In Blightbound, you take on the role of a hero who is venturing down into the blight fog on a personal quest. There are more than nine heroes currently each with their own story that unlocks in chapters as you complete their individual goals. Venturing out into the blight, you are matched up with two other players or need two friends to join you, and your party of three will set out to complete one of several dungeons. Currently, the game is online play only with no bot support in case someone disconnects/quits form the group mid dungeon. Blightbound is in early access on Steam and some of us at GameSpace had the chance to try out the game. This is our Blightbound early access review.
At first, I found the game a ton of fun to play. It nails that oh so important initial impression for the first few dungeons. Using the group finder is simple and quick, so long as you are willing to leave your role as random. At first, it never took more than a few minutes to get a full group and dive into a dungeon. My early dungeon runs were a fun hack and slash experience, easy enough to follow the quest path, and I had no issues figuring out the simple puzzles/switches to active gates along the way.
Character animations are simple, though in a few spots they could use a bit of work, and fit well with the art style. Music and sound effects are well done, helping to make your trek through the dungeons more enjoyable.
Combat is engaging and figuring out how best to play each role is intuitive. I enjoyed that you had to use your dodge and the other base abilities regularly to avoid the simple challenges/traps. Boss battles are initially exciting and feel important, but do lose their shine rather quickly.
During my playtime, I tried using mouse and keyboard vs. a gamepad. Go with the gamepad, I found it vastly more enjoyable and had a lot fewer issues trying to get my character facing the right direction when targetting enemies.
After my first few hours, I did notice that certain combinations of gear and abilities made the game much easier if you were lucky enough with drops and character unlocks. For example, once you had access to abilities that could freeze/slow groups and the items to increase the damage done to slowed targets enemies started to go down very quickly. Depending on the hero I was playing I eventually was taking hardly any damage even in the tougher dungeons.
Being an early access game though I quickly started to run into issues. In two different dungeons, I ran into progress halting bugs where a boss would freeze or stop taking damage. In these instances, the group would eventually die, or a group member would just quit, kicking everyone back to the refuge.
Matchmaking at times could be frustrating as players would join, then disconnect. I also ran into an issue once where I was quickly matched with other players, but suddenly all the dungeons were rated as impossible. Finally, due to the lack of content running the same dungeons becomes repetitive quickly.
Here are thoughts from the rest of the team on how the game shaped up during their playtime.
Psycho Logist James
I like the game, but not enough that I’d want to buy it in its current iteration
As for pros, it’s a great aesthetic, the mechanics that do exist are pretty solid, and thought went into the progression system. The levels are interesting – the first or second time through.
For cons, the game is held back by a lack of variety in content. It ran with the ‘tank/heals/DPS’ trinity a little too hard, which means each of the characters feels like a cookie-cutter to me, at least partially because of the substantial overlap between characters of a given role
Progression feels like a grind with little reward, other than bigger numbers where the smaller numbers used to be. I have a hard time wanting to see what awaits on the other side of each character’s storyline and feel that the stories are the only reason to play at this point, as the grind is as monotonous as it is.
It lacks the replayability of a game like Diablo 2, which it feels like it wants to emulate. I did like the crafting system, although the components are very much a pain to intentionally gather given the randomness of whether or not mobs will spawn
Finally, and for me its most damning demerit, is that its’ hard for me to find people to play with when I can play. Often when I match with folks, they leave the group and I re-enter matchmaking.
Although the systems appear to work, given the limitations listed, in its current incarnation I’d give it a 6. Working bots, variety and creativity in abilities, and increased variety in level design would probably increase my rating.
I agree on liking the aesthetics, has a Darkest Dungeon vibe for me. I don’t mind the holy Trinity aspect, in a group of seasoned players, everyone can still contribute to DPS. I also think skills are divided up well among the three classes in a way that a coordinated group can create “combos” to dispatch foes. On the flip side of that, I think there needs to be more variety in a class’s skills. The two assassins sharing all but 1 skill in common doesn’t make me want to level them both up, the same goes with other classes.
The offline play would be a good addition as would more dungeons and a larger variety of loot.
Crafting works well as is and is very easy to use but again more variety is needed. With the limited content, I only see 10-15 hours before players move on and it becomes impossible to find a group.
I was pleased with how well the game runs. No crashes or noticeable bugs. Given its current state, I would go 6.5, easily 7.5 or 8 if there was more to do, more classes and loot, etc.
What I’m seeing here for the most part is how I feel. Although I felt the tank could’ve been more “fun” to play. This coming from someone who generally plays tanks in MMOs.
There are some mechanics that Ronimo has implemented which I like but find that they fall flat in execution. For example, as a hero adventures in the blight and/or is defeated they will eventually become blighted, which means they can’t be used for a short time. This encourages you to play different characters, as an example, you can set which DPS character you would prefer to take into a dungeon if one is already blighted or is close to becoming blighted. I would love to see this mechanic built on to have more of an impact/effect, maybe they become mutated or have a chance of turning against the group for a short time if you take a blighted character into a dungeon.
I also like the notoriety mechanic gained from completing dungeons with the same group. The downside is once one member quits the group you lose the entire bonus. This can lead you into a cycle of only doing easy or normal dungeons with no bonus loot. A system where notoriety is based on how many dungeons each player has done in a session would work better. Another option would be to expand on the system, having permanent notoriety rank that increases/decreases depending on what you do (Maybe a penalty for randomly disconnecting from groups mid dungeon).
Blightbound is off to a good start in early access and I see that the developers are planning to add new dungeons and heroes regularly. I expect the content will be there by the time the game leaves early access. But it is some of the mechanics that concern me more. I also agree with the others that the character skill overlap doesn’t encourage me to level up other characters unless I want to unlock their storylines.
If you are looking for a new cooperative dungeon crawler that is online play only (at this time) then Blightbound may be a game for you at $19.99 US. Just keep in mind that while it has a ton of potential with some interesting mechanics, it does become repetitive quickly. With a bit more time in the oven, Ronimo could have a great game at release.
Three PC game keys were provided for the purpose of review.
COMPARE TO: Castle Crashers, Darkest Dungeon