In Ronimo Games’s newest title Blightbound, three heroes journey into the Blight in search of survivors to help build up Refuge and take back their realm. A surprisingly complex, multiplayer dungeon-crawler with stunning art-design, Blightbound seeks to combine some of the best-loved elements of traditional RPGs like team-based puzzle-solving, in-depth world lore, challenging boss fights, and thoughtful voice-acting. To conquer every inch of this blighted world, Scott and I have teamed up together to bring you a combined review of our playtime during the open beta. This is our preview of Blightbound.
A BLIGHTED BEGINNING
Blightbound drops our intrepid heroes into a post-apocalyptic fantasy world where they’re struggling to survive in the aftermath of the Shadow Titan’s downfall. It was this downfall that caused the blight to spread over the land and corrupted everything it touched. But, like most games, you’ll have to conquer the tutorial first.
Blightbound’s tutorial was actually a pleasant surprise. Not only is it clear and effective, but it is fully voice-acted. The tutorial takes you through playing each of the three main characters that are first available to you: Scarlet (an assassin), Malborys (a warrior), and Korrus (a wizard). Scott was the first to mention the quality of the voice-acting and the persona of our warrior character. Something felt…slightly off about his voice, even though the quality of his voice was pretty phenomenal. Malborys is dressed more like a barbarian than a warrior, but his antics and personality definitely gave me Diablo 3 vibes. Think Kormac the Templar.
If this sounds somewhat familiar, you might already have drawn some slight comparisons to the Trine series. Like Trine, you’ll also have to work together with your teammates to overcome challenging obstacles and puzzles later on in the dungeons. You navigate your way through a short dungeon to learn some basic mechanics, and finally find yourself at Refuge, your home away from the Blight.
Our base of operations is referred to as the “Refuge”, a sanctuary on top of a mountain that overlooks the blighted abominations below. Here, we can outfit our heroes with a variety of equipment they gather on their journeys, increase their attributes, and unlock more rewards and vendors through leveling up.
If you’re familiar with any tabletop role-playing game, you’ll probably appreciate the attribute system that allows you to allocate points to specific stats. If I wanted to make Scarlet, our introductory assassin character, a tanky rogue with low damage, I could absolutely do that. Or, alternatively, I could load all of her points into her damage stat to make her a glass cannon. It’s just nice to have the option to build our characters how we want. You’re not shoe-horned into any specific build.
You also group up with other players at this instanced hub to form your ultimate dungeon-crawling team.
MATCHMAKING AND LOCAL CO_OP
Blightbound has a few options that allow you to play with other players including online co-op, remote play, and even local co-op. Local co-op was an unexpected addition, as well as the co-op split screen feature. Since the game is so new, there were plenty of players waiting in the queue to play with our team and it didn’t take long at all to start our dungeon delve. Though, they never stayed very long. Scott and I took our time exploring every nook and cranny of the menu, so I don’t really blame them.
THERE MUST ALWAYS BE THREE
Your dungeon team is composed of three characters, and each has to fit the rogue, warrior, and mage setup. There will always be one of each. Supposedly, you should be able to select which character you would like to play, or randomize your hero. However, no matter how hard we tried and how many buttons we pressed, we just could not figure out how to select a character. We were perpetually tied to the RNG wheel of fate, cursed to look upon the face of all the shiny new characters others had unlocked.
After doing a little more digging, we learned that you need to be at least level 9 before you can manually choose a character. You level up fairly quickly so this isn’t a game killer for me, but it is an interesting design choice nonetheless. I just wish it was noted a little more clearly so that I didn’t spend time mashing buttons and thinking I had lost my marbles.
With every level you defeat, you start to notice an increase in your notoriety. Notoriety makes content harder, but also compensates the adventurer with increased loot and rewards, encouraging you to roll up your sleeves and get back out there.
