Set in a faraway universe, 8 pirate-airships are being pitted against each other in a Japanese style game show. With points up for grabs and pride on the line, who will be named champion of the arena at the end of the competition.
To capture as many points as you can and move up the leaderboards, The Freelancer, a.k.a you, need to take on various events and challenges. This can be in the form of racing against fellow contestants, using your ship to weave around floating rocks and island or take on open world challenges and coming up against one of the contestants there. Bow to Blood has a lot to offer to keep you fighting for that top spot.
When starting the game, you are introduced to your ship right behind its controls. With an easy tutorial on how to set the ships assets and controls, you are pretty much ready to set off. When released, you may feel some motion sickness, as it takes a bit of getting used to. Also, as the ship is not actually on the ocean surface and is in ‘space’, I would recommend turning the inverted axis on to make it feel more like an aircraft. This helped me drastically with the motion sickness.
When you finally reach the start of the competition, you are introduced to the other contestants and the rules are read out to you. The great aspect about Bow to Blood is that the other contestants are not only your rivals, but they can also provide you with assistance, bonuses for rounds and even help you become champion. However, depending on how you converse with your fellow contestants can affect how they ‘repay’ you. Bad communication will lead to possible sabotage of your airship or it could mean an even deadly gift, their support at critical times.
If you are struggling in the events, races and other encounters, you will not gain enough points to elevate yourself up the leaderboard and crown yourself as champion. The bottom 2 after every major event will then be entered into an elimination round. Here the rest of the AI will then go into a voting stage and decide who they feel is not worthy of remaining in the league. Here is where building relationships with your fellow opposition becomes key. At times, you can negotiate beforehand and swing the vote in your favour, but ultimately, you get outvoted, you lose. The game will force you out pretty early as a lesson, but its what you after that counts. If you fight hard and win big, you can work your way through the board and ultimately become the best.
Graphically the game is okay and does the job. The ship looks good and that’s where you are pretty much-seeing plat in the middle of the screen. Taking damage to your ship will show fires and cracks. Depending on how you received the damage, it may knock out health, shield or damage given. When in the arena, the monitor will show whats going and has a JRPG look. This is done good enough to keep you engaged in the game show and other contestants. Enemies look basic, but regardless they’re there to do a job and more of a pest while playing. In the downtime between events, you are sent to your quarters to either do more negotiations or save your game. In here you can see a few achievements you’ve earned or prepare for your next expedition. Other than that, There is not much more to do here.
The gameplay is gripping when you have the desire to be champion, as you are constantly reminded the presenter that this is what you must become. It does feel like an old-school game show and I liked that. Another aspect of the game which is interesting is the ship and its maintenance. With two crew members, you decide where the strengths of your ship should be. Deciding where they should g can determine if you will have an easier event or a hard fought one. You can select each member with the L1 and R1 buttons and have them on one of many positions. First, one being at the front of the ship firing from the advanced weapons. This gives you a hand fighting off enemies and mining resource that can be scattered around some levels. Another position is on the shields, which lets you bulk up your armour and its repair rate. So, when taking on the harder enemies, you’re able to just sit there more or less instead of having to manoeuvre or fly around to take them on. Another option is drones, which help you in your events. These take out opponents and targets that are key to earning points and at the end of the day, points mean prizes. Selecting the engine position will give you the possibility of boosting and having more mobility on the map. This is great from getting one end of the map to another or escaping or attacking enemy positions. Whilst I played, I tend to use the support on drones and advanced weapons as it really turned the tide in battles and helped out when things got really hairy.
This game is good enough to play while there is a void in the market. What I mean by this is that it is a good game that keeps you entertained with its RPG elements. The negotiations you have with the other contestants bring different dialogues of play and makes you feel that any decision can make the game change in many ways. Ship management is fun and depending on the situation and event, it can really become key in your quest to become champion. My only negative which is a worry is the motion sickness. The first thirty minutes to an hour was a very difficult one as mentioned above. I don’t really suffer from motion sickness and it has never really affected me in the past, but this has. However, with a simple tweak of the settings and a bit of getting used to, I felt more comfortable afterwards. If you do suffer from this in previous games, maybe this won’t be your cup of tea, as it does take its toll on the stomach.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*