by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
No lack of speed
In 2D acrobatic shooter/hack and slash, Blood Alloy: Reborn, you find yourself in the speedy metallic boots of a rather frantic cyborg. As said cyborg you shall shoot and hack your way through all enemies that get in your way. That is essentially where any hint of a story simultaneously begins and ends. Blood Alloy: Reborn falls into the category of an arena shooter in which you take on waves upon waves of enemies aiming for the highest score you can get. In this one, speed seems to have been the focus to attempt to make the game stand out from those of a similar ilk. No surface goes untraversed as you zip from floor to ceiling to wall and back again. But whereas some games have solid enough core mechanics and replayability to get away with a lack of actual content, Blood Alloy does not.
The game consists of three different levels populated by the same selection of enemies and a variety of obstacles to be wary of whilst you speed about. My initial experience was competent enough. The game gives you a selection of ways to take the fight to your enemies. You can choose between guns that can be charged for power shots, secondary weapons such as homing missiles and your trusty old cyborg sword. The choice of weapons forces you to change up and adapt the way you play, as the sword can only be used in short spurts and guns can only be charged whilst stationary. Also, you are only able to bring your secondary weapons into play whilst sliding. So this attacking variety combined with the speed of movement makes for some intense gameplay and switching on the fly. The three levels also change things up somewhat, with the first encouraging speed, the second verticality and the third, both of the former plus pit obstacles. Playing these levels each as a part of an overall larger game might have been a fun if somewhat frustrating experience. But hereís the thing, the levels aren't that big and youíll have to play them over and over again.
Now, I can accept that that is encouraged in arena based shooters where itís all about improving your score. But here you are forced to level up your character in order to progress to the next level and unlock weapon upgrades. The only way to do this is the grind whichever of the three levels you happen to be on. This fact combined with the slow pace at which you level and the unchanging enemies starts to grate very quickly. The game doesn't even offer online scoreboards so the only incentive score wise is your own previous best. It is also a little buggy, with button presses sometimes not registering and clunky menus that are a pain to navigate. Players have been reporting corrupted save files which mean you start from scratch, something that a game forcing you to grind can hardly afford to inflict on its players. The developers do seem to be actively working on fixes so hopefully these will be ironed out in time.
Visually the game has a strong cyberpunk retro style, reminiscent of some 2D side-scrollers of old. The intense electro-synth soundtrack is strong, with some really catchy tracks in the mix. The combination of these two made for a really solid aesthetic style that definitely served to amp up the experience onscreen, in fitting with the games speed. Itís a shame there is so little context surrounding that aesthetic. It really feels like there could have been more to Blood Alloy, both in terms of setting and content.
Too early out of Access
This game really feels like it could, and perhaps should have given something more to its players. At its core there really is a fun game waiting to break out of its 3-level constraint. When youíre speeding through a level, utilising all your weapons and traversal abilities, things can really be intensely fun. But itís the unfortunate truth that Blood Alloy feels like a game that should still be in Alpha testing. The lack of content and forced grind-through make this all feel very much like a game that knows thereís not much there. Once you take into account the bugs as well, some of them significant, you can only conclude that Blood Alloy: Reborn could have used a few more months in Early Access.
Solid cyber-punk aesthetic and electro-synth soundtrack
Repetitive grind, lack of content, bugs