There are some games that, when I’ve played them for a little bit, I start feeling anxious about scoring — sometimes a game feels too rough, while others are clearly capable of a far greater glory but, for whatever reason, haven’t reached it yet. It’s at that point I circle back to my inbox with fingers crossed, hoping the title is still in Early Access and breathing a sigh of relief when that’s true. I’m glad it’s the case for Blightbound, as there’s a lot to love in concept but only after a long road ahead will this be ready for full release.
Developed by Ronimo Games and published by Devolver Digital, Blightbound launched on Steam’s Early Access on July 29 with a pricepoint of $19.99. Boasting handcrafted dungeons, an individually painted roster of 20+ heroes, tons of loot, and a cornucopia of content set to be released every few weeks, Blightbound is good now but promises greatness later.
Blightbound’s story unfolds as one story ends — a band of heroes slew the Shadow Titan and thought their good deed done. Unfortunately, the Shadow Titan’s true intentions were discovered in the wake of his death when the Blight — a “corrupting fog that alters any living creature exposed to its evil” — flowed from his rotten husk. Now, a new era of heroes has been called forth to defeat the Blight and its corruption. Will you heed the call?
Players start off with access to three heroes: a mage, a warrior, and an assassin. Like most dungeon crawlers, different classes means different attacks, abilities, and stats. Unlike most dungeon crawlers, Blightbound forces players to become accustomed to every class by randomizing the hero before each round. For people who tend to play the same class in any given genre, this might be a bit of an adjustment, but the premise is definitely a welcome challenge to shake up predictable patterns.
Blightbound is strictly multiplayer (for now?), so it’s up to you to delve into deep dungeons with two others to perform daring dos with you. Again, since the heroes are randomized, this means that no one knows which hero they’re going to get until everyone arrives on the map select screen. Don’t get too comfortable with one hero, as different classes call for different playstyles. For example, the assassin is a fantastic class to just go to town on enemies up close and dodge away when necessary, but you can’t take those same tactics for the long-range mage who needs to be able to heal on command. Adjusting quickly will be the key to success, so be sure to familiarize yourself with all class types as soon as possible.
Of course, the best way to learn the ropes is simply to play; if you have two buddies, inviting them to play is an extremely simple process and from what I can tell runs smoothly enough. For those of you who have no friends (*sigh*, like me), Blightbound will match you with two other lone players. Sometimes you get really lucky and are paired with people who know seem like they’ve done this a thousand times before; other times it feels like you’re carrying people on their very first dungeon run. Fortunately, you keep your group after a raid until you or the others decide to leave, so if you’ve found one you’re satisfied with, you can stay with them for your entire playthrough.
Speaking of the dungeons, Blightbound has a handful of them that are twisty, windy, cavernous experiences with unique elements that set themselves apart from each other. One feels like your standard starter dungeon, another is an abandoned graveyard, while another still features an elevator ride out for blood, complete with moving laser traps and enemies abound. Players will need to fulfill quests during their time in the dungeon, including rescuing survivors and defeating bosses. Each quest will appear on the right hand side of the screen, but exploration is hardly necessary…
…as more experienced players run you through each dungeon, the required routes completely memorized. In fact, I barely remembered there were even quests at all, as each time I was partnered with significantly more experienced players, I just followed their every move in an effort to not slow the pack down. I definitely would have loved to explore every nook and cranny, but heroes wait for no man, and I am no exception. This is where bots would be immensely welcomed, especially by those of us who already prefer a single-player experience, so here’s to hoping that update does indeed come to fruition.
Back at base, there are increasingly more things to do as you level up. Equip your heroes, level up your stats, read up on your bestiary, craft items, and more — as long as you’re progressing in the dungeons, you’ll be unlocking your base’s full potential upon your return. Try your best to increase your base’s notoriety, unlock more heroes, collect items, and suffer through the blight as you lather, rinse, repeat on the dungeon crawls.
As for what Blightbound needs to improve upon? First, connectivity issues seem to affect players who are randomly paired with each other. I had two different groups disconnect randomly, which meant I suffered a defeat and my notoriety dropped. A gander at the game’s Steam page indicates I’m not the only one, so here’s to hoping what feels like a critical bug gets patched soon.
Additionally, I’m finding the random pairings to be hit or miss as it currently stands. When I found a solid, definitely experienced group, I felt really reliant on them to the point that I felt bad for holding them back. Some of my characters would be at level 0 or 1 while they were at level 9, so it basically became this rush to try to even get a single hit in before they decimated all the enemies within range.
Then comes the dungeon exploration itself, which is nearly impossible to do since there are so few dungeons right now and said experienced players already have them memorized. In these kinds of groups, I felt less like I was playing the game and more like I was tagging along, just going through the paces, which, aside from being able to level up quickly, there’s really no fun in that. The introduction of bots with comparable AI would solve this issue, giving players like me the desperately desired practice we’re seeking before ramping it up with real players.
Despite the small issues, there’s something really addicting about Blightbound. I find myself ending each dungeon run to eagerly see what new thing I’ve unlocked, only to tell myself that I’ll play “just one more turn” before eventually forcing myself to quit. Blightbound has a solid core loop with great aesthetics, gorgeous music, and loot aplenty. Once the dev team figures out connectivity and team-balancing issues with a little more content thrown in, I daresay they’ll have a definite hit on their hands. Until then, it’s noses to the grindstone to make the Blight more bleak — those interested can check Blightbound out on Steam Early Access today.