By: Casey Curran
Say what you want about a game clearly copying what is popular out there; at least the idea of mooching off others’ success is a sound one on paper. When I first saw Jeremy, the main character in Blood Knights, however, I could tell something was amiss with how he looked almost exactly like the default Hawke from Dragon Age 2. In fact, everything about this game feels so much like Dragon Age (they both take place in medieval fantasy worlds) that if it were renamed Dragon Age: Blood Knights no one would give a second glance.
Don’t get me wrong; Dragon Age is a great series, and I even enjoyed Dragon Age 2 quite a bit. But Dragon Age 2 is not a fondly remembered game and copying a game with such a reputation so blatantly does not inspire faith. Unfortunately, this accurately predicted what lay ahead.
Blood Knights controls similarly to other overhead action games with two characters that control differently. Jeremy is melee focused and based around racking up combos and timely dodges. Alysa, on the other hand, has a scheme similar to a twin-stick shooter with (oddly) the right bumper for normal attacks. In terms of combat, both of these characters control well and have a good variety of special attacks to give the combat a little depth.
Where the controls falter, however, is in the platforming. The isometric perspective does not create a favorable viewpoint for jumping as it is hard to tell what is safe to land on and what will lead to your instant death. The platforming controls are also imprecise, which does the game few favors. The platforming is common enough (and checkpoints are infrequent enough) that it drags the game’s overall quality down a lot.
Blood Knights isn’t a bad looking game. It looks like a budget Dragon Age, but not so cheap that the game really suffers visually. What hurts the graphics, however, are the bugs and glitches. Texture pop-ins are frequent, as were choppy stints in the gameplay. Meanwhile enemies and objects could randomly disappear then reappear in a fashion that made it clear it was not a magical power or ability causing the action.
Sound effects are well done, sword attacks in particular create a satisfying clash of steel. The gore effects sound great as well. The music is mostly forgettable yet never annoys.
Blood Knights is not bad as far as its combat mechanics go. Attacking enemies both with the sword and crossbow feel satisfying, and there’s a good amount of special attacks to give it some depth. The vampire powers, in particular, feel very satisfying and powerful, yet also well balanced to avoid being overpowered. The problems arise from the non-combat mechanics and overall level design.
The RPG elements, while appreciated, feel a little too bare bones. Loot is just a matter of acquiring what is more powerful than you already have rather than fun bonus effects or tradeoffs in what stats certain items increase. This fails to make acquiring new equipment compelling and instead more like linear progression rather than a fun reward.
The upgrades do little to make the combat diversify itself later. Once I acquired the most useful ones early on, spending skill points didn’t feel like it was improving my character. There are also a few dialogue trees awkwardly scatter around. These essentially determine which enemies you will fight in the immediate future, making them feel very pointless.
Enemy placement often combines with area design to create a source of frustration. Swarms of enemies can surround hazards, making it difficult to take them on without falling to your death. There are also a few sections where enemies, particularly the ranged ones, are far too abundant, which makes the game feel cheap. Often the only way to get through a segment would be to play as Alysa and move to where the enemies stopped chasing me so I could pick them off one by one.
The aforementioned glitches hurt the gameplay as well. While they were rare, finding your character suddenly drowning because he strangely teleported into a pool of water, or almost beating a group of enemies only to have them disappear and reappear at full health, both caused me to put the controller down for a while.
Blood Knights is the kind of game that needs a sequel. Its combat is fun and responsive, but it is built into a non-compelling RPG system with poorly designed levels. Even as a co-op game it is very hard to recommend, as there are numerous better ones available.