I always have an itch to scratch when it comes to ARPGs (and more recently rogue-likes, thanks to my love of Dead Cells). Luckily, Devolver Digital has provided us a taste of this genre with their recent early-access release Blightbound. I say “taste” as the game certainly satiates the desire to dungeon grind for progression but still has room to grow exponentially—as the developers are still actively working on, and adding to, the title. There is a lot of potential here.
If you have the option, this is a game you are going to want to play with two other friends. That is how I experienced the majority of my time with the game, and I think it was all the more enjoyable for it. The game definitely relies on good communication, especially when choosing higher-difficulty dungeons. There is a need to often call out to the team for heals, to get them to group up, and to warn them of incoming attacks. I can’t count the amount of times my teammates assisted in healing me back up, and how many failed runs we truly avoided thanks to the collaboration.
The game has some lovely touches, like the small puzzles that you come across. The puzzles are often simple, but a fun touch to break up travelling room-to-room slaying enemies. Some of these involve flipping switches in the correct order, dodging lasers while on a moving elevator platform, and shifting blocks onto pressure pads while collaborating with your teammates to unlock those pesky locked passages. While the combat is simplistic (with maybe five different abilities in total for each playable character), it is easy to pick up without completing the tutorial and provides enough variation when trying out each character.
The levels are procedurally generated, so layouts always differ; you often walk into a room, unaware of what you will encounter. The game definitely resembles Darkest Dungeon in its art style, although perhaps less grim. After playing for a couple of hours, some of the levels started to look similar, prompting me to question whether enough variation had been put into the environments. Still, the game is in early access and there are more dungeons being introduced; so I have no doubt new environments will be introduced also.
With its grim style, thorough replayability, and simplicity, Blightbound is a great title to pick up for those that like ARPGs and rogue-likes. The game provides challenge if you ask for it—play on harder difficulties!—and allows those who want to kick back and relax to play through on a breezy difficulty (making smaller, but still progressive, steps). A great entry-level game to the genre and, with the prospect of further updates on the horizon, definitely one to keep an eye on.
Just as tides were meant to ebb and flow, dungeons were meant to be crawled and stripped bare of any sweet loot lying around. It is an immutable fact of the universe; one that draws at least three classes of adventurer to…adventure. I mean, none of those horrific creature besotted by Blight seem to be using that staff that grants bonus damage to their superiors; so why can’t a friendly Mage stroll in, punch them in the face, and take it?
To start things off on an honest foot—which I think is the left one—I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to games like Blightbound. With that out of the way, I shall say this: Blightbound is fun. Not too flowery an explanation but an apt one, to be sure. Despite skipping the tutorial, I found that it was pretty easy to get the hang of the three types of character (Assassin, Mage, Warrior). Though this may sound like a strange point to focus on, it goes towards showing Blightbound‘s strength as a multiplayer experience. What’s the most fun part of a multiplayer game? Playing the game. What’s the least fun part? Spending ages trying to figure out how to play. Blightbound allows players to read an explanation of their character’s abilities at any time and doesn’t muddy the waters with an overly difficult UI. The buttons/keys which activate abilities are listed on screen and are similarly assigned for each character; so, despite differences in each class, the same button/key activates the default strike or ultimate skill. Again, though not a revolutionary feature, it allows Blightbound to be a fairly simple experience to jump into. This is doubly beneficial as the game randomly assigns you one of the three classes of character when entering a dungeon. There is supposedly an option earned through play that allows you to choose preferred option, but I have yet to acquire this option.
In regards to the gameplay itself, each class definitely has its place on the battlefield. Having been assigned the Mage more often than not, I came to appreciate the benefit of ranged combat. Designed to stay out of melee, the Mage shines as a support: providing covering fire from afar, granting allies a brief window of invulnerability, and healing damage taken by both allies and himself. That last ability is key, especially in the higher difficulties. I also eventually discovered that the Mage’s ultimate ability—summoning grimoire drones to fight alongside him—can be doubled up, increasing the amount of fire support. Discovering these slight differences, in addition to the obvious variations between the classes’ abilities, allows each of the three character options to feel powerful in its own way. It’s a nice touch.
When it comes to improving the power of a character, Blightbound takes an…interesting approach. You see, characters only acquire experience by completing a dungeon—nothing is gained for failing an expedition. Additionally, it is only the character a player was controlling who gains experience; the other two classes chilling at base earn nothing. Additionally once more, the other members of the class you bested a dungeon with gain nothing (that is, if you’ve stumbled upon any of the additional heroes in a dungeon). Though it is not completely unusual for a game to give experience only to those involved in a quest, it somewhat limits the player’s ability to try out different heroes. I myself was assigned Mage fairly frequently, meaning that said character was both at a much higher level and possessing of better items. This meant that when I was tasked to play as the Warrior, my stats were far lower than what I had become accustomed to. Combined with an inability to select which class I wished to play as, chance became an unexpectedly important facet of strategy. Though not an experience-ruining element, it definitely clashes with the overall vibe that Blightbound is designed for a player to drop into whatever role they are given and roll with it.
Despite a few hiccups, Blightbound is a fun experience—one certainly enhanced by playing with a party you know and can actively converse with. With the potential for classes to swap between players each dungeon, being able to talk strategy in real time help smooth out some of the roughness of adjustment. Let’s just say that playing Mage for five dungeons in a row does not a useful Assassin make…
I liked it a lot.