Once, the world was kind, good, and safe. But, man is never happy with just being content and safe. They aspire for more, ever-reaching towards a higher power to meet their own selfish goals. In their quest for control, they killed God, sending the world spiraling into extinction-plagued by Lovecraftian horrors and impossible nightmares. This is the world of Alder’s Blood. The developers over at Shockwave Games have crafted a bewitching world for its players, one that you’ll have to traverse with strategy, and stealth. This is our review of Alder’s Blood.
Your Place in this Fallen World
Chief, they call you. At the end of the world, you lead a group of Hunters into the Exiles Wastes, eradicating the horrors throughout. It is a thankless job, as you’re seen as an abomination by the rest of mankind. Though you look human, you’re not. You step far too close to the Darkness, weaponizing it against your prey, and eventually you will pay the ultimate price for it. Hunters seem to be the world’s answer to restoring balance, a last bit of twisted hope for dealing with monsters.
As the story of Alder’s Blood opens up, we’re introduced to one of many characters that are a part of the brotherhood of Hunters: Duke. Duke’s ascent up the Cradle to find the body of God acts as a tutorial to introduce the player to the basic mechanics of the game.
Swift and Silent
Alder’s Blood will punish you very quickly if you rush into battle. One of the first things established in the tutorial is the need for strategy and efficiency. Many types of abominations have sensory abilities that seek you out or alert others in the vicinity to your presence. Unfortunately, you can’t always try to end it by shooting them in the face with a shotgun. Guns are loud, and can quickly draw the presence of others hiding in the shadows. If you know what’s good for you, you would be better off stealing behind the creature, knocking it down, and immediately banishing it if you have the stamina.
Scent and Staying Downwind
Wind-flow and scent also play an extremely important role in combat. Your scent materializes as a wispy line, giving away your concealment if an enemy moves too close. Similarly, enemies also have unique fields of vision that are constantly changing depending on their patrol route and where they’re facing at that particular moment in time. As a Hunter, you have a sixth sense that allows you to shift into the shadows and sense where that area may be. If you wander too close to it and touch even the very outer edge of a monster’s view, you will incur a kind of attack of opportunity. This can very easily lead to a mission failure if you can’t get your bearings and control the situation before more patrols are alerted to the struggle.
Duke’s Plight and the Horrors in the Dark
Duke, as it happens, doesn’t find the body of God. But what he does find, is a kind of eldritch enlightenment at the cost of his sight. The Chief and other Hunters eventually stumble upon Duke’s broken and bandaged body, and are heartbroken to find that their brother is no longer the man they once fought alongside. This event kicks off the main story for Alder’s Blood, and plunges the player deep into the thick of the hunt for the source of corruption in the world: God’s fallen body. To restore order to the world and prevent the onslaught of eldritch abominations, you’ll have to find it, and deal with it.
Sacrifice and Corruption
As you encounter these strange horrors, you’ll notice that your Hunters start to take on various, strange traits and accrue corruption from prolonged exposure to the darkness. If this continues, the Hunter can descend into madness. Or…he can be put down (sacrificed), and his experience gifted to another fledgling. This system ensures that you don’t get too attached to a particular hunter (more can be recruited), and somewhat forces you to really think critically about your choices in battle. Blindly rushing in and constantly resorting to killing can lead to a quick increase in party corruption-whereas dealing with the horrors in more subtle ways or avoiding killing altogether prolongs their lives.
Camping and Management
In between missions, your Hunters can rest and suit up for the next day. Camping allows you to pursue a variety of activities from managing your equipment, crafting charms and weapons, to sacrificing Hunters. Charms are one of the most valuable items to craft since they increase your Hunter’s stats. They can be replaced, but are ultimately destroyed once you do so. This means that you can’t extract a Charm from a corrupted Hunter and try to give it to another before you sacrifice them. It’s a unique touch that ensures that crafting equipment stays relevant.
While a huge part of Alder’s Blood is resource management and turn-based combat, I just completely fell in love with the world they had created. The concept of a dead God, coupled with the stunning macabre and Lovecraftian art style is right up my alley. I can’t praise the artists enough for their work on bringing the world to life, because it really is such a satisfying and unique experience.
Character Models and Art
The character models for our Hunters, however, was lacking something for me. The beautiful art was kind of downplayed by sketchy character models that I felt didn’t quite capture the seriousness of the flow of the world. They felt off, and a little cartoony, misplaced among everything else. Another thing that bothered me was the detachment between character portraits and models.
The models could have definitely used a little more love in the customization department, but with them looking nothing like their portraits, it made it kind of difficult to keep up with who was who in the middle of combat or when I was managing equipment. I would have almost rather that the models were just linked to a specific portrait and were randomly generated and locked in when you recruited them.
Combat itself was pretty interesting, though somewhat boring at times. I kind of found myself trying to rush through missions to get to the next stopping point so I could progress in the story. To me, the plot seemed far more interesting than the combat. I absolutely love the ‘scent’ mechanic and thought it added an interesting layer to combat that immediately established a challenge when just being present on the field. The wind is always changing, and if you aren’t careful it can easily put you in a difficult spot.
Combat is also hella challenging. I know, I know, how can something be both boring and challenging at the same time? Most of the time, there didn’t feel like a huge sense of urgency to combat, unless you were trying to sneak past a Watcher or a patrol. With no timer, you’re free to sit there and ruminate on your next move for an eternity before you take the plunge and sabotage yourself. This is great for people that like to plan ahead, but for indecisive players like myself it allowed me way too much wiggle room that ended up making missions much longer than they were probably initially intended. When I wasn’t trying to rush through to the other side, I was siting and waiting way longer than I should have for fear of making a wrong move. That’s a player issue, but, I mention it just in case there are others out there that felt the same way.
Is it worth playing?
Yes! Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing through Alder’s Blood and was enraptured by the story it had to tell. It definitely felt as though the world itself and the narrative played a heavy part in masking some of the repetitive nature of combat, which may or may not be a good thing. I think it lends credibility to the team’s ability to world-build and tell a fantastic story, but makes me question whether or not the combat was really fun. Challenging? Yes. Fun? Kind-of. Interesting? Definitely. If you’re curious about trying out Alder’s Blood for yourself, you can pick it up on Steam for $19.99 USD. As of this article’s posting, they actually have it for 25% off, for $14.99 US.
A huge thank you to PR for providing a key to review the game.