Whenever I come across “Tactical RPG” description in-game, spider-sense starts to tingle. This meant only one thing: an entire week with liters of coffee and tons of snacks before the Forged of Blood Review is available.
It is the first game that comes from a young developer team Critical Forge consisting of only 8 members. Being a DnD fan myself, a 3D model of d20 dice on their logo tells me volumes about where their inspiration comes from.
It could be best described as Roman Empire meets The October Revolution. You take the role of Tavias Caenican, second prince and the descendant from the bloodline of rulers of the World of Attiras.
It’s your job to restore the order in land occupied by rebels and other claimants to the throne. This is done by strategical management of three Talons (ancient order of special forces), defending territories from invasion, occupying territories not under your command, and making various politically important decisions. While not a masterpiece, the story is good enough to hook you in.
The game has two modes, strategical and tactical. Combat is turn-based and takes place in Tactical mode on a particular section of Strategic map. It resembles a sort of mix between X-Com and Divinity Original Sin, but with fewer options (with more XP, there is a variety of different type of attacks). What Forged of Blood lacks are options like Wait/Delay, or a version of X-Com Overwatch. This is particularly noticeable in tight areas where characters can move only one at the time.
On the Strategic map we control all three Talons, manage the equipment, new recruits, soldier customization, spell crafting, caravan management, market, and many other options. Majority of these options adds great value to the management part of the game, however, some just clutter the screen. Also, it certainly feels like the combat could use additional polish and some basic options.
Your soldiers advance in a classless system with three main categories: Stats, General and Weapon Skills, where on one hand you receive experience points for the weapons used, while on the other hand, you receive general and stat point for each level-up. Basic stats are Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, and Agility, while General categories are Mobility, Hardiness, Opportunity, and so on.
Each soldier has one equipment slot for armor, and 4 slots for weapons (2 slots for each weapon set). Beside obvious 1 and 2 handed weapons, a character can equip Magurite, a crystal that serves the purpose of casting spells.
In theory, this system seems like a wonderful idea, as there is a potential for some really imaginative spells. However, as it stands now it looks more like features of a game engine than the game itself. While the number of options is staggering and granted some of the hard-core fans could enjoy it, the fact remains this system is brittle/unstable. The two main reasons for this are the Magurite control stat and the way resource works.
Without going too much into details (it would require a long discussion), this system reminds me of an incredibly valuable tool that rarely anyone can or want to use. Those willing and able will have to spend way too much time just to update spells and keep them relevant.
Additionally, it is somewhat difficult to predict the behavior of certain custom spells.
Philosophy plot points
Now, this is a feature (if perfected close to its full potential) could serve as a sort of unique rudimentary psychological or sociological experiment. It is something like a coordinate system with three-axis, Rationalism, Altruism, and Hedonism. Every person and every region is represented by their own point in this system. The relationship between allies, territories and yourself is determined by the distance between relevant philosophical plot points, at least in theory. Every decision we make will influence our position in this system, and some decisions will move our allies closer or further away from us.
During the playthrough, there were some issues when I deviated to some degree from my followers. It caused spam of messages popping up letting me know how much they disagree and also threatened to leave me. This was borderline spam, but probably fixable in the future.
Sounds and Visuals
Graphics overall is decent, considering the size of developer team (8 people) however, characters being soldiers and all wearing a similar uniform it is somewhat hard to distinguish one from another unless they have different weapon types. The spell effects are somewhat poorly done. The main point of difference is in color.
While music feels nice at the beginning, very quickly it starts to feel repetitive.
While most of the time Interface is not the topic of discussion in a review, I am going to make an exception for Forged of Blood. Mainly, it is the biggest flaw of the game. Strategic map issues (for example multiple screens with your party and the inventory, all serving different purposes), could be forgiven.
(This is just one out of three screens designated for party management).
However, on a tactical map, issues are slightly worse. Except for area covered by the spell, everything else is left for guesswork: buffs, debuffs, duration, status, type of effect, or basically anything tied to the spell. To be fair, notifications for physical combat are done well, like:
– will you activate attack of opportunity?
– if moving to a certain spot, which targets will you be able to attack?
– the attack range of certain character, etc.
Makes me wonder, how much of this is the interface issue, and how much the spellcraft problem? It certainly feels like Spellcraft is a bit too complicated for Graphic representation.
An additional issue is an inability in Tactical mode to check the character sheet. This means you have to memorize every soldier you have, their weapon builds, spell settings and so on.
While it is difficult to draw the line between the slightly bloated game-design, and unpolished interface, I would say it comes down to the lack of the developer experience or insufficient time. However, one must admire the bravery of a (partially successful) attempt to implement everything Tactical RPG fans are dreaming about, especially into something that is the opening Project.
Forged of Blood is released on Steam on 1st August 2019.