In Bloodforge, published by Microsoft Studios and released on the Xbox Live Arcade, they take a stab (literally) at the hack n’ slash genre with Bloodforge, an action-adventure game that provides compelling and enjoyable melee-based combat with copious amounts of bloodshed. The results bear more than a passing resemblance to the famed God of War franchise in both style and scope. Does this game have what it takes to stand alongside the likes of Kratos, or should Climax Studios have forged a different path altogether?
The story of Bloodforge follows the standard revenge plot that we have all become accustomed to. Taking place in a world where the malevolent gods control everything and everyone, you play Crom, a burly warrior who rebels against the deities after being coerced into killing his wife in the heat of battle. To assist in taking on the gods and breaking their tyrannical rule, Crom takes control of a gauntlet that absorbs the blood of his enemies, thus making him more powerful and better equipped to handle what lies ahead.
The death of Crom’s wife is the foundation for the story, and while there are a few twists along the way, it never really rises above it’s simple premise. There are hints at a deeper lore beneath the surface, however it doesn’t come out in any meaningful way. Crom is a man who has been wronged, and your objective in the game is to kill those who have wronged him, as well as anyone who stands in his way. The drama is laid on a bit thick at times and and the plot comes off as being fairly stock, however it works well and provides ample motivation for the actions you undertake.
At it’s core, Bloodforge is a third-person action game that combines the third-person hack n’ slash elements of God of War with the absurd amounts of bloodletting found in games like Splatterhouse. For those versed in the genre, it will be a familiar and comfortable experience that will provide, if nothing else, a fun diversion. Taking place in six varied worlds, your objective is to explore and kill anything you come across, save for the occasional friendly character who serves to flesh out the story.
The enemies range from sword-wielding minions who attack in large numbers, to tougher enemies and monolithic end-bosses. They are creatively designed and wonderfully ominous, with the end bosses being especially daunting upon your first encounter with them. The battles get very chaotic, and there are many occasions where you are vastly outnumbered, however you are given ample tools to dispatch these waves of enemies in a brutally stylish fashion.
Given that the brutal combat is the star of the show, Bloodforge gives you a variety of abilities with which to eviscerate hordes of enemies. Your melee attacks involve the use of a sword, hammer, razor-like claws and a crossbow, with each offering combos that deal even more damage and occasionally provide cinematic kills similar to those seen in Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Complementing your melee attacks are the devastating Rune attacks, magical assaults that cause large amounts damage and come in handy during fights with large hordes or tougher enemies.
The special “Beserk” mode allows you to, essentially, go insane and launch fast-paced and brutal attacks, which can exponentially increase your damage multiplier. As you kill enemies, you collect blood and this fills a meter that determines how long you stay in Berserk mode. The overall total of blood collected also acts as the game’s currency, allowing you to purchase new, more powerful attacks. It’s an idea that’s been present in countless other games, however it is used to good effect here.