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Every now and then a game comes along that hits the nostalgia receptor in the brain. Blightbound initially brought me there. As a side-scrolling action-RPG, it reminded of older days where my friends and I would play a beat `em up like Streets of Rage or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Blightbound takes the genre up a notch by adding some RPG elements through classes, gear, and stat point assignments. I wish that this gushing introduction was indicative of the experience though, as Blightbound is riddled with numerous bugs and design choices that detract from what is a truly cool core.
At its core, Blightbound is like games we’ve seen before. You begin in an upgradable base camp and when you choose to go on an adventure, you make a few selections like your hero and which dungeon you will explore. If you’re playing solo, and trust me you will likely to be playing solo all the time, you will choose one of the three types of characters. The three character types are quite unique though. There’s a warrior class that’s a tank, an archer/rogue DPS class, and a priest/wizard typically used for buffs and healing. Over the course of the game, you will rescue prisoners that will fit into one of these arch-types. These new fighters will differ a little bit in the special attacks and such, but they still maintain the same roles.
Blightbound uses a party mechanic that I first saw in another flop of a game, Dark Alliance. The party must contain one of each character. While it’s understandable as it feels like the levels would be neigh impossible without specific class abilities, it’s still disappointing. When playing solo, you can pick whichever character you’d like and the others are then controlled by the AI (or rather artificial unintelligence). The AI characters will be the biggest source of frustration for people trying to play this game.
Dungeons are rife with “puzzles” that require the three characters to stand on pressure plates to open doors, and even a simple task like this is beyond the AI’s comprehension as every time you move onto your plate, they will run around like they’re on fire. During fights the AI characters will either constantly use their skills or do nothing, and I’m not sure which tactic is worse. The fighter/tank AI will spam skills, including their ultimate, on regular enemies. He will also continually taunt when there’s no benefit whatsoever. The healer was the one that more frequently did nothing. I’m guessing the heal spell is supposed to be triggered when you drop below a certain threshold, but it seemed arbitrary when the AI would try to heal you. Sometimes he will heal you after a single hit, and other times he wouldn’t do anything until you’re on death’s door.
On top of all of this, the AI kept trying to use their ultimate before it was fully charged, which would cause them to do nothing, and when they were fully charged it was no longer triggering. Supposedly developer Ronimo Games has since released a patch to address the AI character ultimate bug, but as I’ve already been playing weeks after release, it sadly feels quite late.
The dungeons themselves are generic looking and drab as well. They’re set up as series of rooms, and to clear each room you will either have to defeat all of the enemies, or figure out one of the tricky “press the button to open the door” puzzles. Each dungeon will take about 15 minutes to clear, but it will be the longest 15 minutes of your gaming life, especially when you must return to the dungeons over and over to grind out experience or materials.
I am not unfamiliar with grinding in games. I have played countless JRPGs, farmed for rare items in MMOs, and done hundreds of runs in rogue-lites. Blightbound is a perfect example of poorly designed, slow grinding. Not only does it take a huge commitment of time to upgrade your base, but only the character that you personally play as gains experience. The AI characters do not level up at all. The one saving grace is that if you die during a run, you will at least be able to keep the gear that was collected up to that point.
Blightbound supposedly has matchmaking and online co-op with with friends. However, I can’t comment about how multiplayer works because after over ten attempts to matchmake, I never once successfully connected to another player. I truly don’t know if this was due to lack of players, or some sort of bug with matchmaking.
Speaking of bugs, I mentioned that there were many and it detracted from the game. The ones I encountered were a multitude of random crashes to the home screen, the AI bugs as discussed before, and then some truly strange issues. One that happened a few times, was that enemies would either spawn in the walls or get knocked beyond the walls. This would sometimes cause the level to crash, or make it impossible to finish a room so you’d be forced to quit. In addition to these challenges, there seem to be many balancing issues as well. For example, you can choose a difficulty when starting a dungeon. However, easy and normal feel too easy most of the time, and hard just makes the enemies incredibly tanky and difficult. The cherry on top are difficulty spikes that add to the need to grind in already grindy game.
Blightbound is a game that looks like it would be a lot of fun on paper or in trailers, but in execution the game falls flat. There have been a couple of updates since I played the game, but there is still an extensive list of bugs that the developer still needs to address. There’s a chance that the game improves since the developers seem to be responsive, and want to bring the game up to what I assume their vision was. However, right now Blightbound feels like a game that was rushed out to meet a deadline, and now the developers are busy trying to patch it up. I would personally stay away until the game is in a better condition.