Humans killed God years ago. The rotting corpse of mankind’s deity is corrupting the land and darkness is consuming civilization. Hunters are doing their best, roaming the wastelands and keeping the corrupted beasts at bay, but another flood is incoming, a flood of darkness, corruption and death. It’s time for the final hunt…
Alder’s Blood, developed by Shockwave Games and published by No Gravity Games, is a tactical-strategy title with stealth-based combat, RPG and survival elements. It tells an intriguing story of a world where mankind killed their god and are now dealing with its consequences. Alder’s Blood has challenging gameplay, interesting story and beautiful art style. It had the potential of being a memorable indie game, but it has some shortcomings. The most obvious one is that the story is too short compared to the gameplay time. Also, the game could greatly benefit from fully voiced characters, since without it, the story doesn't seem as engaging as it should be.
Alder’s Blood has a rich and intriguing story. Duke, a veteran hunter, has an idea of how to stop the corruption. However, he loses his sight after receiving a vision from the dead god. Now, we have to help him finish this mission. In our mission, we explore societies and communities in this apocalyptic-like world. We meet different characters and recruit many hunters to join the cause. It’s a dynamic world with a long story to explore. The story is really good, but there are elements such as slow gameplay and lack of voiced characters that can make it less enjoyable.
We view the story as the leader of a hunting group called Chief, but we never play as him in the missions. Because of this, we can never relate to this character. Instead, you play as a group of hunters who will ultimately die of the corruption, and have to be replaced with new hunters. The gameplay of the missions are engaging and challenging, but they feel separated from the main story. This separation could've been avoided if we were able to play as Chief in some of the more important missions.
Despite this separation in gameplay and story, the overall gameplay experience is enjoyable. Alder’s Blood has a unique turn-based strategy combat. You control a party of three hunters, with various weapons, items and upgrades that can provide many options and strategies for you to complete your mission. Each turn, you can give tasks to each of your hunters as long as they have the stamina to perform them. These tasks range from moving and hiding, attacking enemies with range or melee weapons, or using items and placing traps. Because of different equipment and powers you have, there are a variety of different strategies available to complete each mission. You can silently remove enemies one by one, pass them entirely by making different distractions, or in the worst case scenario, you might try your chances at facing multiple enemies head on. Regardless of how you prefer to play Alder's Blood, it’s a fun experience to try different strategies. With missions being usually short and the ability to restart each mission, trying new items, weapons and strategies won’t be punishing.
Other than combat, Alder’s Blood has elements of a survival game. Between missions, you go back to your camp. In your camp, you have to assign tasks to your hunters to gather resources and food, craft items and weapons, guard the camp or rest to heal their wounds. You might skip these tasks at the start of the game, but with the corruption, that will gradually kill hunters who are in close contact with the beasts. You quickly realize you have to maintain a reliable source of food and materials, and have spare hunters ready to enter the action when the time comes.
There are also some small RPG elements in Alder's Blood. You can take side quests to increase your loyalty with different factions in the world. These loyalties seemed to have an impact in the final stages of the game. Based on my playthrough, factions that I had better loyalty with gave us aid in the final mission, whereas the faction that I had the least loyalty with didn’t help the group at all. You might face different endings based on your loyalty with each faction, so side-quests are more important than they seem at first look.
Unfortunately, there is a frequent bug in the missions that slows Alder's Blood even more. In later stages of when you face more enemies and place multiple traps in the field, some enemies might get stuck in their turn and do nothing. In this case, Alder's Blood doesn’t go back to the player’s turn and you have to restart the mission. Hopefully this issue will get fixed by release so players can have a much smoother gameplay experience.
Regardless, Alder’s Blood provide us with a really fun and challenging gameplay, but it doesn’t match the pace of the story. It took me almost 30 hours to finish the main story. I played slow to explore every aspect of the game, so I estimate the usual gameplay time is about 15 hours. The gameplay might slow the progress of the story, and this made the game feel boring at some stages. Alder's Blood tells a good story, but it might fill 5 hours of gameplay at most. For a game with at least 15 hours of gameplay, there are long gaps between interesting events in the story that can make the game feel slow. Because of this uneven balance between story time and play time, Alder's Blood fails to sync the story and the gameplay together.
Another aspect of Alder's Blood that has a negative effect on the story is its audio. Music and voice acting has a huge impact on story-driven games. Alder’s Blood lacks various soundtracks for its long play time, and it has no voice acting at all. I know it’s not fair to expect fully voiced characters and dialogue from an indie game, but I couldn’t help feel like Alder's Blood is missing something with the absence of some sort of voice acting.
While I found a lot of issues with Alder's Blood, there is one aspect that is absolutely perfect. Alder’s Blood has a beautiful Lovecraftian comic-like art style with detailed character design, layered backgrounds and dynamic world design. Whether you enjoy the story and the gameplay or not, you have to admit, this game looks fantastic. It's the art style that makes Alder’s Blood unique and enjoyable.
Alder’s Blood is a great game, but the pace of the gameplay is much slower than the pace of the story. This results in wide gaps in the progress of the story. The absence of voice acting made the game feel too quiet at times. But if you can overlook these issues, Alder’s Blood provides an interesting story and world design with a challenging gameplay. I certainly enjoyed my 30 hours long experience, and I believe that despite its shortcomings, it has a lot to offer.
Nima reviewed Alder’s Blood on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.