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Alder's Blood Review

Alder’s Blood is a monster-hunting turn-based tactics game with stealth, roguelike, and management mechanics, basically X-Com: Enemy Unknown meets Darkest Dungeon.

Prepare for the Hunt

Alder’s Blood puts you in the role of the Chief: the leader of a group of Puritan-esque monster hunters. Monsters in this case lean less towards zombies or fantasy and more towards twisted Lovecraftian horrors. These creatures are warped abominations that shamble towards you with a grim thirst for death.

Well, I say “you.” Really, you’re sitting up in the sky while your squad of up to three hunters does all the dirty work. It’s up to you to maneuver them around enemies and determine when to spring ambush or when to slink away into the tall grass.

The stealth mechanics are genuinely engaging here, forcing you to juggle your noise level, enemies’ sightlines, and even what direction the wind is blowing your team’s scents. This all comes together to make you alternately feel like hapless prey or, well, a ruthless hunter. You also have to gauge your hunters’ corruption, which is essentially how traumatized they are by their experiences. This combined with hunter permadeth and a push towards periodically acquiring new hunters really helps to sell the harshness of this world, albeit with a caveat that will be discussed later.

The game is split between these missions and management. During a typical mission, you’ll take your squad out in the open and kill a group of monsters. Afterwards, you return to camp where you can hire new members and choose to have your existing hunters scavenge materials, craft new supplies, or rest (among other activities).

Bugbears

Unfortunately, here is where the game starts to stumble. Many textual elements (such as the Charms section in the Crafting wagon and several controller button prompts) are flat-out missing and replaced with error code. Additionally, this camping section is where I ran into a pretty major game-breaking bug.

As mentioned above, you can hire new hunters at starting level to replace fallen party members or bolster your existing ranks. However, the first time I did this, the game gave me three copies of the same character for the price of one. This wasn’t a visual glitch; these copies all counted as separate characters for mechanical purposes. Around this time is where I discovered the Exile’s Wastes, which is by far the easiest place to grind valuable resources like food, silver, and crafting supplies. Repeatedly assigning my three Hunter Clones and two of my original hunters to scavenging gave me enough resources to break the game’s economy over my knee. Even on the rare instances where the scavenging trip would fail, my characters would only lose around 1/3 of their maximum health. Resting for the 1-2 days needed to recover this barely made a dent in my obscene hoard of bread and cash.

At this point, I figured the game was basically over until I tried to embark on the next mission, which crashed my game. After a few attempted reloads and troubleshooting, the diagnosis was clear: my glitched Triple Hunter Clones had broken my game and I would have to start a completely new save.

Combine this with the consistent spelling errors in the text, lack of diversity in the playable squad characters (seriously, it’s all Grim White Dudes™), and the occasional chunk of naked exposition, and the inconsistent polish starts to become more readily apparent.

An End...or a Beginning?

Fundamentally, it feels like an issue of resource mismanagement. The visual style is hauntingly beautiful, if hewing a little close to Darkest Dungeons, and voice work is excellent, with the authoritative baritone of Duke being a particular standout. However, there’s a lot of unique, incidental voice clips per character, each of which would have taken time, talent, and resources to develop for the game. Comparing indulgences like these to the spelling errors, bugs, and occasional mechanical wonkery makes Alder’s Blood feel fundamentally incomplete.

Now, there’s a good chance that many of these issues will be fixed in the future. The game has a solid mechanical hook and a distinct visual style, but only time will tell if its issues can be ironed out before release.

4

The Verdict: Flawed

The development team behind Alder’s Blood has clearly put a lot of thought into crafting a striking experience, and while the game has style and an engaging core gameplay loop, it’s also so shaky and unpolished it is difficult to recommend.

See About Us to learn how we score

Zach Palermo
Written by
Thursday, 05 March 2020 04:32
Published in Strategy

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Zach Palermo is an L.A. based writer that has been playing games so long he’s honestly not sure whether or not he was holding a controller when he was born. When not gaming, his favorite activities include singing, cooking, writing, and cursing himself for majoring in English. His favorite games include Shadowrun: DragonfallDark Messiah of Might and MagicLadykiller in a Bind, and Stardew Valley.

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