Grab your sword, your bow, your magic wand, it’s time to save the world again from evil forces that would rend it into molten chunks! It’s time to spelunk into the strange fantasy confines of Outspark’s newest release Dark Blood Online.
GameOgre has been in the closed beta test and even the opening event with an attempted livestream. We’ve also been testing the game with low level characters, and high level characters (just to feel OP.) So I can say that I’ve played this game’s beginning thoroughly up and down and kicked a lot of different goblins, wolves, and mutated boars in places unmentionable.
Dark Blood Online is a free-to-play fantasy MMO brawler-style game with a long PvE storyline and a well-constructed PvP system designed to give players an action-oriented, skill and twitch-based fighting. High powered SFX, special attacks, and interesting characters will rule the day.
Let’s see how it wraps up in review.
Graphics and Sound: Ye olde rustic village and the Golden Axe era of special effects
The graphics of Dark Blood Online are much less cartoonish than others within the same genre, and it sets itself in a somewhat gritty-but-animated mediaeval fantasy with a cross between video game graphics and semi-realistic characters. There’s a bit of detail spent on the armor, buildings, landscapes, and even foliage that gives the beginning a strongly rustic aesthetic that sinks in pretty quickly.
Identifying quest givers and who to go to for training may take a little bit initially but the beginning city doesn’t change much so that’s not difficult. Of course, the blinking and beeping fairy that told me that I could move between maps did feel a little bit out of place.
Characters have a little bit of customization where the limbs and body can be changed a little bit with a slider enabling some customization of shape and form. It also has a small list of about five or six faces and about six hair types for the two genders (not sure if they differ between classes or not.) It doesn’t mean there’s much customization there, face and hair really rule the day and only the extremes on the sliders are noticeable.
I’ll have to ignore the odd breast physics when the women stand up at the character selection screen. I understand cheesecake but there’s just something uncanny about watching that. (You’ll understand if you launch the game.)
The characters are gender locked, however: Knights and Mages are girls, while Warriors and Hunters are male.
Special effects are powerful and noticeable, in fact this game doesn’t hold back showing that something is happening on the screen. Expect console-action level berserkeritude SFX when unleashing special attacks, some of them splash light across the entire screen or throw rays across the battlefield—often followed by hapless foes. The animations for attacks are very pretty, they’re obvious when they’re triggered, and often the effect of the attack is equal to its SFX. That’s to say: they’re devastating.
I wasn’t turned off by the music, although the music at the character select screen was overpowering, but I’m sure they can get that fixed since this is currently just coming out of closed beta. The other music is acceptable and there’s a slider to reduce it should it start causing any sort of ear-bug issues.
Alongside the spectacular SFX, of course, is very clear and clean sounds that fit the animations nicely.
Gameplay: Here there be brawlers, player—grab a sword and punch some goons
At first glance, Dark Blood Online behaves a lot like what we’ve gotten used to with Perfect World Entertainment’s Rusty Hearts: it’s a 2.5D brawler, most of the fighting happens side-to-side, you can move about the battlefield with four degrees of freedom, and you access most of your talents via the letter keys and move with the arrow keys. However, there’s a few things that separate this game from RH and one of them is action-combinations.
Some attacks are triggered not just by choosing them from hotkeys, but by completing actions such as dodging away and hitting attack at the same time (which in many classes throws a reverse-strike at the end of a dodge) amid others. These actions add to the active-combat in the brawler, and the game mechanics themselves encourage players to use them as they’re more likely to sustain critical hits—in the case of the dodge-hit because it tends to hit enemies in the back—and cost less mana when fired.
There are four major classes: Warrior, Knight, Hunter, Mage—and each of them can make a split career choice when they reach a high level. Each of them split between a solid DPS unit and one that’s more support or tank; the mage for example can go support (Magician) or heavy ranged and medium DPS (Sorcerer.) Upgrading in career also gives the character a set of specialized skills that change how they behave in combat.
The skill system is a standard three-tree that’s split between two pages for active skills (bound to keys and action-triggers) as well as passive abilities that provide mana regen, defense, and such attribute changes.
The game may have a lot of opening PvE content, but they didn’t shy away from strong PvP leanings. It seems that most of the PvP is geared towards after changing career; but there’s a lot of reason to see that it’s designed to keep players interested in the game after they’ve reached the level cap and give them a lot of fun in the game by competing against other players.
Freemium: Cash shop on a web page, not too uncommon but in game might be better
Right now the cash shop launches a web browser out of the game. I’ve seen a few games that do that; but I really prefer those that keep them inside the interface of the game so that I don’t need to switch back and forth. I run Dark Blood as a window so it’s not a big deal.
Looking at the shop, which launched recently, there’s a few items already on sale. I am mostly seeing services, aesthetic items, and things that just enhance gameplay such as extending storage, allowing global chat, and even something that permits you to check your in-game mail without having to go to town or a mailbox.
The shop also sells “Revive coins” that essentially permit a player to continue onwards in a dungeon after they’ve been defeated—a good way to get back to the coin-op arcade nostalgia. “America. Still. Needs. Your. Help!” Insert 25¢ to continue! Actually a fitting way to keep those hardcore (or even casual) players in the game and have them spend money to do it without breaking the economy.
The rest of the items are aesthetic, weapon/armor dyes for changing colors when you need them. The stable and staple of the free-to-play MMO gaming experience.
Conclusion: For a mediaeval brawler the addition of unique elements make it quite enticing
Aside from adding the action-trigger effect for getting skills to fire, the game also includes the ability to take the form of particular boss monsters (such as a polar bear, and a giant ogre monster.) It’s obvious that the makers of Dark Blood Online see that people like to amuse themselves with aesthetic changes and that they like transformations—and not just highfalutin special effects, over-the-top explosive animations, and the like.
In a lot of ways, it’s memorable because it’s trying to be a fantasy brawler and it’s got an arcade-style look to it.
The fast-and-furious PvP and the return-to-the-dungeon PvE are something we’ve already gotten used to in numerous games coming out where instances contain more than one quest reason to enter them and often storylines. In fact, it’s been a mainstay of the free-to-play MMO with it showing up in Vindictus, Rusty Hearts, C9, and more on the market.
Dark Blood Online isn’t breaking too much new ground, but it’s trying to make a little bit of a twist on all of these traditions.