Wild Blood Review: Looks Good, Plays Okay, But Suffers From IAP
Gameloft has finally released their first Unreal-powered title, Wild Blood. It’s a departure from almost every other Unreal-powered game we’ve seen, eschewing the fixed cameras and gesture-based combat in favor of a hack-n-slash action game very reminiscent of Gameloft’s Hero of Sparta series. It’s a pretty but shallow game that offers some thrills, but also some headaches.
Like many of these Gameloft genre clones, the story is abysmally bad. You play Sir Lancelot, who must kill demons, save Merlin, rescue Guinevere, and defeat the evil Morgana after the latter opens the gates of Hell at the request of King Arthur, who is mad with jealousy over the love Lancelot and Guinevere share. It’s as generic and incoherent as the game’s title. notable only for the fact that it adulterates some elements from Arthurian legend. It’s also told in a choppy way that is no more than an excuse to string levels together.
Each level is a linear hack-and-slash very much in the style of both numerous console games and even some of Gameloft’s older titles. You generally kill your way through enemies, occasionally set off a mana-fueled combat power, and then challenge a pattern-following boss to complete the level. It’s decently fun, with most enemies coming at you in overwhelming groups and requiring lots of hits to kill. There’s sometimes a little strategy involved, as when you’re faced with archers across a ravine or demonic sorcerers who teleport when you hit them, but for the most part it’s virtual button-mashing. It’s also completely the unlike timing-centric, swipe-fueled combat we’ve become used to seeing in Unreal-powered games. Gameloft doesn’t like to break their own formula for action games.
More familiar to the Unreal style is the weapons and armor system. You begin with a sword, though other weapons — double axes, a bow, hammers — become available as the levels progress. By spending coins found on each level, you can power up your weapons, improve your armor, and even unlock special attacks. Like with any of these Unreal games, I usually find it best to stick with one weapon of choice and keep upgrading, as opposed to trying to constantly upgrade new weapons.
The graphics are also very much Unreal-powered. In fact, the graphics are the only thing that really stands out here. They’re a definite step above Gameloft’s in-house graphics engine. Even recent Gameloft engine-powered titles like The Dark Knight Returns suffered from blocky polygons and mute marionettes whoese heads bob when the dialogue speaks. Here, wer get smoother figures, more detailed textures, and actual moving lips. [The dialogue coming out of them is typical Gameloft corny, though.]
The game does feature a generous checkpoint sysytem, as all mobile games should. But when you die, the game doesn’t automatically start you at the checkpoint; instead, you are given the chance to revive from the very moment of death … for the cost of 2000 coins. If you’re playing the game right (upgrading weapons and armor, plus keeping some potions on hand), you will almost never have 2000 coins on you when you die. So why would Gameloft offer it?
IAP, of course. Die halfway through a difficult boss battle? Buy your way back to victory. Want to get further, faster? Buy more coins to upgrade your weapons and armor. Yes, even in a $6.99 app, this game has annoying, always-an-errant-button-click-away offers to sell you more coins to make your game EVEN BETTER. This nagging IAP is a persistent reminder to the player that $6.99 isn’t enough — Gameloft wants more out of you. It’s a slap in the face to anyone who thought that, for $6.99, they were buying a “premium” title.
There are also control issues here. The virtual buttons are sometimes slow to respond, some gestures don’t always register (like the Charge attack), and the d-pad control area is too small and confined on the iPhone screen. Also, your ability to attack is sometimes hampered by the camera, which too quickly and too aggressively wants to pan behind you as you go. I’ve missed many an attack because the camera has spun as I moved, thus making me go the wrong way. I would love to see an update that makes the buttons a little bigger, a little more responsive, and that tones down the camera a bit.
Is Wild Blood visually interesting? Yes. Does it offer some fun, mindless screen-mashing combat? Yes. But apart from the Unreal Engline graphics, this is nothing we haven’t seen from Gameloft before. If you want a truly spectacular Unreal-based fantasy adventure at the same price point, go buy the far superior Horn (5 stars in our review, ). Wild Blood is certain to be a part of an upcoming Gameloft 99-cent sale, and you’ll enjoy it more if you only spend a buck on it.
Our Score: 3 out of 5.
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