USB CONTROLLER VS PC CONTROLS
Blightbound allows you to connect via both a USB controller and a mouse and keyboard. For the purpose of this review, I decided to stick with a mouse and keyboard, while Scott played with a USB controller. While Blightbound encourages and advocates for its players to use a controller, we definitely wanted to make sure that the player experience wasn’t hindered too much if they didn’t have a controller.
I am currently set up with a HyperX Alloy Elite 2 keyboard, and a Logitech G600 mouse, both of which performed pretty flawlessly during gameplay. I actually really enjoyed the default keybinds for skills and felt like they were designed pretty intuitively. You’re not overloaded with too many spells or skills, which allows you to focus primarily on the combat in front of you once you get used to it. My only pet peeve was often confusing my “R” and “Q” spells. Years of League of Legends conditions you to think that your “R” should be your ultimate.
Likewise, with Scott’s gamepad, everything performed pretty seamlessly with no quirks or hiccups that stood out. I do wonder if it felt smoother on the gamepad, however. Playing with a mouse and keyboard felt a little slow to react sometime, a sensation that usually goes away with a controller (which is probably why they recommend it), but it wasn’t enough to make me forsake my keyboard.
Have you ever played a Gauntlet-esque game with your competitive partner and wondered what on earth drives their loot-goblin tendencies? Have you thrown a controller aside in dismay while they gobble up whole chickens at full health while you’re struggling just to hang on by a thread? I’m probably projecting, but this happens to me a lot in co-op games. It’s always a mad dash for loot and consumables when I play dungeon-crawlers with my partner. Thank you developers, for designing a loot system that not only duplicates loot that is dropped for the entire party, but picks it up for you as well. No more hoarding secret locations of treasures. It’s such a small touch, but one I’m seriously grateful for.
While each mission was difficult in its own way, it’s worth mentioning that we didn’t fail any stage in Blightbound through organic means. Each dungeon lasts a solid 15 minutes to navigate through, and when you tack on the additional waiting time for matchmaking, you feel like you’ve invested a good bit of time in each run. Naturally, it’s going to hit you a bit harder when you automatically lose a stage due to reasons beyond your control.
For some context, Scott and I are in two different time zones, and our group was set to a region that catered to his area. Since we were both in voice call while we played, we could tell each other in real-time whether or not we experienced any problems. Being on the other side of the world, I surprisingly didn’t encounter any issues or lag spikes.
However, when we reached the final door of the dungeon, Scott’s character froze in place and disconnected. We were still in voice, and everything seemed okay, but we then received the dreaded DEFEAT screen that rendered all of our dungeon time null. That is just far too harsh in my opinion for issues that the player cannot control. As there was AI present in the tutorial, it seems a little silly that there couldn’t have been an AI failsafe in play. While it seems like we retained most of our loot, I don’t think you can progress any further until you beat that stage. So you will have to go back through the level again and cross your fingers that the disconnect gods are AFK.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND FINAL THOUGHTS
Holy heck, I’m excited for this game. The world-building of Blightbound is right up my alley, and I’m so excited to learn more about the character’s stories as we progress through the various stages and levels. Supposedly, there are 20 characters you can unlock, so once you can choose your character, you’ll have tons of variety after you find them.
The art style is beautiful, with hand-painted 2D sprites mixed into a stylized 3D world. It takes a little time to get used to moving around, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a ton of fun. The top-down lasers and boss battle mechanics will definitely give you a run for your money on harder difficulties, and I absolutely love that. There’s still a few kinks that could be ironed out, but Ronimo Games has brought an extremely challenging and entertaining multiplayer dungeon crawler to the market.
There has been a lot of care put into the story of the world, which is extremely evident in the lore and character designs. As you continue through the world of Blightbound, you’ll learn little tidbits about the characters you play and unlock more of the story they have to tell. I’m personally looking forward to playing all of the new characters that are coming to Blightbound and can’t wait to see the new blighted regions our heroes have to traverse.