Review

Bloodforge

Hack And Slapdash

Bloodforge manages only a faint echo of the God Of War games.

By Drew Toal • April 30, 2012

A deer falls in the woods, brought down by a hunter’s arrow. The hunter slings the animal’s carcass over his shoulder and heads back to his village. He is pleased; his family will eat well tonight. A few miles from home, he drops his burden and rests for a few moments. Tormented by visions, the hunter awakens with a terrible premonition. Taking off at a run, he returns to a village in flames, its inhabitants being slaughtered by enemies. Fortunately, the hunter never leaves home without his man-sized sword and fearsome elk-skull mask. He makes short, bloody work of the interlopers, but his wife—for whom he has forsaken his warlike ways—is dead.

The mêlée combat game Bloodforge starts out promisingly enough. It’s explained that your character Crom, once a dyspeptic Celtic warrior, has settled down and traded in his notched blade for the love of a good woman. Crom has seen some shit, and now wants only to devote his scary elk helmet to living in peace. A woman with the voice of a coin-operated fortune teller and the ability to transform into a crow tells Crom that the god Aeron is angry with him, and the gods’ displeasure is the real reason for his wife’s death. Big mistake, gods.

Bloodforge

These spiteful deities need to be taught a lesson. In a recent Sawbuck Gamer review of My Life Is Yours, Steve Heisler tells us how Hades, lord of the underworld, turns the painful separation between a man and a woman into a sadistic game: “You die, and in that moment, your soul is transferred to her—your love, waiting just out of reach.” Crom doesn’t play that game. He knows that the gods have no intention of returning his wife, that they’d use his tender feelings against him. Instead, he’s taking the deicidal rampage option. Unfortunately for the gods, his long layoff from limb-hacking and skull-stomping hasn’t dulled his skills in either department. His first obstacle is an angry giant with some kind of trans-dimensional laser on its forehead. This fellow guards the “bloodforge” for the gods. After running up his arm and giving him the old Odyssean eye poke, Crom is on his way.

Green lightning spawns enemies at regular intervals. You cut off their limbs or litter the ground with entrails. Repeat. Also at your disposal are god-imbued rune powers, a berserk mode, and various weapons acquired along the road. (I’m a war hammer guy, myself.)

Bloodforge

But Bloodforge has some serious limitations, only exacerbated by the repetitive formula. This is a game with no element of exploration, nor any real character interaction that doesn’t involve trading vicious stabs. That’s fine, but if fighting is all that a game cares to do, then the fighting system needs to shine. The weapon combos all have impressive names, like the “Hound Of Sucellos” or “Vortex Of The Afanc,” but there isn’t a meaningful way to link together attacks. There’s also no system for blocking or countering, so most battles devolve into Crom running back and forth, jumping into the middle of the fray, killing a few bad guys, then jumping out. I was aghast to see that, during special berserker attacks, my war hammer was automatically replaced in the sequence by a sword.

That last point is representative of the whole experience. It all feels a little thrown together, a low-budget version of God Of War. Both games requires lots of hacking and moderate quantities of slashing, but Crom is in every way less complex than the Ghost Of Sparta. Then there’s the troublesome matter of Crom’s motivations. Edmond Dantès, Josey Walesthese are characters whose lives are defined by personal loss. Revenge is all they have. Crom isn’t depicted as a man with the capacity to love. As Crom punches the face of the god Wodan into pulpy green ichor, it’s clear that the man is enjoying violence for its own sake. Does he even remember his wife’s name?

Bloodforge
Developer: Climax Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox 360
Price: $15 (1,200 Microsoft Points)
Rating: M

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348 Responses to “Hack And Slapdash”

  1. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    What is best in life?!

       To maintain a solid 60fps, an intuitive menu system, and to break down unwanted gear to make better weapons!

       Also, I’ll play this as soon as they introduce a special attack called the “Hound Of Succulence”.

  2. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    I hated God of War (physically broke the disc and threw it out when I couldn’t defeat Ares in the final, BS cheap-shot filled tug-of-war battle), so odds are I won’t be touching this one.

    • Basement Boy says:

      Wow, I’ve thrown a controller or two, but never actually destroyed a disc… Rage On!

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Yeah, I used to throw controllers all the time back in high school, but it takes me a lot longer to get that mad now.  The most I usually do is usually curse a bit or smack the top of my desk.

        I’ve only gotten mad enough at a specific game to throw it out maybe twice, and I can’t remember what the other one was any more.

