Developer: Ronimo Games
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Action, Co-op
Booting up the pre-release build of Blightbound, with the officially supported controller in hand, I watched a cool cinematic explaining the basic plot of this dungeon crawler. The sun has disappeared, and what’s left of humanity must band together to try and defeat the evil force that took it away. I then loaded into the tutorial, and several seconds later, the game crashed.
This was a sign.
Blightbound is a buggy, unpolished action game that doesn’t feel rewarding or even interesting to play, even for its relatively low asking price.
As someone who grew up with Gauntlet, the title that most clearly inspired this one, I was excited from the trailer to see a co-op dungeon crawler that might finally fill in the void left by those arcade cabinets from my childhood.
Unfortunately, Blightbound is a buggy, unpolished action game that doesn’t feel rewarding or even interesting to play, even for its relatively low asking price. The art style drew me in, but that first crash led to two more at the identical spot until I disconnected my controller. Each time I booted up the game, I had to watch that cutscene again because it’s unskippable. My boyfriend, who volunteered to try Blightbound with me, patiently waited as I tried to finish the tutorial, and once I finally did, I was left with an impression that this game isn’t as deep as it appears to be.
It’s disappointing to have so many characters to choose from and find out that they all play almost identically.
Blightbound has a large roster of characters that all fit into one of three categories – a shield-and-sword-based tank, a damage-dealer with two daggers, and a supporting wizard. Every time you venture into a level, you do so with a party of one character from each category. However, as I unlocked more of the cast, I quickly realized that it doesn’t really matter who you pick so much as what role you want to play.
It’s disappointing to have so many characters to choose from and find out that they all play almost identically. Of course, a limited amount of customization can be done to differentiate them, but straying too far from the recommended uniform path of character progression seems like it will just lead you to a build that isn’t as strong as it otherwise could be.
The gameplay follows this suit of being rather shallow, as each dungeon consists of a series of rooms with one or two fights in each of them. These fights are exactly the same every time, with just the smallest bit of extra challenge when facing a miniboss or a dungeon boss. Unfortunately, while I was having fun for the first level or two, that joy wore off quickly as I felt the experience beginning to drag. These levels are generally only ten to fifteen minutes long, but I was frequently bored enough to wish they would be even faster, and that’s before I started to have to repeat them to grind or find story MacGuffins.
While each playable character has their own piecemeal narrative, there’s not much of an overarching story connecting the various dungeons I unlocked through gameplay, nor was there a given reason for why I could suddenly explore more areas even if I’d failed to finish the last level.
These individual levels also rarely have much to distinguish themselves from each other beyond a purely visual aesthetic and are all explored in pretty much the same way. Every so often, I’d find a block or switch puzzle, but unfortunately, the AI bots are not particularly helpful with either of these. For example, while attempting to solve a block puzzle with two bots in my party, they would either dash towards the switch I was trying to move the block onto or accidentally trap me behind a gate and force me to quit the level and start over.
My other issue with these bots swings in the other direction, however, and that is that in combat, they are so much more effective than an inexperienced player that you can almost rely on them to take care of every fight for you, particularly if you have an AI-controlled tank. This game is being marketed as a co-op action title meant to be played with friends, so the fact that Blightbound is actually significantly easier with bots is a huge letdown since I don’t even feel able to develop my own skill at the game when they’re so adept at taking care of business.
And all of that is before you get to the buggy core of this title. In addition to the poor AI behavior when interacting with puzzles, I noticed several glitchy visuals, and the game crashed numerous times for both myself and my boyfriend. While this is the kind of problem that could be potentially patched out, the fact that this game has been in Early Access and is about to fully launch with these issues still present is extremely questionable.
Blightbound is a perfect example of a game as wide as an ocean but as deep as a puddle. There’s a story, customization, and many characters, but they all take so much time to experience and have so little payoff that I can’t really recommend this game to anyone in its current state. Coming from the studio that made Awesomenauts, Blightbound feels like a step down in terms of execution and polish. It’s disappointing to see something that clearly had lofty ambitions fall so far short of what it could have been.
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