PREVIEW: Bloody Spell

Nov
20

PREVIEW: Bloody Spell

Wuxia Action with a hodgepodge ideas of Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden and more

Released: Steam Early Access
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Developer: Yi Long
Publisher: Yi Long
Release date: 16 Jan, 2019

Chinese Action RPG with… Sexy DLC?

What is Wuxia? Translated it means “Martial Hero” and a genre type that is about Martial Arts that doesn’t fly off the roof, which is “XianXia”. Though there are elements of “XianXia” with the inclusion of Demons and a little bit of magic. If we have to make a distinction then “Wuxia” is low fantasy and “Xianxia” is high fantasy.
Using all kinds of weapons and techniques they push the boundaries, though there’s some magic involved it doesn’t get much further than that.
Bloody Spell falls into this category and follows the footsteps of games such as Ninja Gaiden in order to create an action game to remember. Well… Remember they will because it has some feisty hot DLC costumes for the female main character!
But what about the gameplay itself? Follow me, an action game veteran who went through the trials and tribulations of Ninja Gaiden 1-3, DMC, Demon’s Souls; Ni-Oh, etc. and see how this ambitious Early Access attempt made by 5 developers stacks up!

The Story

While I’d like to talk to you about the story, there’s not much I can talk about, unfortunately. Because there’s no real story content within the game. You only get a few bits and pieces from NPCs and other characters such as yourself.
With that said, allow me to try giving you a summary of what I’ve gathered.

In the Tutorial, the first thing you notice is the fact that you have some invisible spirit called Faceless helping you to once again pick up the whole Martial Arts thing inside his mind and he’ll be following you throughout the adventure.
After finishing it, your character Yejin wakes up from his slumber without much clothing on… because it looks like he’s a prisoner with a few fellow members of his sect.
There are a few important things to take note of.

They have your sister who’s planned to be used as a sacrifice.
Your sect is in shambles and it looks like nobody made it, even the sect head was killed
Your mission is to save Yejin’s sister
To achieve that he somehow gained the special Skill called Bloody Spell
As strong as it is, it comes with a cost…

And that’s pretty much it, but most of that is already on the Steam Page in a few short sentences.
Some lore tidbits can be found in item and weapon descriptions though it’s not much and you do get to see what the price for the power of the Bloody Spell is along the way.

I’d also like to mention that the English isn’t exactly great and just good enough to scrap things together. Even if you put it to English, some things are still in Chinese.

Technically speaking, it’s not that important as of right now because the most important part is currently its gameplay.

The Gameplay

The Battle System

Despite its genre, it’s more an action game with RPG elements. You have light and strong attacks and you have some variations in attacks depending on the sequence of your button presses. Just take a look at the skill list for some demonstration.
Aside from the normal attacks, you can also throw daggers, teleport daggers that move you to the hit object, jump, block and dodge which is also available while in the air. For more firepower, you can use Bloody Spells which require the usage of your special gauge.

Weapon Types
There are currently four weapon types available in the game: Blade, Sword, Spearstick, and Knuckles.
Each of them has their own attacks, advantages, and disadvantages.

The Blade is your typical sword with sword range but fast attacks
The Sword are huge like Greatswords with big range but less agile
The Spearstick is a mix of short and long-range attacks. Though the Strong attack should have the longest range of all weapons.
The Knuckles are the typical fisticuffs and probably the fastest of them all but also the shortest one.

Active Bloody Spells

While there are active and passive ones, we’ll be focusing on the active ones here because they are actively used in battle. You have a wide range of skills that you can use. Ranging from drinking wine for HP recovery (doesn’t cost special gauge), Attack buff to all kinds of special attacks. Beware, all of them require the special gauge and here’s lies another crux…
When you die, you can revive yourself by using that special gauge with a special skill called Resuscitate and the more you use it, the more costly it becomes. Ergo, you always have to consider the risk of running out of special gauge for the revival if you use these special skills.

Impressions on the Battle System
It’s functional and can look good.
Your character is pretty fast when it comes to zipping around enemies. He also has nice looking attacks but I’m not too sure how much real variety there is as I couldn’t feel too much of a difference when it comes to using all the variations of attack strings. It works well and I can see people liking it but when it comes to action games of its kind it can’t keep up with the top of its class and there are multiple reasons for it.

In action games, the interaction between Player and Enemies is one of the most important parts of the equation. Which makes selling you the characters’ attacks and their hits on the enemies all the more important. The issue I had is that I don’t feel the attacks hitting the enemies. It could be the animation, effects and/or sounds. I can’t really pinpoint it but every time I land a hit it feels like slicing butter. It lacks impact.

When I tried the game on normal I felt completely outmatched when I have to fight multiple enemies at once, especially the nasty bigger ones. A character action game features an overpowered but glass cannon character but it’s not the case here. Neither speed nor power could keep up with their viciousness. However, this is when it comes to normal and upward, easy is much more manageable.
Just to give an example, in Ninja Gaiden you had moves like the Guillotine Throw, a simple throw from a jump, and the iconic Izuna Drop which did huge damage on the opponent and splash damage on impact. It’s all a balancing act.

