Title: Blue Fire
Developer: ROBI Studios
Release Date: February 4, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Graffiti Games
Over the years, I’ve come to value level design in action-adventure games far more than I ever have prior, and Blue Fire is a title that excels in that department. While the combat can feel cumbersome and a bit taxing at points, the masterful utilization of movement more than makes up for it.
In Blue Fire, players traverse the desolate kingdom of Penumbra. The narrative is directly told to the players at a base level, but there is also just as much learning about the world through explorative storytelling and NPC plights. Personally speaking, the narrative did not compel or entice me much. Still, there was always an impressive degree of a gaunt atmosphere present in the story scenes that made the overall situation come off as dire.
The tone itself contrasts rather tastefully with the cutesy art style. Instead of the difference of tones between that and the setting being jarring, it amplifies the sense of unease the world evokes. The environments are visually lonely and sometimes downright depressing, but the addition of friendly NPCs and the approachable art style balances that, so it never feels overwhelming.
Combat in Blue Fire is quite simple to understand, with there being dashing and lock-on options to make fights more controllable. There is also magic unlocked later on, alongside Spirits that open up the combat in smaller avenues. Additionally, enemies drop shadow fragments used for trading for more mana at the save statues.
Unfortunately, though, the sometimes narrow passageways and questionable enemy placements made combat more than a bit irritating. That is not to say the game ever felt truly unfair, but the change in enemy design from area-to-area was somewhat jarring with the immense increase in damage and attack frequency. It was never a complete turn-off, as the combat is at least fundamentally enjoyable. Still, there were several areas where I almost grew to dread fighting due to these issues.
There are sections called Voids, where players must undergo a series of platforming challenges, which reward them with more maximum health. To be honest, the Voids are where the game shined its brightest for me. Movement in Blue Fire is top-notch due to its perfect balance between looseness and stiffness. It never swayed too far in either direction, so navigation always felt comfortable, and most importantly, fun to pull off.
The Voids demand varying levels of mastery over the movement, and the design throughout their durations is addicting to experience time and again. They also become moderately difficult, adding on the challenge of having to retry from the start after failing once makes them true tests of platforming capabilities. In all honesty, I would love it if this team made a whole game dedicated to this style. They are supremely addicting and indescribably satisfying to complete.
The general areas and dungeons’ design are stellar, as they require intricate inspection for simple treasure chests and other goodies and basic progression. The world is organic and interconnected, with the movement options granted to the player making it all a delightful playground. I was legitimately impressed by the secrets players could find.
A rather curious addition that confused me a fair amount when it was initially introduced was emotes. There are these statues players can purchase emotes from, which all express various forms and expressions. At first, I thought these were just for the funsies, but they do, in fact, have a practical use. There are panels spread throughout various areas with certain emotes engraved on them, and performing said emote on the proper panels will produce rewards. These were always a tad thrilling to come across as they felt like appropriate rewards for paying attention to the world’s layout and landmarks.
There are also various shops selling new tunics, Spirits, and other such benefits. Currency is quite swift to garner from both enemies and sellable items. Amassing needed amounts rarely felt taxing when they were so painless to gather. The shops and sidequests helped make the world feel more affixed and less lifeless and disconnected.
In regards to performance, Blue Fire was mostly adequate. There was rarely ever any graphical oddities or slowdown, though they did crop up now and again. Unfortunately, at least in the build I played, it was impossible to remap controls in-game. This is not a massive hindrance, as you can alter your control setup from Steam proper. Still, it would be far more convenient if remapping controls in-game was possible. Hopefully, this is a feature patched in soon. Also, to note, I experienced several seemingly random crashes when performing screen transitions, so it is best to save whenever applicable.
At its core, Blue Fire is a title that boasts magnificent exploration and platforming majesty. It demands strict attention and skillful maneuvers from players to get the most out of this experience as possible. While combat can become vexatious alongside the present technical issues, this is still an extraordinary title that any adventure genre aficionado should check out.
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