        @Effigy_Power:disqus  – Yeah, it also helped that I’d only paid $20 for God of War since it was about a year old by then.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       Yeah… I managed to break several $60 controllers, but never a $40 game… in retrospect that seems really really stupid.

  3. IzToo says:

    What’s it say that the demo this morning was not enough to distract me from the studying I needed to do? 
    “Eh, screw this, I’d rather write a paper.”
    Pretty weak when a game isn’t even interesting enough to feed my nasty procrastination habit.  Though actually, I guess I should say thank you Bloodforge, since that paper won’t write itself.

  4. Effigy_Power says:

    As a veteran roleplayer I am enough appalled by the shitty premise of the intro to never touch this. How many times must a hero be inspired by his burning village? And why always to murder? Shouldn’t the flaming deaths of everyone you love inspire you to become a fire fighter?
    I wanted to love God of War, I really did. After severe cramps in my thumbs from having to split the head of every fudging minotaur thrown at me, I just couldn’t fake it anymore. I liked Dante’s Inferno well enough, mostly because it was much easier (too easy, some might say) and because I like the dramatized version of hell in the game a lot better than the slapdash version of Ancient Greece in GoW.
    That said, I love low-fantasy settings… dark, gothic, bloody… that’s all great. But the game mechanics of these button mashers just don’t end up holding me in.
    The only good thing I can say about Bloodforge is that the developers had the good grace to release it as an Arcade game for a few bucks instead of charging hapless teenagers, who turn off their brain the moment they see blood on the cover, the full monty.
    Also, Crom is clearly an iteration of Cernunnos, the Horned God, himself. Just like Cratos was an iteration of an chthonic aspect of Ares. Just like Dante was an agent of Satan himself through his sins…
    Does nobody have any more ideas at all?

    • Drew Toal says:

      Second.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      People still have ideas, they just tend not to sell as well as clones. Or sequels. Or both, as in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. 
      But yeah, this repetitious, unchallenging gaming is what drove me insane about Kingdom of Amalur. Even if you’ve got the frames of an interesting story, if you bog it down in fetch-quests and loot-gathering, I’ll most likely be tuning out. 

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Uh, don’t get me started on KoA… I bought it in the good faith that game-devs who made okay stuff before working off material of a writer I like here and there quite a bit should be able to make something worthwhile.
        What I got was a shitty single-player clone of WoW with equally appalling graphics, terrible colors, horrid controls and just the lamest and weakest characters/plotline/quests/structure/breast support/combat ever. I was very aware that I was playing the game that had lost EAs MMO-bid against Old Republic and had been rehashed to get some of the money out.
        Every concept in the game felt as though it had been done better in other games before and since… I could go on. But when one of the game-developers (I can’t back this up with a link, so it’s conjecture I guess) called KoA the kickass alternative to Skyrim, I more or less lost it.
        Sold the game on eBay 48 hours after I bought it.

        And you are right of course, publishers go with what’s tested and proven to work. Mind you, with the slew of very odd games that have been huge successes throughout the times, you’d think that there’s a certain interest in risking it. Can “Yet another RPG with tits and swords” really contain the same chance of crazy success as… “You’re a squid and your volcano kingdom has been teleported to the moon” ever could?

        • itisdancing says:

          “breast support”

          Heh. A perennial issue in fantasy gaming.

        • Merve says:

          Semi-serious question: why are there so few games where you can play as some sort of aquatic animal? A game where you play as a squid, exploring shipwrecks for sunken treasure and shooting your enemies with ink, sounds like it would be mighty fun.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          Wow, it was really a failed MMO that they revamped to single player?  That’s sad…I almost bought it, now I’m glad I didn’t.

          @Merve2:disqus  – Besides Ecco the Dolphin, I’m not sure I can think of any aquatic animal-based games ever…

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          @Merve2:disqus : Yeah, I can’t think of many aquatic animal games, but I’m having a blast with the Metroid-esque Aquaria, if you haven’t picked that one up yet. (And there were those Donkey Kong Country levels where you controlled the swordfish underwater, right?) And there had to have been some sort of Finding Nemo game, right? Someone with kids, tell me how that one worked out.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           I don’t think there are nearly enough aquatic themed games anyways. Either you sit inside a metal-tubular submarine shooting at shit or you are in some underwater installation.
          Well, or you’re a dumbass dolphin collecting powerups…
          The extremely deep sea, meaning the abyssal zones and beyond, are so cool, you’d think they might be a setting for a few things.
          Well, I sort of did like Aquanox all the way back when. Mind you, since you could never go to the surface, they might as well have put the setting into space with no discernible differences.