And probably some more I forgot. But as I said it’s not bad and there’s a lot of room for it getting better. Then there are…

The RPG Elements

While there’s no plain jane level up system in the game, it still has stats. To piggyback on that, there’s are a lot of equipment and weapons with different stats, so basically a loot system.
To unlock more attacks you have to rake up proficiency with the weapon and spend those points for the unlocks. Each weapon has its own proficiency pool so make sure to keep that in mind when switching weapons.

Getting and leveling up Bloody Spells

You get Bloody Spells by finding Blood Ambers. These are scattered everywhere and predominantly in chests. Some Spells require more than one of its kind. They can also be bought at monoliths.

Monoliths

They have a one time use recovery and offer Blood Ambers and Equipment for sale. Make sure you liquidize everything that vanishes when you die. Which we’ll cover why later on. Before that, we have to talk about one incredibly important element of the game…

RNG
Close to everything not fighting is involved in RNG because most of it is tied to items and those are all part of the RNG machine. What does it mean?
Levels have a little bit of roguelike type of RNG by rearranging rooms.
Items you find in chests are all RNG
The items available for buying are RNG


Ergo, you can’t decide on your skills or weapons. In the beginning, you will 100% get a sword. After that, it’s all about praying to the RNG gods to give you other types of weapons. So technically speaking, you could make a playthrough without every getting one of the other weapons types, though it is unlikely.
You can’t decide on your skills, which makes it impossible to create a character build. This is one part of the game that really grinds my gears.

Achievements

To my surprise, the game has its own achievement system and has different categories. The good thing about it is that the rewards are fixed and some of them are really good ones to boot. So keep an eye out on them! But make sure you don’t sell equipment that you got from there, otherwise, it’s gone forever.

The price of death
It’s quite steep. You lose everything except your skills, equipped items and things that got the permanent buff. Everything else is gone. Checkpoints are not much of a thing either which makes it extremely pricey like going back to the start of a stage like back in the days.

Game Modes
There are other game modes aside from the story mode and tutorial. Things like Hell Mode that sends you through a randomized first dungeon and a battle arena called the Bloody Palace where you have to survive wave after wave of enemies. Interestingly enough, your progress carries over to all modes.
The Story Mode is probably the one most people are going to play and it spans across a few areas. There are traps, some platforming and a lot of fighting involved and each playthrough will have some variation due to some area block randomization. Expect a few boss fights and a variety of enemies that will keep you on your toes.

Thoughts on Gameplay
While the game’s genre says Action Adventure RPG, I’ll have to give you a heads up. It’s more action-focused and even name drops Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden and for some strange reason even Yakuza(?) in the difficulty description which already sets up the expectation of what kind of game it’s going to be.
As mentioned before, the battle system is serviceable and shouldn’t be an issue as long as you play it on easy at the beginning. Still, there’s a lot of room for polish and putting all elements together it feels like there’s a lack of focus.

More thoughts on that after the Verdict as it’s not part of the rating process.

Graphics and Sound

Visually it kind of looks bland and drab with a dash of Chinese style, which isn’t bad per se because that’s what the world of Bloody Spell looks like. Absolute desolation, overrun by evil and demons.
From a technical view, the animations look quite good and there’s no doubt there are some fancy looking attacks which is what you’d hope for in a Wuxia game. I haven’t seen anything egregiously bad but also nothing that really stuck out.

As for the sound? There’s some Chinese voice acting and the music is ok but nothing memorable. Considering that there isn’t much music to listen to by design, there really isn’t much to say. What you will hear the most will be the sound of you fighting for your dear life or the occasional movement of traps.

Verdict

Bloody Spell shows a lot of promise and ideas. Maybe too many ideas as the RNG part of the game makes it impossible to create character builds and things such as weapon upgrades I have seen only once in the whole playthrough. The fighting does a good job of bringing a feel of eastern fantasy at your fingertips and it shouldn’t pose an issue for most people. Veterans of the character action genre will feel the lack of polish when things get harder.
The world and setting have a feel of being inspired by the darker feel of the Souls games with an attempt to offer storytelling by NPCs and Items, while it kind of works there’s nothing much that anchors a curiosity to learn more. From my experience with Chinese Novels, there’s always much to talk about the world and its unique cultivation systems, giving out the much-needed intrigue on where it can go.
The lack of Wuxia stories in our video game space should give it a good chance for a spotlight. Highlighted by the people’s clamor of Jade Empire.
Overall, this one would be an incredibly difficult call between Save and Save for Later as the pricing isn’t too high. Anyway, I do recommend to give it at least a look because it might become really something special, if things work out well and the price will only go up due to the increase in content.

Afterthoughts
Bloody Spell feels like something that tries to combine the elements of different games into one. Battles like Ninja Gaiden, loot like Diablo and the challenge of Souls. Each of it comes at a cost.
Having a good battle system requires, for example, some fine-tooth-combing when it comes to balancing. Ni-Oh is one of the most popular examples that mixes Action, RPG, Loot well and even then it has its drawbacks.
At this point it might be better think about the strengths of the game and amplify it instead of trying for a Jack-of-all-Trades.
A little bit more Chinese flair wouldn’t hurt it either. As I mentioned before there are many people who loved Jade Empire and it’s a very seldom theme in the current gaming environment.

About S-1

Fighting game afficionado. Plays all kinds of games, outside of mostly FPS, horror and racing games. Twitter

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