Released: 8/28/2018 | Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: PSVR | Price: $29.99 (Review Copy Provided)
By: Kevin Lane | email@example.com
Hype Score: N/A | Final Score: 82
Throughout the months of August and September in 2018, the gaming industry as a whole has been on fire with releases, beta tests, announcements, and what have you – so it is not surprising to me that certain games either catch me off guard, or don’t catch me at all. Due to the wonderful PSVR Community, Bow to Blood caught my attention the day it released. Like many Virtual Reality games, watching a YouTube video just doesn’t do the game justice. You have to play it to truly understand what you are getting yourself into here. Thankfully, Developer TribeToy provided The Backlog Exposed a Review Copy of their new Virtual Reality Game “Bow to Blood”. See how and why we score it the way we do below.
This section is normally where we discuss our initial hype score of the game. Given all the hype for a game (i.e. Firewall: Zero Hour) how does it initially hold up to those demands. In this instance, Bow to Blood wasn’t even on our radar, so there was no Hype Factor involved. We’ll be dishing out our review in the section below.
Hype Score: N/A
Bow to Blood is a single-player game that offers a unique blend of a few different game types that hasn’t been combined before. Known as a “Freelancer”, you command a heavy floating war-ship in a round-robin “Survivor” style Tournament where making friends or enemies can make a huge difference in your game’s outcome. Along the way, you acquire much needed assistance on deck where you can command your two helpers to such tasks as manning the guns, engines, drones and shields. Commanding these two appropriately is easier said than done at first, but this was something I got the hang of after playing a few rounds.
So, how is this Survivor Style? Well, each round is one of a few different types of game modes where you are vying for top of the leaderboards. Whether it be a battle, race or point gathering exploration, you’re gunning for top dog – otherwise you run the risk of getting cut. Much like in Survivor, your foes (NPCs) help decide the fate of the two in point totals. These combatants, (all procedurally generated and randomized) have different personalities and styles – and they challenge you to make decisions will surely impact your outcome. In one example, I helped a competitor explore the area together – and assisted in fending off any enemies (robotic droid looking things that shot at us). I was successful in helping her out, and it saved me. I had the least number of points at the end of a round, and her vote helped keep me in the game. This truly adds a perspective on gaming that I haven’t found anywhere else.
As with most VR Games, Bow to Blood comes equipped with motion sickness support in the form of focus blinders – but in Bow to Blood – they are defaulted off, which is something I really appreciate. I am in the camp that most people playing VR games have an understanding that if the game makes you sick, you take off the headset and discontinue playing – or you run the risk of having the weirdest motion-sickness experience of your life. That being said, I played for 2 straight hours before getting any sort of motion sickness. This could be due to the extended period in which I played without taking a break – and not necessarily with the game itself. As you command this large warship, the feeling of rocking on a boat is there, but it did not trip me up for the most part. It is slower than I would expect a game like this to be, which is both part of the charm and annoyance of the game.
My only real issues with this game are the controls and the initial explanations on how to play. First, with the controls, let me state that I don’t play a lot of flight sims, so I am not very comfortable with handling the ups and downs and whatnot. Take that for what it’s worth – but I still wanted to play and win. You can play with both the DS4 and the Move Controllers – and I would recommend using the Move Controllers from the start. Way easier to navigate your ship’s resources and controls. I felt the sluggish movement of the warship was something I had a hard time getting past. I tend to faster paced games like First Person Shooters where you’re running and gunning. In this game, maneuverability is limited and you have to be aware of your surroundings or you may end up hitting a mine-field.
I went through the beginning training sessions, but felt I didn’t get enough of the movement aspect, and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get around properly. Eventually, I got the hang of it – but I was almost ready to hang it up for a bit before things started clicking. Maybe some more apparent on-screen feedback for control assistance would help in the beginning stages. Many times I just wanted to get up and above the obstacles so I could move to another area of the map, but was hindered by going a direction I was not trying to go. With time, this was reduced – but you’ll never get the fast paced experience if that is what you are looking for. Another area that could use some additional explanation is the resource allocation and station allocation. You get a quick lesson on how to guide your helpers from one station to the next, but I feel the game could get into more detail as to what they’ll be doing there – and how each one could benefit you. I felt this was more of a trial and error before getting the hang of it. Resource allocation is probably a bit more self-explanatory, but as a novice to the game, I feel like a better description of what moving resources from one area to the next could mean – in terms of helping or hindering me in my journey.
Some final thoughts:
- Game Length: Full Tourneys last between 5-6 hours each if you make it that far. Each round took me anywhere between 10-30 minutes – and there are two matches in each round.
- Game-play Speed & Style: This is a slower paced single-player shooter/racer/exploration game with survival and politics mashed in. Definitely a unique combination that I believe is the makings of something great.
- Difficulty: Hard. While it is easy to shoot the robotic flying enemies here and there, it can sometimes get overwhelming and difficult – all while trying to manage your ship and its resources. I like that this was tough.
- Controls: Not my favorite – I prefer the Move Controllers over the DS4 for sure – but I feel like it should be better explained how to get around.
- Replay-ability: I can see some people playing a few rounds and deciding this game is not for them, and more people willing to stick it out at least to the end of the first tourney – but this game has some major replay-ability. You can continue on and move forward in the game, making alliances and enemies. The replay-ability is truly endless here.
- Repetitive? I imagine that it could become repetitive over time, but with the different game modes and randomly generated characters I imagine this will vary depending on how much you like the game.
- Plot: This is dynamic based on what happens after each round. A great strength of the game.
- Characters: The characters are procedurally generated and have different attitudes, names, personalities, etc. (I did notice that in some of the game play videos, the character images were definitely repeated, but the names were different). One major thing to note here is that the On-Screen announcer was super annoying. I didn’t care about his voice – that was to be expected in a game like this… but it felt like they really fell through on making the announcer something of substance. Maybe this was done on purpose, but the 4 frames per second style image of the announcer talking you through each round got old, real quick. I can compare this to Star Blood Arena, who obviously put a lot of time and effort into their announcer booth – there was a level of creativity there that was absolutely absent from this game.
- Hype Factor: N/A
The politics and survival aspect of this game propels it into something more unique than any game like it. I honestly thing this is a new genre. It is currently billed as an Action Adventure game, but it is more than that. I would love to see another iteration of this game with slightly stronger visuals – although they were much stronger than many PSVR games out on the market today. I would also like to see TribeToy factor in multi-player into this game. Maybe a shorter/tighter game tourney mode that puts 8 players together to try and secure a victory. I know the VR Multiplayer landscape is one of fast drop-offs and many unknowns, but I really feel that a game like this would be a lot of fun with real players on the other side.
The Risk vs. Reward system of helping or pissing off other competitors is a fun aspect to an already fun game. Add in the companion app (which I admit I didn’t get to experience yet) for some additional fun, and TribeToy really has a sleeper hit on their hands. I hope they continue to refine the game and tighten up some of the control experiences, but all in all, this game has high replay-ability and a fun concept I’ve never seen all-in-one before. I give Bow to Blood a strong 82 and look forward to playing some more in the arena.
Final Score: 82