          PS: More boob support.

        • caspiancomic says:

           @Merve2:disqus  I think Ecco the Dolphin is probably the only real contender in that category, although if there were enough entries that are either not on the tip of my tongue or through some technicality kind of qualified, it’d be really cool to see an Inventory on that subject. I agree, as well, considering how terrifying, alien, and fascinating the ocean depths are, it’s surprising nobody’s bothered making a game exploring it, either literally or thematically.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

           @Merve2:disqus :  This is just a short browser game, but it comes close to your idea:
          http://ludusnovus.net/my-games/the-majesty-of-colors/

        • DevinC says:

          @Merve: Suprised no one mentioned flOw.

          But yeah, that squid game sounds pretty neat.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          @DevinC:disqus : I was just about to mention flOw, but I see that you beat me to it.

        • ToddG says:

          Only at The Gamelogical Society could comments on a review of a God of War clone contain an Ecco the Dolphin reference.

          This place is awesome.

    • flowsthead says:

      However you feel about the game, the parody trailer it spawned is pretty fricken awesome: 
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rylS-X0s-KM

    • Raging Bear says:

      If I may bring up the second of all two games I’ve been capable of talking about for the last week: Prototype 2. My thoughts about the story and writing over the first 2-3 hours proceeded about like this:

      “Gosh, this started surprisingly strongly.” 
      > “Well, that didn’t last. Still, at least the ‘evil corporation’ angle isn’t overwhel–”
      >> “…Oh. Well, really, this isn’t the sort of game you play for the story. It’s all about the action, right? As long as it isn’t actively insulting my intelligence with every word–”
      >>>”oh God DAMMIT, Prototype 2!!”

      I mean, I never really expected them to bring a fresh perspective to love, loss, tragedy, transhumanism, and all the other potentially powerful themes the premise allows. But they could at least not gone full tilt on absolutely the hoariest game story tropes in existence, or done so in quite such a “written by a stoned frat bro whose only direction was not to skimp on the f-bombs” style.

      I realize this shouldn’t make me so upset. But really, there are developers out there telling novel, compelling stories, so major titles that are content to half-ass theirs so appallingly get under my skin more and more. Actually, I don’t think P2 is even half-assed. Not even a quarter. Frankly, I don’t even know what fraction of ass they’re operating at.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         Fraction of Ass… the Rhea Perlman story.

      • Fixda Fernback says:

        I would like to take this space to say, I am incredibly impressed with The Witcher 2, as I’m a console-gamer and therefore am just now getting to play this awesome game. Its approach to storytelling is refreshing and engrossing, and I appreciate the recent spate of games (i.e. also Dark Souls, I know there are other recent examples but I’m blanking) that seems to respect the gamer instead of holding the gamer’s hand. But Dark Souls lacked the amazing story of The Witcher 2, so even though I love it, I just can’t appreciate DS the same way I am TW2.

        • dreadguacamole says:

           Yay for the Witcher 2! I’m not a huge fan of the overall plotting after a certain point, but pretty much any major character in it has more depth and dimensions than almost any other character in gaming.

  5. itisdancing says:

    Isn’t that “some god killed my family so I’m going to kill the entire pantheon” plotline exactly the same as God of War? And that in itself is a more grimdark take on the story of Hercules?

    Is the plot of this really the plot of God of War with a pantheon switch to “Norse-ish” from “Greek”?

    • Effigy_Power says:

       Actually they switched it to Celt. There IS as a matter of fact a Norse-ish version of the same exact story called “Rune”.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         It’s been a long time since I’ve read about this sort of stuff, so take this with a grain of salt – but I’m not sure if it’s pure celtic; Woden (like Wotan) was an ancient name for Odin, and that’s more germanic/continental norse than Celtic – though there was a lot of overlap.

         Then again, it’s not like Kratos didn’t take a number of liberties with the greek myths. I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t take a page from Teiresias in the upcoming prequel and portray young Kratos as a woman)

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Yeah, it’s all very roughly drawn. It’s basically like “Based on a true story” or “Inspired by real events” movies. There’s some connection, but it’s all really, really flimsy.
          And yes, Wotan would make it Germanic, I just judged it by the appearance of the “protagonist”.

