There is no shortage of hack-and-slash action games on Xbox Live Arcade. And while "Bloodforge," the latest entry in the crowded genre, arrives with a few fresh ideas in tow, it ultimately gets lost in the shuffle.
The best thing going for "Bloodforge" is its story. You play as Crom, a legendary warrior who has turned his back on the brutal ways of war. But after Crom is tricked into murdering his own family, he quickly rediscovers his inner rage and unleashes it upon those who wronged him.
Armed with a giant sword and a gauntlet that allows him to absorb the blood of his defeated foes in order to fuel his special attacks, Crom spends the next 4-5 hours butchering everyone and everything that stands between him and vengeance. The story isn't wholly original, but it is well-told nonetheless. And most importantly, it provides a reason to chop, slice and eviscerate countless numbers of enemies in the most bloody of fashions.
While the combat is extremely visceral, the hack-and-slash gameplay offers little in the way of innovation. Crom has weak and strong attacks at his disposal and can switch between one of four weapons with a push of a button, along with a handful of magical Rune attacks. Enemies attack in waves and Crom can dodge and roll to avoid incoming blows, but the mechanic isn't as responsive as it is in other games within the genre. And the lack of a lock-on button makes this even more glaring.
My biggest issue with "Bloodforge" is the camera, which excessively bounces around behind Crom as he runs. It's downright distracting and takes away from the otherwise impressive visual presentation that features a muted color palette that emphasizes the red blood that splatters across the screen.
And while there aren't any true competitive multiplayer modes, there are leaderboard challenges you can issue your friends. It doesn't add much to the overall package, but it does provide some replay value.
"Bloodforge" is certainly not a terrible game, but it does little to set itself apart from the numerous other hack-and-slash games on XBLA. Fans of the genre may want to give this a look, but the bottom line is there are better options out there for those looking to slice-and-dice for a few hours.
Developer: Climax Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Available for: Xbox Live Arcade ($15)
Rating: M for mature