Review: Blood Shard

in Games

Game: Blood Shard by Gorlami

Review by: Volrath

Summary: Blood Shard is a moody, polished game with some top-notch atmosphere.

Just the title, ma'am.

Just the title, ma’am.

War. Betrayal. Revenge. The demo of Blood Shard is small, but the themes are big. For about an hour, this game transports you to its grim yet beautiful world. It’s very polished stuff and I suspect the creator has quite a challenge ahead in maintaining this level of quality throughout.

After a brief, highly efficient intro (more on that in the video), we join a shifty operative named Cyril as he fights his way through a city under siege. His motives are very mysterious and this first section gets rather dense in terms of intrigue. Later, the story shifts to who I suspect is the game’s true protagonist – the deposed prince Drake DeLancy. The player has the opportunity for some enjoyable sidequests before Drake has to face his most hated enemy – the psychopathic warlord Miranda.

Blood Shard maintains its deadly serious tone well, even while allowing some silly banter from Drake, whose character class is listed as “charmer.” The lore is also quite convincing and introduced at the right pace, although a few lines left me a little bewildered. For example, one character makes a reference to another being “almost as far West as Esterwyn,” which has no impact for any player who hasn’t seen a world map. We’ll just have to assume that Esterwyn is pretty West.

Footsoldier A made the outrageous claim that he invented the question mark.

Footsoldier A made the outrageous claim that he invented the question mark.

For the battles, the game uses the front-view system but don’t let that fool you. Button mashing will get you killed – these fights are the thoughtful, deliberate ones that seem to be becoming very popular in the RM community these days. The first battle comes with no tutorial, which I usually don’t mind, but in this case a little explanation of some of the more unique mechanics would have been nice. It took me until almost the end of the demo to figure out that taking a few turns to increase my “Vigor” led to devastating physical attacks.

There’s a lot of creativity in the battles and all the unique skills can be highly useful in the right scenario. One especially interesting touch is that most of the items can be used without ending a character’s turn, meaning you can fix up your party without losing an opportunity to attack or cast another spell. All of it takes some practice, but the learning curve is pretty satisfying. You’ll have to be at least a little proficient with the system by the time you get to the battle that concludes this demo – a very specific strategy is necessary to avoid being completely helpless.

It's hard knowing you have to go back into the office on Monday.

It’s hard knowing you have to go back into the office on Monday.

The game’s major strength, however, is its art and atmosphere. Right from the first scene, where the scenery is being pelted by the most vivid-looking rain I’ve ever seen in RPG Maker, the visuals in Blood Shard are immaculate. All the different settings explored in this demo are rich with detail and just a pleasure to look at. The fact that it meshes so well with the RTP-style sprites makes it even more impressive. I would recommend the game just based on its looks, but thankfully the rest of the package isn’t bad either.

Has anyone played this game? Did that cliffhanger leave you wanting more? How did you feel about Cyril and his complex mission? What game should we review next? Sound off in the comments!

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