The world of video games could always use more cooperative experiences. Sure, there are plenty of competitive multiplayer games out there, but the multiplayer that makes memories are those magical titles that require you and your amigos to attempt to coordinate with one another. Deep Rock Galactic, Zombie Army 4: Dead War, and Diablo III are all marvellous examples of games that will simultaneously build and test your friendships. Blightbound seeks to join the ranks of these titles, and in some ways it certainly succeeds. In others, however, it falls frustratingly short.
Developed by Ronimo Games, this multiplayer dungeon crawler sees you and up to two other players attempting to destroy the evil, enigmatic, and foggy, force known as the Blight. While it stretches its foul influence across the lands, you’ll use mages, assassins, and warriors in order to wipe out hordes of enemies and unlock new gear, heroes, and their abilities along the way.
Sounds pretty good right? Well, it kind of is. Gear in Blightbound is lame and tedious. I regularly found way too much of it, and it was always incrementally better than my current stuff. On the other hand, unlocking new characters with entirely new abilities was always a great reward. I feel that the game should have worried less about mountains of swords or endless pages of stats for min-maxing, and leaned more into the wildly inventive skills and combat of its characters.
Mainly, because the gameplay in Blightborn is a blast. Stabbing baddies as an assassin is slashy and quick, bashing them with a meaty sword and shield as a warrior is a joy, and magically tearing them asunder as a mage while supporting your allies is a one way ticket to Funsville. The gameplay for all three is made even better by the fact that the controls are intuitively layed out. Characters have a sizable amount of abilities, but their positioning on a controller felt finely tuned.
All of the fighting you’ll encounter is also bolstered by the sheer variety and quantity of enemies. Their creepy, fun designs are distinct from one another which makes reading the onscreen action easy to do, and they’re just plain great to look at. The entire game is, really. Environments, characters, and their colors are interesting and expertly crafted, while animation is minimal but similarly well-done.
All of this can be enjoyed with a friend or two. Even better is that said friends can be sitting next to you on the couch. I played a fair amount of the game with my wife, and we were able to coordinate our abilities in inventive ways. Combining my mage’s buffing spells with her assassin’s in-your-face skills made us quite the deadly pair. When the third character wasn’t stealing the show, that is.
This is where Blightbound comes tumbling down for me. You see, if you aren’t playing with two other human players, you’ll be playing with robots. Even if you have one additional human, you’ll still be stuck with one AI. These artificial players are way too strong. Whether playing with my wife or by myself, friendly AI characters charged ahead and managed to kill everything. At least when coordinating with my wife we had a better chance of having something to do, but playing by myself was an absolute snore fest. I felt as if I was being dragged from fight to fight while only getting a few blows in here and there. Even as the levels grew harder, my companions would wipe out ninety percent of the enemy forces. On the rare occasion that they could not finish a horde of monstrosities, I would face the entirety of the remaining enemy force’s wrath as their only target and quickly fail the entire mission.
Of course, it would feel much worse to have friendly AI that was completely incapable of helping. I’d rather see more of the game than the same few levels. Yet, that isn’t too much comfort because I still would have liked to actually play the game myself. While the option to matchmake with random players online is always there, but that’s not always the best; one time I had one player standing completely still, and the other being swiftly disconnected.
My opinion of Blightbound soured incredibly fast. The visuals are superb, the story is generic fantasy but interesting enough to follow, and the tutorial was succinct and punchy. Yet, the missions made it quickly apparent that unless I had enough friends, I wouldn’t be playing much of the game.
It may seem odd to complain that the game doesn’t play well as a single player experience when it is designed around multiplayer, and I started this review by singing the praises of three other multiplayer games. Those aforementioned games, however, are all completely playable for those flying solo. Not one of them rips the controls away from their players and leaves them staring blankly at the screen while the game plays itself. Blightbound is a great co-op experience for dungeon crawling enthusiasts, but if you don’t have anyone to play with, you’re better off skipping this one.
Take in the co-op goodness of Blightbound now on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One