STAFF REVIEW of Blightbound (Xbox One)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Blightbound Box art As an avid MMORPG player for over two decades, I always get excited when a game releases that not only utilizes and requires co-op, but even more so when the “Holy Trinity” is used. For the unaware, this is when a group of players require a Tank (The character that’s on the front line, usually with a sword and shield, soaking up all the damage and keeping agro in close quarters), DPS (Those that deal massive amounts of damage) and Support (Usually a healer or mage of some sorts). Best known for Awesomenauts, developer Ronimo Games has created a multiplayer dungeon crawler game that could best be described as Castle Crashers meets Diablo where three heroes band together to take on endless enemies that threatens the land.

A band of legendary heroes defeated and slayed the Shadow Titan, a massive beast that was threatening every living thing. Their victory was short lived though, as when he was defeated, it left behind a broken Sun. A fog flowed from its husk and turns any living thing into an evil creature that is exposed to it for too long. The only safe place from the Blight is high in the mountains, where our heroes take upon themselves a quest to fight back against any evil within the fog. An ancient race created powerful items that protect against Blight, which is how you stay safe within, trying to fight back and hopefully recover your homeland one day.

A team of three heroes will band together, either locally or online, and choose a dungeon to delve into that’s randomized in difficulty and rewards. Blightbound is very much a dungeon crawler, as you’ll be fighting numerous enemies, solving light puzzles and searching for loot along the way. At the end of each dungeon is a massive boss that will most likely destroy you the first few times you attempt them until you start to get better gear and improve your stats.

Each player, or bot, has a specific role to play based on their archetype. Warriors will block damage, the Rogue will deal massive damage and the Mage can heal allies. Only one person can fill a specific role in each party, so if two players enjoy playing the Mage for example, one will have to be one of the other classes if they want to play together. You begin with one of each type of hero, eventually able to find and purchase more along the way, each with their own unique abilities and playstyles.

I opted to stick with the first healer given simply because of his ability to keep my teammates alive and also place a shield on anyone that grants invulnerability for 5 seconds. Each class plays differently as well, and while I tried them all, I really enjoyed the Mage much more than the others, though you can freely switch to any other character or class between dungeon runs. This is actually encouraged, as you’re going to need to do quite a grind to reach the endgame and craft the best loot.

Each hero is unique, not only with their passives, abilities and ultimates, but how they actually play. Mages for example can heal, but to do so I need to have mana. These are dropped from combat randomly and need to be picked up shortly after they appear or they dissolve and disappear. When these orbs are gathered, not only does the person picking it up get a small heal, but I as a mage gets to bank that orb regardless who gathered it.

Knowing when to use your abilities and how to stay alive is going to make a drastic difference in your success. To use my heal I actually place a circle on the ground that then heals whomever is in it at the time, though this means you’ll need to communicate with your team, as they can be wasted if they don’t stay within the circle when the heal goes off. Dodging and avoiding enemy attacks becomes absolutely paramount later on as well, as you’ll need to avoid large damaging abilities on the ground, lasers and other attacks that can instantly kill you if you’re not careful.

Very reminiscent of Castle Crashers, Blightbound is a 2D brawler that also takes inspiration from Diablo with its loot and leveling. Based on your party makeup, levels and gear you’re given an estimate of how powerful your team is with a score. As you choose which dungeon to run, each will randomly vary in difficulty based on its Blight level. The higher the number the more challenging it will be. Good luck once you start to play the Hard or higher difficulties, as you’re going to get whooped if you don’t have a solid team that understands all of Blightbound’s mechanics.

While there’s a handful of dungeons, the randomized difficulty levels make for completely unique and challenging runs. Enemy attack patterns change on higher difficulties quite drastically as well. For example, there’s an enemy I absolutely hate that shoots out a beam from their chest that can easily destroy you in a matter of seconds if you’re not careful and avoid it. On a higher difficulty they actually have four lasers that rotate around them, making for a much more chaotic and challenging battle. I won’t lie, I had to grind the lowest Blight level dungeons for a while before I was able to slowly move up and take on the harder ones.

While there is gear and loot for you to strive to get, it’s nowhere near as in-depth as Diablo. There are multiple tiers of loot as you’d expect, but when it comes to your weapons there’s only a few options for each class in the tiers. Once you start to get blue tiered weapons for example, there’s really only four or five choices. Once you start to get higher tier gear, you’re almost forced into choosing specific gear and weapons as they eventually start to have bonuses for specific skills and abilities which you’ll want to utilize based on the heroes you have that utilize said skills. For example, I eventually got a trinket I could equip on any of my Mages, but I definitely wanted to use it as it gave me a 10% chance of casting my heal for free. Or maybe a piece of gear makes the Ice Beam skill more powerful, something that is basically useless to me since my specific Mage doesn’t have that ability.

There are bounties to complete, challenging you with defeating a certain amount of specific enemies or other objectives. There’s also a Forge where you’ll be able to create some impressive gear the further you progress your base camp, but these require a lot of dungeon grinding to get the materials you need. Some items need specific tokens you can only get by playing certain classes, which is how Blightbound encourages you to grind each archetype.

While you can play with bots if you don’t have any friends online to play with, Blightbound is a much more rewarding experience with some friends in party chat. There is cross-play enabled to find players across other platforms, though I tend to have to sit in the lobby for a few minutes each time waiting for someone to join, so I usually just end up running solo with the two bots.

Surprisingly the bots are quite decent at combat, able to dish out some serious damage and use their skills somewhat appropriately, but when it comes to puzzles it’s a whole other experience. Most puzzles have you either standing on pressure switches or hitting some lanterns until you find the right pattern to unlock the door. With three switches to stand on the AI will have no problem going to them and waiting if it’s a basic puzzle, but once there’s a little more involved you’ll start to understand my frustration. The worst of this occurred in a spot where all three characters had to stand on the pressure plates, but it was also around a tower that infinitely spawns enemies until you completed the puzzle. Needless to say, the AI bots didn’t want to complete the puzzle and simply stayed in combat the whole time.

Aesthetically Blightbound is cute and colorful to look at. Characters are hand drawn 2D cutouts but move in 3D within the dungeons, adding for an interesting Paper Mario-like effect. Much of the narrative is voiced, but it’s not experienced like most games where you have cutscenes after pivotable sections of the game, instead giving individual character stories and background based on whom you’re playing and find within the dungeons.

While I wasn’t sure what to initially expect from Blightbound, I quite enjoyed the 'Holy Trinity' class setup and addictiveness when it comes to playing alongside some friends, trying our luck on the harder difficulties as we slowly improved our characters and skills. If you have a friend or two that you’re able to grind for quite some time with in some dungeon runs you’re going to have a decent time with Blightbound. If you’re going to rely on random online players or AI bots, you’re going to have nowhere near as rewarding of an experience.

**Blightbound was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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