  6. 3FistedHumdinger says:

    I’m surprised how many people in here are hating on God of War.  I hold it to be the high-water mark for action platformers.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       It’s not that it’s a bad game, it’s just that the game is a lot more laborious than it has to be. I’ve had Wii workouts that were less stressful than 2 minutes of GoW minotaur crushing.
      And I still hold it responsible for making quick-time-event boss fights fashionable… that, I shall never forget.

      Also I really would love to learn to avoid the word “hating” myself… it’s so unilateral.
      I don’t hate GoW, it has some very great points. I just didn’t enjoy playing it. There’s gotta be space for games that tried but just didn’t reach the individual. I am sure for a lot of people (quite a lot, judging by the reviews and sales) this is THE game. But not being one of them doesn’t necessitate total and utter disgust for it.There are games I flat-out despise. GoW isn’t one of them. Just don’t love it either.

      The world (and stop me if I sound a bit dramatic) especially on the internet is so split these days… you can’t be in the middle of anything anymore… It’s all for or against. Black or white. Conservative and Liberal. Republican or Democrat. Soup or Salad. Ergh… drives me crazy.
      I don’t mind the game. I just didn’t enjoy playing it. The end (which should have arrived about 10 sentences ago).

      • caspiancomic says:

         Nailed it, @Effigy_Power:disqus , I’ve felt that exact way for a long time now. It’s why I was so thrilled to find The AV Club, which seemed to grow fat on the kind of nuanced, context-heavy appreciation of different mediums rather than the internet’s preferred “epic or fail” mentality. I think Gameological is doing a great job bringing that same textured, middle-of-the-road-but-in-a-good-way feeling to conversations about gaming- which, let’s be honest, need that kind of nuanced discussion the most.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         Salad 2012!

        I did really enjoy playing GoW, but I have a hard time replaying it.  Every time I do, I get stuck somewhere and just give up.  It is probably the most button-mashiest game I have played in quite awhile.

      •  The thing about GoW is that for hack/slashers, the move set has to be intuitive and effective, and the dodge/block maneuvers HAVE TO WORK. The first game, while solid enough, lacked in those two departments. GoW2 was superior in both ways, also the puzzles were stronger.

        So to see GoW3 go backwards in that regard was a huge disappointment. Since you liked Dante’s Inferno, which is more like GoW2, you may like the sequel. But skip 3.

      • 3FistedHumdinger says:

         I hate to be that guy, but I don’t understand how you guys are being so easily frustrated with the gameplay, when the GoW series are the only series of games I’ve ever completed on maximum difficulty.  I suck balls at almost every other action platformer, but the system of GoW just WORKS, man.

    • Try Devil May Cry

  7. caspiancomic says:

    First Roguelikes, then Doom clones, then GTA clones, now God of War clones. I guess in those first examples most of the games that could be slapped with that label deserved a bit of credit for inheriting the mechanics of their particular trailblazer, and not just the superficial elements. After all, those were basically just the days of new genres being discovered, and what we now call FPSes and Sandbox games were back in the day perceived as being mercenary cash-ins on popular titles. And there have been some games that have riffed on God of War’s kill-everything-and-solve-a-block-puzzle design but implemented their own story or aesthetic or whatever. But it seems like a lot of studios have basically filed the serial numbers off of God of War and tried to wring a few bucks out of it. I mean, God of War was pretty okay and all, but what about it specifically inspired this level of copy-cattery? Did Kratos really just sell that many units?

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I’m fairly sure there were games that implemented GoW-type gameplay before GoW, no? Maximo, Medieval, stuff like that; not as epic, as derivatives/hybrids of other games in of themselves . . . or are we just talking about ripping off pantheological themes? (Liar, liar, pantheons on fire?)

      • caspiancomic says:

         I think you’re right that the whole “third person hack-n-slash, light platforming, light puzzle solving” thing is much older than GoW (and man do I love MediEvil), but it looks like a lot of games are ripping off more than the most basic components. So, QTEs have basically been hammered into the DNA of this genre, when there’s nothing intrinsic to hack-n-slash games that requires there to be QTE finishing moves or whatever.

        Maybe I’m just blowing hot air- the more examples I try to think of the more I’m able to think of an example that predates GoW. MediEvil granted you new and more powerful weapons that controlled differently as you progressed (the currency it used was souls, as well!), plenty of games have had character progression trees requiring you to purchase new skills or buffs or whatever, etc. Maybe this is more a case of GoW crystallizing all those elements into such a perfect formula for ripping off. The Doom to MediEvil’s (or your third person hack-n-slash of choice) Wolfenstein 3D, if you will.