Review – Blightbound

Blightbound is a cooperative dungeon crawler set in a world that has been engulfed by a darkness known only as the Blight. Developed by Ronimo Games and published by Devolver Digital, Blightbound gives players the reins of a number of heroes that have sought refuge atop a mountain, travelling the lands only to strengthen their community by finding survivors and more heroes willing to assist in the cause.

The world within Blightbound has its own story and beginnings and with each mission a new page is added to a heroes’ journal. When the heroes destroyed the Shadow Titan and though a victory was celebrated, from the fallen titan spewed an evil fog known as the Blight.

Blightbound begins with a small tutorial level where the player is introduced to the three classes of heroes that can be played as, which are:

· Assassins – Quick and agile with large damage output, especially when flanking the enemy.

· Warriors – The tanks of the party, there to take the hits and have a large amount of health.

· Mages – The healer of the party, relies on distance to remain standing.

There is no right or wrong way to play as any hero, as it does not take long to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Through in the tutorial the player gets the chance to learn the basic mechanics of the game, including combat and movement.

Once completing the tutorial, the player is taken to the mountain-top refuge where it is explained that the only way to strengthen the refuge is to head out into the Blight to find survivors. When diving into a mission the player first selects the hero they wish to play as, and it brings them to the dungeon select screen. Each hero has their own unique story which can be uncovered only by clearing particular dungeons. The player’s party has a “Party Level” which can only be raised by completing dungeons and levelling up each hero, while each mission is also separated by a “Blight Level” which represents its difficulty. The premise of this is quite straightforward, however, very early in-game the player is presented with areas that have drastically high difficulty ratings and so the only chance to level up any heroes is to simply grind out the lower levels which only succeeds in leaving a sour taste of repetitiveness in the player’s mouth.

Each dungeon is set out much the same, with some varying objectives, but with a very lineal setup. Progress through a dungeon is halted by spawning enemies that have to be slain before the Blight is cleared ahead and this is repeated until reaching the dungeon’s final boss. Being a dungeon crawler, combat is at the forefront of gameplay and each class bringsits own style as mentioned above. Each hero has a handful of unique moves that help them on their travels, including a standard attack and evade, three special abilities and an ultimate skill. Each skill, including the evade are set on a timer and can only be used once that timer reaches zero, so managing the right and wrong times to use abilities can be important. For the close combat heroes it plays much like a hack and slash outside of more difficult battles and I found that playing as a Mage kept things most interesting during combat as every move has to be calculated in order to survive. Each hero also has a passive ability which gives the characters an unique buff, like a Mage being able to chain together attacks for a damage bonus, or an Assassin being able to deal much more damage when attacking an enemy from behind.

There are a number of different enemies that pose their own challenge throughout each dungeon, with a lot of simple enemies that fill the empty spaces when having to focus on that tougher enemy in a fight. As mentioned earlier, there is a boss at the end of each dungeon, sometimes fighting side by side with an ally or two, and this is where some tactical decisions come in to play as the wrong move can deplete a player’s health quite quickly. Enemy attacks differ from close up to ranged, as well as a number of stronger attacks that wreak havoc in a larger area of effect. Even with these varying elements that can challenge the player, enemies feel like they are copy and paste.

The player’s party is always three, consisting of one of each class and so if playing solo the other two party members are filled with bots. Now, this is not usually a problem but given the rather simple artificial intelligence in Blightbound even the easier missions can become quite a drag. While the AI do not struggle to put in their fair share of damage output, when there are any enemies that have to be approached somewhat tactically, ie: any sort of boss, they just fall to pieces. Running through enemy attacks to get their shot at glory, stopping at anything to revive a downed hero, completely oblivious to any sort of damage to their health. It turns in to a bit of a mad house, with hero’s falling to damage left and right. There was one particular mission early on where two members of the party had to stand on pressure plates to force open a gate, with two more on the other side to be occupied by another member and a large, moveable block. The AI just did not want to cooperate and could have halted progress had I not ended up having to cheese my way to the end of the mission by grabbing the block and using it to push the two AI onto the first two plates, then quickly rush to the other side of a gate before they decided to follow me and stand off their mark.

Blightbound has great sound with any sort of music being very much at the background of gameplay, and with so much happening on the screen simultaneously a lot of the time it is impressive that the team were able to make each sound easy enough to differentiate between each hack, slash or heal. Blightbound’s characters have their own spoken dialogue and to my delight they actually are quite well done, bringing with them some atmosphere.

Graphically, Blightbound does not bring anything special or unique to the table, but it does not look terrible by all means. The lighting is quite good; however, the world seriously lacks any sort of colour and it becomes a bit of a drag to look at and sadly, even with the lack of spectacular graphics, my system crashed multiple times and had lagging issues during gameplay. Nothing worse than approaching the end of a dungeon only to lose everything to something that cannot be controlled.

Unfortunately, I only had the chance to play a small amount of co-operative play and it had small shining moments. I think it could be fun for a while, but it would wear off eventually. Blightbound is not grotesquely violent but there are definitely some dark and scary themes that could be frightening to a younger audience.

Brandon Waite

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