Are vampires still a thing in pop culture at the moment? The Twilight movies have been out of theaters for a year now and nothing else featuring the mystical creatures seems to be making a dent. Yet here comes Deck 13 and Kalypso Media with the hack and slash-er known as Blood Knights, which puts you in the shoes of two powerful bloodsuckers. The question is though, is this game more of a Dracula or is it an Edward Cullen?
Set during the Medieval ages, Blood Knights centers around the bloody battle between humans and vampires. A group of knights are planning on returning an artifact known as the Blood Seal back to its original home. Leading this group is the great Templar vampire hunter known as Jeremy, who is world renowned for his ability to dice up bloodsuckers like no other. Additional companions on this trip include a gruff and sinister second in command and a holy priest. The most important companion though would be the vampiress known as Tits McGee. I mean….Alysa.
If you are wondering why a group of vampire killers would be hanging out with such a creature, it turns out that Alysa and Jeremy are bound by a mysterious force for reasons which are never really fully explained. As you would expect, things go horribly wrong when Jeremy has blood spit down his throat and turns into the creature he despises. It’s not long before the two are betrayed by their companions and left for dead. Now they must learn to work together in order to save the world from both the forces of the Church and the rest of the vampires.
If you can’t already tell, this is a very generic plot. You have a wealth of cliches such as bickering partners, betrayal by your former allies, resurrection of a character you saw die and the always popular, everyone is evil. This is all very odd considering that an intriguing storyline was one of the major selling points of this game when it was being promoted.
Another major selling point that developer Deck 13 whiffed on was the voice acting provided, which is all either completely stilted and awkward (Jeremy and Alysa) or comically awful (everyone else). Some of the voices were so awkward and poorly done that I had trouble figuring out whether or not the game was trying to be intentionally campy. As far as I could tell though, it was deathly serious.
Making matters worse is that the campaign barely lasted over four hours. I understand that this is a downloadable title, but that is still unreasonably short for a main story. The game also has the audacity to end on the promise of a sequel, to which I say, uh, no thanks.
I suppose it’s a good thing then that the real reason to play Blood Knights is not its “epic” storyline, but rather the promise of some sweet, sweet co-op action. Being able to play co-op with someone was the main reason I was excited to start this game in the first place, as I do kind of feel that the genre has fallen off in recent years outside of your massively multiplayer online titles. I grew up playing the various instalments in the Gauntlet franchise, and if this game could deliver as much as fun that series did, or heck, even as fun as the forgotten Hunter: The Reckoning series, then it would be a success in my book.
For those who can’t find a partner for co-op, thankfully, Deck 13 included a feature that allows gamers to switch seamlessly between Jeremy and Alysa depending on how they wish to approach a situation. Jeremy is a brawler that slices enemies up close while Alysa uses a crossbow and grenades in order to deal damage from afar.
It was about halfway through Blood Knights that I figured out why the hack and slash co-op genre has fallen by the wayside in recent years: it can get very boring very quickly. Sure, you have to switch up using each character in order to succeed, but at points in the game you can literally hold down the attack button with Alysa and clear out a room with minimal damage. Outside of acquiring new powers (which I barely used anyway) there isn’t that much variety to the game as every new weapon you receive is exactly like your old one, except stronger. The game advertises all of these items as a reason to check out the game, but if they all play the same, who really cares? Combine that with some awkward platforming segments and a frustrating camera and you have a recipe for disaster.
Unfortunately, Blood Knights does little to stand out aesthetically either, outside of the horrible voice acting that I already mentioned. The character models come in two basic varieties: the males are all buff and muscular (even the priest looks huge) and all of the females have their tops bursting open with cleavage. It’s a little embarrassing actually, but I guess if the female vampires are supposed to be able to seduce the male soldiers then it kind of makes sense, right?
If there is one bright spot here, it’s that I did enjoy the game’s setting. I feel like the world of medieval fantasy has been neglected in recent years outside of the Elder Scrolls series and Diablo III. In Blood Knights, you traverse through gloomy forests, sunken caves, abandoned towns and rocky mountains. While those do sound like your typical adventure locations, something about how they were designed here appealed to me and made the game a bit more enjoyable. Unfortunately, all of these environments still have sub-par graphics and fit right in with either late Xbox or early Xbox 360 titles.
I’ll be honest with you, I wanted to like Blood Knights, I really did. It has a setting I enjoy and I’m usually a fan of co-op titles (even if they don’t support online for some baffling reason). With a price tag of $15 though, it’s hard to recommend the title due to its short campaign, abysmal graphics and stale gameplay. Avoid this one like a vampire would garlic.
This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Despite a unique setting and the promise of some co-opertative fun, Blood Knights is too short and too shoddily made to be worth checking out.