Xbox Live Arcade (and the PSN too for that matter) has come a long way in terms of the quality of games offered, with many titles striving to give you that AAA retail release experience for a fraction of the cost.
As part of Microsoft's Arcade Next promotion, Bloodforge has a lot to live up to considering the quality of its peers, with titles like Minecraft and Trials Evolution sharing the promotion.
For 1200 Microsoft points, it certainly isn't going to cost you an arm and leg. But does the old saying ring true that you get what you pay for?
Bloodforge is a typical hack'n slash game similar to God of War. You play as Crom the barbarian, who has been tricked by the gods into killing his family. In typical crazed barbarian fashion, he goes on a rampage, seeking revenge on the said gods.
You probably saying to yourself that this is a very familiar tale. Well the story is indeed very similar to God of War, a game that Bloodforge borrows quite a bit from.
Weak story aside, the other thing that you will notice about this game is the wonderful graphical art style, with its almost monotone backgrounds interspersed with lashings of the colour red, obviously representing all the bloodshed caused by Crom.
It is evident that quite a bit of effort went into the graphics, making the game look like a AAA R600 retail game as a result. But that will mean nothing if the gameplay isn't up to scratch.
Bloodforge plays like a typical title of the genre, with weak attacks and strong attacks that can be linked to form various combos. You also have access to various weapons such as a sword, hammer, claws and crossbow that can be upgraded throughout the game. In addition to this, you also have magic abilities which can be upgraded by blood essence, absorbed from slain enemies. Like I said, nothing new here.
Where Bloodforge does falter though is in the actual gameplay. The combination of poor animations and terrible action camera really makes the game a chore to play.
Movement of Crom is also very twitchy, taking some getting used to. You know the game has issues when the evade function doesn't really get you out of trouble. Instead, you'll have much better luck dodging enemies by moving normally.
The game also fools you into thinking that you have a bit of freedom to explore, only to realise that all the different paths lead to the same destination, with hardly any variation in paths themselves. To make things worse, this lazy level design is repeated quite often.
Speaking of lazy design, there are very few enemy types, becoming a blur after encountering the same enemy every few minutes. Boss fights are marginally better, but lack imagination too. What also annoyed me is the fact that most of the main characters in the game have their faces obscured by a mask or similar object (Crom included). Too lazy to do facial animations I wonder?
Bloodforge does offer online functionality in the form of leaderboards as well as a mode where you'll face wave after wave of enemies, and then issue a challenge to your friends to do better. Although interesting, these modes are pointless as they will only work if your friends are playing the game. You can't issue challenges or compare leaderboards to people who are not on your friends list. Needless to say, none of my friends are playing this game.
Maybe I'm expecting too much. This is a budget priced Xbox Live Arcade title after all. It's just that other developers have made marvelous games on Microsoft's platform with less (this game was co-funded and published by Microsoft). Older arcade titles like Braid, Bastion and Shadow Complex really put Bloodforge to shame.
Even at 1200 Microsoft points, Bloodforge is a hard sell. If you are craving God of War type of games, I'd suggest you try titles like Dante's Inferno or Darksiders instead. Even 2007's Conan, with it's low resolution visuals, is better that this. It just goes to show that graphics doesn't always make a game.
Score: 6 out of 10