Another journey into the macabre, where your worst enemy is the wind.
Dark fantasies of the macabre have become a genre all their own in recent years. The release of Bloodborne brought about a flood of entries that wanted to embody that sort of weird that comes from grim stories of werewolves, vampires, and other sinister creatures from our nightmares. In that same vision comes a turn-based, stealth-strategy title, originally launched on Kickstarter, that mixes mechanics from titles such as XCOM and Darkest Dungeon.
Alder’s Blood is the journey of a group of monster hunters who travel the world distinguishing all forms of non-human life. These hell-spawn were created from the murder of this world’s god — done in by his own worshippers. Now plunged into turmoil, it is up to this fellowship to fight off the evil. Though it lacks a bit of the depth of lore we have become used to in these sorts of experiences, it still offers an interesting tale that you can get fully immersed into.
As you move through this world and gather up quests, you will find yourself completing objectives on the field of play in order to receive whatever rewards you are seeking out. Stealth is going to be your best friend, as going in guns-blazing will usually find you resetting as your party is decimated. This game is hard, with one-hit kills becoming the norm, so avoidance and tactical assassination will need to become your method of choice. This toughness is perpetuated by a wind-based mechanic that can ruin a run quickly. Depending on the way the wind blows, your scent can be pushed towards an enemy unit, at complete random. Nothing shows where the wind is about to turn, as it sporadically changes on a whim. Because of this, you will find yourself making the same decisions with different results, based purely on this mechanic, which isn’t great. The AI for the enemy unit also is a bit off, as they are easily fooled. You can literally charge up to a werewolf, stab it, and run into a bush in front of it, to which it will simply look around puzzled before returning to its scheduled path.
Managing your party is just as important as entering the battlefield, as making sure you have plenty of supplies on hand will be crucial to your progression. Besides the basic necessities of food, weapon crafting, and a full pocketbook, you will also need to worry about your hunter’s longevity in terms of mental stability. Much like the stress function in Darkest Dungeon, you will need to allow for breaks from combat, and occasional a return to base, for your party members, in order for them to not lose their minds. A sacrifice can also be conducted if things take a turn for the worse, in which one hunter can absorb the attributes of a fallen compatriot, rather than letting them turn on the party altogether. Although tough at times to manage, there is nothing tricky to this system. As long as you’re keeping an eye on it, it shouldn’t be an insurmountable task.
The aesthetic found in Alder’s Blood is one that feels just right. The use of bold colors and comic-book-style, stained glass pieces during cutscenes, along with the hand-drawn art throughout make for an experience that feels like moving through some form of horrific painting. Musically, the somber tracks build the suspense as you creep your way from bush to bush.
All in all, Alder’s Blood has all the right parts. Gameplay is solid, with an interesting story, and a variety of mechanics that keep things interesting. However, the difficulty being tied so closely to RNG-based wind means sometimes it really blows to try and finish up a quest. Matching that with inconsistent AI and you have an overall package that falls a tad short of the high expectations. A few minor changes could make this a really special variation on the Bloodborne formula.