Blightbound Early Access Preview

Gorgeous visuals and satisfying combat make Blightbound a dungeon crawler worth keeping on your radar as it continues its journey through Early Access.

By Woozie, Posted 04 Aug 2020

Sometimes defeating the big bad titan isn’t enough. In fact, as some of Blightbound’s legendary warriors learned, it could be playing exactly into its plans, resulting in a fog called the Blight spreading across the land and turning evil all it touches. You step in decades later, as one hero in a team of three that holds out on top of a mountain refuge, often venturing into the fog below to vanquish foes, defeat bosses, and collect loot. Blightbound is a 2.5D side-scrolling co-op dungeon crawler that shows how developer Ronimo Games – known for 2D MOBA Awesomenauts – isn’t afraid to take things a step further.

While you’re still very much moving from left to right, levels often incorporate portions where 2D corridors become larger arenas that allow both you and your enemies to also move forward and backward. This, alongside beautifully decorated backgrounds and expressive lighting, gives levels a sense of depth while also adeptly shifting moods within the game’s atmosphere of doom and gloom. The ominous fog of a graveyard is replaced by complex architecture and engineering when stepping onto an elevator descending through a tunnel filled with deadly lasers. Both instill different nuances of the same sense of helplessness. You quickly get accustomed to Blightbound’s hand-crafted levels, being easily able to recognize their layouts on repeated runs while noticing the spots in which harder difficulties add extra danger. At the same time, after a few hours, you will have seen most if not all of the six levels available in its first Early Access build, which doesn’t bode well for longevity.

Blightbound Early Access Preview, Screenshot

Blightbound’s heroes belong to three archetypes that should be familiar to anyone with even the smallest amount of dungeon crawling experience: warrior, rogue and mage. Currently, you’ve access to three heroes belonging to each archetype. Where warriors usually excel at the forefront, rogues can exploit backstabs and throw ranged chakrams for high damage while mages are the only class able to heal other characters. Your base roster of three then grows as you save others from dungeons. Although the new heroes’ kits aren’t fundamentally different, the new skills they boast do add some variety that helps spice up runs once levels inevitably become a little too familiar.

While two mages can both heal and fight using staves, one’s ultimate encourages him to stay far from the fight, spawning ghastly tomes that mimic his ranged attacks, while the other literally turns into a large skull that chomps on enemies it touches for higher damage. Each hero archetype also has a resource they can use in battle. Warriors get rage while blocking, which helps deal extra damage, rogues gain combo points by attacking that let them use their Execute ability, while mages can only heal after picking up mana orbs dropped by enemies or found throughout the level. Each hero also has their own equipment that improves different aspects of theirs, like decreasing cooldowns or granting extra health.

Blightbound Early Access Review, Screenshot

Blightbound’s fast-paced action doesn’t just reward equipping your characters with weapons and trinkets that complement their strengths and knowing their abilities but also working together. Pulling a pack of enemies to the same spot using the mage’s Gravity Well lets the rogue and warrior more easily focus damage. Attacking enemies repeatedly as the warrior makes them focus on you, leaving the damage dealers do what they do best as you manually block incoming hits. While the 2.5D nature of the levels does make targeting skillshots and even simple attacks require some getting used to, combat is impactful, and successfully comboing abilities with your team feels satisfying. Something that’s not all that great at the moment is the way in which healing works. Mages replenish health in a circular area around them and, as your party is often moving, you have to spam voice commands or hold the button pressed for a few seconds to signal your intention to allies, at least when matchmaking with random players.

Blightbound’s dungeons throw several types of enemies your way. Some prefer fighting up close, others throw projectiles from range. There’s a large floating creature that shields nearby allies but also a massive brute with a shield. It’s an assortment of opponents that definitely pushes you into employing different tactics but they’re nothing particularly unique if you’ve cut your teeth on other dungeon crawlers. An interesting touch is how each level gives you a taste of its boss fight by having you battle it before actually reaching the final room. Learning new enemies’ attack patterns involves trial and error, so, getting to see the blood beam that quickly drains your health if you stand in its way ahead of the final confrontation helps you prepare as you fight. You’ll also bump into the occasional puzzle that involves standing on platforms, avoiding lasers or dragging heavy blocks to the right spot, all involving a relatively minimal amount of communication to figure out.

Blightbound Early Access Preview, Screenshot

The loot you obtain varies from area to area and gets better with higher difficulties, although it’s too repetitive at the moment. While it will dole out strong items that visibly change both the look and the strength of characters, you’ll find a lot of apparent junk that feeds into the game’s crafting system which, itself, feels a bit incomplete. Blightbound also features a Notoriety system that adds potential rewards to the pile if you play longer sessions alongside the same people. This encourages you to find a stable party which, for a co-op game, is likely what most people do anyway. If like me, you’re a stubborn mule who relies on quickmatch because his cat and plush monkey pals haven’t yet figured how to use computers, you’ll have a bit of a mixed experience, albeit not one that’s a deal-breaker. During my time with the game, I bumped into both people that left after one match and some alongside which I played for a couple of hours. The main issue is that queuing with strangers renders it impossible to control which levels you can select. I can’t say that I figured out what determines the available choices but I did play the first level on easy and normal difficulties far more times than I would have liked.

The refuge plays an important role in Blightbound, although it’s also one of the areas in which the game shows that it has barely entered Early Access. In it, you can change your characters’ gear, distribute stat points, trade for new items, or craft better ones. The refuge also levels up as you progress through dungeons. A slightly frustrating limitation is that it blocks selecting heroes until you reach level 9, essentially forcing you to play random characters for a short while. While this encourages you to learn all three archetypes, it’s annoying to not be able to pick one hero you really want to play as. Even after reaching refuge level 9, you can only designate one hero per archetype, matchmaking automatically assigning you one of them when you start runs. If there’s a way to manually select the hero you want to go as it’s not made clear. In fact, Blightbound currently has an issue with the way in which it doles out information on its systems, the pop-ups that appear whenever you unlock something new not being enough to give a clear picture of all its moving parts.

Blightbound Early Access Preview, Screenshot

Blightbound is a gorgeous dungeon crawler that launches in Early Access with a polished combat system that makes slicing and dicing enemies quite fun. But as great as fight are, a handful of questionable design choices that make it hard to select the hero you want to play as and put you at a slight disadvantage when queuing with random players might put off people without a stable party. Keeping the amount of available content in mind, it’s a bit hard to see Blightbound becoming anyone’s main co-op game at the moment. However, what’s on offer shows a lot of promise that makes the game well worth keeping on your radar as it gets updated during its stay in Early Access.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Ronimo Games
Genres: Action, RPG
Themes: Fantasy, Dungeon Crawler
Release Date: 2020-07-29 (Early Access)

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