A long time coming, the turbulence suffered by Blood Knights as it journeyed to release has not gone unnoticed. Originally expected to arrive over a year ago financial troubles on behalf of dtp Entertainment, the videogame’s original publisher, embroiled developer Deck 13 in a long-winded struggle to launch their near-finished title. It fell to would-be heroes Kalypso Media to finally bring Blood Knights to consumers then; sadly just missing the Halloween launch it was so obviously reaching for. However, while timing may be important a good videogame will find an audience no matter when it arrives, and Blood Knights does well enough in this regard to earn a cult following.
The storyline is a surprisingly complex tale of vigilantism and vampire lore, with many liberties taken to present a darker, richer plot than Bram Stoker may have made room for. This isn’t capes and bats, this is corsets and magic; more True Blood than Christopher Lee. And that all important sex appeal isn’t lost on Deck 13 either, as one of the two characters players will enter the role of, Alysa, is as keenly buxom as a dozen Lara Crofts.
The two playable characters presented in Blood Knights – instantly switchable when playing solo or offered individually during co-operative gameplay – share similar physical stature but play very differently. Jeremy, a heavily armoured vampire hunter, is a close combat specialist. Combo-heavy and able to take a great deal of damage, Jeremy is the frontline in all combat situations, no matter the number or size of the enemy. Alysa, on the other hand, predominantly attacks at range. Aiming with the right analog stick and firing with the RB button, Alsya can take down weaker enemies with ease and damage heavy foes as they charge, but must be far keener with her evasion than Jeremy.
Both characters unlock a variety of attacks as the videogame progresses and for the most part the control system handles the variation well. The combos never really expand beyond entry level presentation but the opportunity to mix them with a variety of other attacks is enough to maintain interest. Further this with enemies that regularly command the player(s) to change tactics thanks to their varying abilities and you have a system which is enjoyable, if far from astounding.
The characters will level-up and earn skill points with which improvements or new abilities can be purchased; again, far from innovative but nicely presented. So too is the inventory system, allowing the player to gain new weapons and equipment that are pleasingly realised on the character models both in-game and during cutscenes. Less successful are the platform challenges, which are undeniably the weakest part of the videogame. The roaming camera can make for some tense combat, but in the same respect it frequently offers a poor viewpoint for the stretched leaping that Deck 13 have seen fit to demand of the player. The development may have seen the need for variety in the action, but choosing to rely on depth perception was a poor choice for a videogame that offers little on terms of visual signposting.
Blood Knights is a reasonable looking videogame; about a million miles from the Call of Dutys and Battlefields of this world and yet comfortable in its skin as a reasonably priced downloadable title. The skin textures are of a remarkably high standard and yet the character model animation lets them down significantly. The stuttering that afflicted many titles from the early days of current-generation gaming are evident here and it’s easy to suggest that motion-capture studios were not involved in the production of Blood Knights. The sound quality flitters between commendable and appalling, with a voice cast that appears to be hitting a sweet spot one minute and then phoning it in the next. It’s a mixed bag of technical quality, to say the least.
Despite its extensive delay, Blood Knights arrives on good form. It’s not the videogame that’s going to lure you away from the big hitters of the holiday season nor will it steal the thunder of the impending next-generation launches, but it’s enjoyable enough to provide a weekend’s entertainment while you await any of the above game changers. Blood Knights undoubtedly works best as a co-operative videogame, and if you’ve got a likeminded buddy waiting to go there are far worse titles you could invest your time, and money, in.