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Making waves in the rich, turn-based tactical RPG scene is a road not taken by many developers. The risk of making or breaking in this saturated market scares even the most well-known studios. In a genre consisting of loyal and devoted but ravenous fans, it takes a revolutionizing concept to even sway the heads of players to your direction. Critical Forge did just that, by risking to not only create a turn-based tactical RPG but also to publish it. Join me as we take a look at a kingdom in Forged of Blood.

A Kingdom Divided

 

Forged of Blood tells the story of the world of Attiras. Attiras is a nation plunged into darkness by the death of its King in the hands of a terrible rebellion. The tale revolves around the king’s sons, their escape from the hands of the rebels, and of their will to take back their kingdom from the usurpers of their destinies as heirs. The rebellion creates a power vacuum that gives rise to those who wish to rule over all of Attiras.

This is the world that you, as the player, will have to contend with. It’s a journey that will test your resolve by using your wits to make your way through the maze of conversations and decisions that come your way. Your decisions matter to everyone and influence even the characters in your party. Choosing wisely is a deep understatement, as conversation choices are key in this game. There are multiple endings, so how the story ends is totally up to you and your choices.

The storytelling, however, is not perfect. Forged of Blood somehow struggles to narrate what goes on and you have to rely on conversations between characters to have a gist of it. The story unfolds as you play, so without an in-game lore book or character sheets to help you, you have to keep track of the what is happening in the world. The story is interesting, but it’s hard to care about the lore the way it was presented in the game.

“You live by the sword, you die by the sword… or by fireballs!”

 

Forged of Blood is not a walk in the park. The game is hard from the get-go and doesn’t have a difficulty option. Several key features are explained in detail through the tutorial phase and if you skip past some, you’d be having a difficult time throughout. As with any hard game, saving and re-loading are your best friends. The fact that game works like this is the pull needed by any strategy junkie out there.

The game makes you think and re-think strategies in order to get it right, especially during the early acts. The enemy AI is brutal enough to make you rage quit out of the game and addicting enough to make you replay the encounter in a few hours. A sick joke that I think is Forged of Blood’s greatest asset.

I can, however, see that the game can be a bit overwhelming for players new to the genre. The game was tailor-fitted for veterans, which will be obvious the moment you play the first few quests in the game. As I said, read the tutorial carefully, try not to skip them and you’ll be fine. Because as soon as you see the world of Attiras, you can definitely feel the promise of 120+ hours of gameplay. The huge map, the missions, and the seemingly random encounters placed upon you boast an epic level RPG in the making; not to mention, some of the systems in place that you need to learn in order to get a good grasp of how deep the gameplay is.

Forged of Blood boasts systems that are unique or re-imaginings of existing systems from previous games. One that stands out is its Spell Crafting system. In the world of Attiras, magic is used just like any type of weapon. However, magic is handled differently; it comes from Magurite stones, which then come from magical creatures called the Braccati. The game doesn’t go into detail on how that is but the Spell Crafting is extensively explained in the tutorial. Mixing and matching how the spell actually works and how it delivers is totally up to the player. Mastering it might be the key to your survival in hard battles.

A Tri-Axis Personality Plot system is also in place to help you figure out what path you are trying to take for your character. Whether you are the Hedonistic, Rationalistic, or Altruistic type, the characters around you respond accordingly and determine if you are the leader to follow or not.

The Skill Tree system is broken down into two parts: a Weapon Ability tree and a General Ability tree.  These skill trees are deep and would need some time to master. Balancing these abilities will give you the advantage you need in the battlefield. A single party member can equip a primary and a secondary weapon, each with its own Weapon Ability tree. Each weapon can branch out into two specialties for any of your five characters in the party, making each of them unique. The General Ability tree, on the other hand, gives your characters 6 traits that you can choose from. What tree you choose to upgrade first will determine how their effectiveness in the early acts of the game.

In essence, Forged of Blood is an OCD paradise. Systems that need to be mastered, conversations that need to pondered on, and battles that are rage-quit worthy. Have I mentioned this game was hard yet?

Art, Style, and Sound: Unique May Not Mean Good

 

The game’s Strategic Map is awesome. The hand-drawn style of presentation with wooden-like pieces to represent your party, your quests, and special interests blends well with the sketched in-game cutscenes. Characters during conversation work well too and paint a good representation of the part they play in the story.

However, the art style of Forged of Blood is wonderfully unique but inconsistent. Where the Strategic Map is well thought of, the other parts that are equally important are sadly below par. The pallets are bland and depressing. Buildings and trees get in the way of battle tactics and during battles. Even key characters have the same look as any other soldier in the field, regardless of what they wear. If this was Advance Wars then it wouldn’t have mattered, but for a game that makes you care about the heroes and their stories, a bit of customization here and there wouldn’t have hurt and would be very much welcome.

Music is handled as it should be in the unwritten RPG handbook. Melodic tunes that represent the world in its self and battle themes that make your heart beat faster are all too present. Sound effect issues are noticeable however during battles, especially with spells. Mind your headsets or speakers, they are in for a beating since the volume randomly fluctuates. They are, however, unnoticeable and can be fixed with small patch after launch.

 

I wouldn’t go into Forged of Blood thinking you’re getting the next XCOM: Enemy Unknown or Divinity: Original Sin II. The game has a unique setting and in my opinion, a great addition to the Turn-Based Tactical RPG genre. Critical Forge created an ambitious game filled with things to do for hundreds of hours. A world filled with an intriguing storyline, major decisions, hard-fought battles, and hours of gameplay are key concepts that would easily attract RPG fans all over and even the most casual of gamers.

Forged of Blood is not for the faint of heart. This game will test your patience and make you come back for more. It will take the best of your skills and still say “You’re not good enough!” Regardless, if you get this game now or wait a little bit later, Forged of Blood could be, in my most humble opinion, the Dark Souls of Tactical RPGs.

 

This review of Forged of Blood is based on the PC version of the game. A review copy was provided.

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