Alder’s Blood isn’t short on moody, morose character – in fact, it’s quite the exemplary example of Eldritch horror. Grotesque creatures stalk dilapidated countrysides, your group of hunters try to survive overwhelming odds against these foul beasts in a deep, but frankly overwhelming, strategy. That’s really the issue with Alders Blood; it might be a gorgeous, well realised universe, but tinkering with the many systems makes the game far more complex than it needs to be, and ultimately, turns an otherwise interesting adventure into an incredibly difficult and dull affair.
It doesn’t pull any punches with its sombre storyline – Alder’s Blood pits a group of hunters on a mission to locate the body of God who, after being killed by humans, is pouring corruption into the universe from his rotting corpse. Thankfully, the grimness of it all makes for some interesting characters, lore and, most importantly, monsters.
The bulk of the gameplay is played via top down, turn-based missions. The system feels like a stealthier X-COM, with emphasis on avoiding enemy sights and making your way through maps without being spotted. This is obviously mixed with more hands-on phases, as there’s plenty of combat missions too, but a bulk of your time is spent avoiding much stronger, nastier bad guys than your team can handle. It’s also important to avoid making too much noise or getting too close to an enemy’s trajectory, especially as they can smell your humanness, making you a much easier target to hunt down.
While sneaking through bushes and avoiding getting smelt out is important, there’s plenty of combat to involve yourself with. Successfully sneaking up on an enemy and laying into them leaves them crippled and defenceless, giving you an opening to banish them into the netherworld with your demon-killing powers. There’s also a decent arsenal to kit your hunters out with, from long distance rifles to up close swords, and even things like throwing knives that act as a backup when your main weapon just isn’t cutting it, so to speak.
And while the cast of Alders Blood includes some main characters that stay with you throughout the game, the main bulk of your heroes are made up of secondary hunters you can recruit from the games camping screen. Different hunters offer different skills, and it’s important to have a well-rounded group of heroes – making sure you have someone well adapted in healing is just important as a stone-cold killing machine, for example.
But your hunters are fickle things and keeping them going is probably the most challenging aspect of Alder’s Blood. Between missions, you manage your camp by putting your hunters up to tasks, ideally having someone always watching your camp while the others are resting, scavenging or crafting. Sending them out scavenging allows your hunters to bring back food, which is used to keep them fed and alive. The main issue is, you never seem to find enough food, so when it comes to travelling to different locations, you’ve barely got enough resources to keep your party alive for the journey. Get too low on health and your party start to die off, and while you can replace them with new hunters, they cost an absolute fortune and soon you find yourself with very few hunters of little use.
As mentioned before, the body of God is seeping corruption across the land. More than just a glum story piece, this has a massive effect on the gameplay. Your hunters are susceptible to such corruption, and too much leads them to succumb to madness, similar to how Darkest Dungeon handles its many, many ailments. Unlike Darkest Dungeon, there’s no way of dealing with corruption, bar sacrificing your hunters before they die anyway. It’s just one of the bizarre gameplay choices that make the whole thing ridiculously difficult.
That’s probably the biggest downfall of Alder’s Blood – it’s insane how difficult it can be, even from the off. Most enemies for example, are overpowered, killing your hunters before they even get a chance to fight back or escape. During an early mission, my hunters were…hunted down by the enemy, and before I could even counter their moves, they were swiftly flanked by, frankly great looking monstrosities and quickly dealt with. At the same time, replacing your fallen hunters is equally as troublesome, you simply don’t earn enough resources to suitably replace your dead comrades. On top of the absurd quantity of systems to manage, it just makes the whole thing overwhelming.
But while its gameplay can feel like a chore, Alder’s Bloods lore is sumptuous, and one of the finest examples of Eldritchian horror done well. Cthulhu-esque creatures stalk graveyards and dark mountains, while tree headed beasts circle forests looking for victims. The storyline is also well written, with a great focus on strong narrative to really sell the package. It really is hard to fault Alder’s Blood from an aesthetic point of view.
In a game that mostly deals with doom and gloom, it’s hard to see the gameplay as anything but the same. It has some wonderful ideas in place, and some even better aesthetic choices, but it’s simply too frustrating to be anything other than tiresome.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Alder's Blood Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
In these times of doom and gloom, Alder’s Blood isn’t going to cheer you up, but if you’re looking for a decent Eldritch-inspired turn-based strategy, you could do worse.