Stephanie Meyer has a lot to answer for. Apart from giving the one face wonder that is Miss Stewart a platform with which to build her irritating acting career on, she has also made a generation of teens believe that vampires sparkle in the daylight and that werewolves are really just big, furry six-packs. Replacing the connotations of the traditionally fearsome Dracula and the sexy mythological creatures of Underworld (Sheen, you make a far better werewolf), Twilight has taken all badassery out of these folklore beings and replaced them with a pile of loving, sharing, caring pansies. Blood Knights is a PSN (and XBLA/PC) RPG-come-hack’n’slash game that attempts to take the bloodthirsty vampire mantle back and whilst in some ways it succeeds, in others it fails miserably.
Set in an alternative Middle Ages, you play as the bound-by-blood Jeremy and Alysa, the former of which is a human vampire hunter and the latter of which is Jezza’s normal prey. An unlikely alliance, our fleshy protagonists Priest friend convinces him that the bond is a necessary action if they are to defeat the vampires in the war that ravages the land and so he allows the union to be made. However, shorty after their blood has been fused together, the proverbial S hits the fan.
Stolen by the bloodsuckers, the Blood Seal is taken, causing the moon to break and the countdown to the end of the world to begin. Kicked off the side of a cliff by our less than saintly Priest, Jeremy’s rough day gets worse as he finds himself without the trust of his old comrades, his only companion a member of the clan he despises. In a bid to stop the demise of the world and in the hope of breaking the bond he shares with the scantily clad Alysa, you embark on a quest that sees you travel the land in search of the Blood Seal. An unexceptional storyline, the actual concept of the game isn’t exactly a spectacle of grandeur but the real problem with Deck 13’s latest development is the way it’s told on screen.
Expressed through some awfully put together cut-scenes, the story of Blood Knights is delivered by the voice actors with less personality than a stationary turnip. A truly mediocre sight to witness, the clips are not of the best visual quality (on the PS3 anyway), with no word to mouth synchronization whatsoever and the monotone work of the people behind the characters is cringe-worthy. Far from great, the writing behind Blood Knights leaves much to be desired and even when you are given a choice of what to say, which you often are, there are many times when you wish there was an option to just keep quiet. Having said this, not all of the sounds that come out of the game are bad. The music that accompanies your quest is often very fitting and the sounds of blade and arrows upon bodies give you a sense of bloody satisfaction, a feeling that the gameplay, on the whole, repeatedly leaves you with.
You see, despite its faults and shoddy voice ‘acting,’ Blood Knights is a rather enjoyable game to play. Very linear in both story and actual gameplay, whilst the path chosen for you and your enemies may not exactly be challenging, clouting werewolves and sucking the life out of human guards is something that starts and remains fun throughout. Other entertaining aspects of this game include finding new bits of awesome looking amour, buying and trading things for better and bigger weapons (you know what they say about men with big swords…) and choosing what type of individual you wish Jeremy to be: should he do something to help his human counterparts or should his actions benefit the vamps instead? If you’re anything like moi, you’ll go for the latter, but that’s entirely up to you.
Another good thing about the gameplay is that once you’re actually controlling the blood-swilling human and the half-dressed vampiress, the graphics thankfully improve. Using a camera similar to that of Diablo III, the scenery and surroundings portray the world far better than the awful looking cut-scenes manage to do, the subtle colors and simplistic scenery painting a great backdrop for the arcade style gameplay. As for the controls, handling both of the individuals at hand is fairly straightforward, with combo attacks forming fluidly regardless of your character choice. Switching between the two is also smoothly done, which is useful for when you quickly need the bow skills of Alysa or for when you need to swiftly punish an up close and personal beast with Jeremy’s sword. Annoyingly however, the controls don’t come with a block function forcing dashing around during battles to act as your saviour, which can be tricky in the midst of tightly packed settings.
Blood Knights is a short and sometimes sweet game but unfortunately there are certain aforementioned things here that ruin the gaming experience. Thankfully, choosing the skip option or muting the disastrous dialogue scenes (there’s sub-titles) can solve, not all, but a few of these problems, although such measures shouldn’t need to be taken in the first place. Much like many arcade titles such as Warhammer: Kill Team, this game suits a duo that want some brief, quick, button bashing fun but lone players should not be discouraged from playing Blood Knights, especially (or rather only) if you too are looking for the above. Jeremy and Alysa may not be the greatest or even most memorable human/vampire partnership in the world of entertainment but at least they don’t sting like butterflies or fly like sparkly, daylight loving bees and for that, they at least get one high, blood-guzzling five.