Who doesn’t love a heavy dose of gothic fantasy mixed with a sprinkle of blasphemy? Well, I do, and that’s probably why I felt right at home with Alder’s Blood: Definitive Edition. If you then account for the blend of genres, you get a theoretical concoction that’s extremely moreish, challenging, and rewarding.
Developed by Shockwork Games and published by No Gravity Games, this is a stealth turn-based strategy title. Set in a dark and desolate world, you are an outsider who is destined to save humanity. It has elements of XCOM to enjoy, but it leans towards stealth and melee action, as opposed to all-out warfare. Moreover, resource management is a key factor and progress is often thwarted if you fail to balance your approach.
Alder’s Blood is deceptively simple.
It didn’t take me long to fall for the dark theme of Alder’s Blood. There was something truly wonderful about its rudimentary communities and twisted plot. Furthermore, its combination of turn-based strategy, visual novel dialogue, and resource and team management were all hidden behind the user-friendly gameplay. It was deceptively simple to pick up, but it soon became a minefield and deadly juggling act.
The story revolves around a group of exiles known as Hunters. This band of non-humans is the result of mankind’s greed and destruction of their God. As the holy corpse lies rotting, darkness ebbs and flows through the world. Evil entities are born, and the Hunters materialise to restore order. Mankind does not understand how it began this war, nor do they welcome their saviours. As Chief, you are the leader of your group of warriors. You must complete quests, balance resources, and ultimately survive.
Many fingers in many pies!
Alder’s Blood is extremely deep at its core and demands an eye for detail and your full attention. The main action flits between visual novel dialogue and turn-based combat. You must travel from node to node on a 2D map to undertake quests, or gather resources. As you encounter new people or continue the story, you experience some well-written text full of lore. I loved how relationships formed between the Hunters and the community, and there was a sense of political turmoil and the social divide was plain to see. This style helped to build empathy for the protagonists and kept you interested throughout.
The turn-based combat captures some well-trodden mechanics, but it has some fresh elements as well. Each battle utilises a team of three heroes that have guns, swords, daggers, throwing knives, and more. The aim is to complete each goal in the stealthiest way! You are free to make as much noise as you wish, but it’ll end in tears, so I don’t advise it.
The developers regularly dropped in new monsters for you to tackle, and this makes planning a nightmare. These screaming, slashing, and evil entities love nothing more than to kill you. Subsequently, staying undiscovered is a key tactic. This would be easy if it wasn’t for their keen sense of smell and the wind blowing your scent around. You must observe the direction of your odour and stay downwind of your enemies. Sadly, it’s a tactical nightmare and therefore is much harder than it first appears.
More fingers, more pies.
The mechanics don’t stop there though! No, you must craft weapons, manage food, rest your warriors, level them up, and finally sacrifice them when they become too corrupted. You see, fighting world-ending monsters takes its toll and eventually, each hunter must lay down its life for another. This was heart-wrenching when you lost a brave soul, but it also bolstered any recruit, so every cloud has a silver lining.
Levelling your hunters can be confusing as you pick from an array of available perks. Do you increase health, gathering abilities, or make them less greedy? It’s a minefield and one I never got comfortable with. It was never clear to me how each decision impacted the balance of the team, and perhaps the developers could have improved this mechanic.
Starving is as bothersome and disastrous as tackling the ungodly entities. Every action costs you food, and it’s truly challenging to get the balance right. Fortunately, however, you can spend your hard-earned silver on supplies, but if you misjudge your needs, there is no turning back.
Alder’s Blood is wonderfully dark.
Shockwork Games have beautifully combined gothic visual novel stills with a dark isometric viewpoint. This creates a wonderfully structured approach while maintaining the free-flowing action. Furthermore, the battle screen is well designed with an excellent UI and tactical elements are easily tackled. A 6th sense allows you to find hidden enemies, while their line of sight is clearly displayed. You also have visibility of the direction of the wind and your scent trail. Fortunately, these visual aids help to manage the action, but they don’t reduce the difficulty. Gamers who love a challenging experience will love what Alder’s Blood offers.
The sinister and oppressive nature of the gameplay is enhanced thanks to the brilliant audio. The background music flits between slow, sombre tunes and upbeat moments of success. I adored the combination of sounds that helped to sell the bizarre story. However, I wasn’t so impressed with the protagonist’s limited noises. The repetitive one-word answers quickly became an annoyance. I didn’t expect full-blown monologues, but this minimalist approach was disappointing.
Surprisingly easy to play.
As the game opens, it gives an overwhelming impression because of its thorough tutorial. Fortunately, however, the aforementioned excellent UI makes it surprisingly easy to play. I loved how quickly I picked up the fundamentals, and this allowed me to focus on the finer tactical elements. Furthermore, the excellent button mapping and responsive controls make it a pleasure to play.
Strategy games are renowned for their longevity and replay value; Alder’s Blood is no different. With multiple hunters to hire and level up, many side quests, and the main story to complete, this is a massive title. You’ll love how the story unfolds and the expansive nature of the missions. Subsequently, completionists must invest many hours to complete this.
Alder’s Blood is an excellent stealth strategy title.
It was refreshing to experience a new approach to the turn-based strategy genre. Many developers focus on the brilliance of XCOM, however, Alder’s Blood forges its own path. I loved the stealth elements and the resource management layers that add depth to the story. It’s a tough game that is borderline sadomasochistic, but this is part of its allure. I enjoyed it and recommend you to buy it here! Can you save mankind from the darkness, or will humanity get what it deserves?