Bloodwood Reload Review
Bloodwood Reload Review
A mystery-adventure for PC/Windows that's free but flawed
Posted: 10/31/15 | Category: Review | Developer: Luminy Studios in collaboration with the Ice House Indie Artist's Collective | Platform: Windows

Genre: Mystery-Adventure
Release date: October 31, 2015 (Zodiac Store, itch.io, Game Jolt); November 2, 2015 (Steam)

In 2008, Luminy Studios released a short game called Bloodwood, created with Adventure Maker. The cost to players? $0.00.

Bloodwood Reload represents a retooling of Bloodwood in real-time 3D using the Unity Engine. The Reload version is also short; it can be completed in 30 minutes to an hour. But it costs nothing as well.

Navigation is via keyboard and mouse and is quite simple: WASD (or arrow) keys to move, and mouse for direction.

For me, the game is more of a mystery than a horror game. I do admit that I have a rather high horror threshold. The game has no overt scares, although it does have at least one jump-scare. For me, jump-scares don't scare. They startle. There's a difference.

While Bloodwood Reload is enjoyable in many respects it also has quite a few bugs, at least one of which is serious. More about this in a few minutes.

Story
 

The game has you stepping into the shoes of Frank Bates, sent by a logging company to a village surrounded by trees that have blood-red wood. You are to acquire rights to the forest on the company's behalf.

Instead, you're told that strange things happen in the village, that it's haunted by an ancient legend and that you'd be wise to leave immediately. But you stick around (of course) and become caught up in the strangeness.  

I wish the game could have been longer. It has an intriguing story and I would have loved to see it more developed. Just as I was really getting into it, the game ended. 

Audio and Visuals
  

The atmosphere/ambience of Bloodwood Reload is quite effective. You hear the sound of crickets, the wind whistles through the trees, birds squawk in the distance and insects buzz around street lamps. Occasionally, a wolf will howl. Big patches of fog drift around. I enjoyed just standing in the village, watching and listening to everything.

The town's buildings have a rustic, well-worn look that conveys a sense of days gone by. The game's music is also appealing. It's used sparingly and to great effect, and enhances what's occurring on-screen quite nicely.

Dialog is text-only; there are no voice-overs. This is where I began to encounter problems.

Bugs and Issues
  

Unfortunately, the text has typos, misspellings and errors in both grammar and syntax. Example: "She does not avert his gaze from the bottles."

When dialog consists of multiple parts, you're given a limited amount of time to move things along by clicking on the text. If you fail to do this, the game moves on without you. 

I discovered this when, in the middle of a conversation, I suddenly had to leave my computer for a few minutes. When I returned, not only had the dialog completed itself; the character with whom I had been speaking had given me something that ended up in inventory.

There was no way for me to tell I'd been given anything unless I happened to open inventory, which is something I had no reason to do just then. Moreover, there was no way to repeat the dialog I'd missed unless I started the game over (I hadn't yet done a save).

Speaking of which, Bloodwood Reload has six save slots. Considering the brevity of the game, I don't consider this a hardship.

Visually, the game is quite dark in spots. In two instances, I could barely see items I needed to pick up.

The teaser trailer that accompanies this review is about twice as bright as the game is. There are no options for adjusting brightness, contrast or gamma settings, so if you have trouble seeing the game, you might want to adjust your monitor's display settings.

It's in one of these dark areas that I stumbled across a game-breaking bug. There's a river running past the village, and I managed to slide down its embankment -- which I shouldn't have been able to do -- and into the river. Except there was no river. I ended up in a dry riverbed with no way out. I couldn't even exit the way I'd gone in; the riverbank was too steep. Game over.

I was able to replicate this bug three times, but I'm sure it won't be happening to everyone. I completed several playthroughs before I first encountered it. Just stay away from the river where it runs past the village's church and you should be okay.

There are several spots where story can become a little disjointed. In one of my playthroughs, one of the NPCs was in two places at the same time. In another, events unfolded in the wrong order. Had I not already completed the game several times, this could have generated confusion. But again, I don't think everyone will encounter these particular bugs.

I've let Luminy know about the game-breaker along with other bugs I've encountered. I'm told that a patch will be forthcoming at some point but for now, what you see is what you get.

Final Thoughts
  

So, how to grade this game? As it's free, I can live with the smaller bugs. For instance, even though the text/dialog can be messed up, it's possible to get the gist of it.

Unfortunately, however, I feel that Bloodwood Reload's positive aspects are overshadowed by its more serious bugs. As I've mentioned, not everyone will experience them.

With this game, Luminy Studios has demonstrated skill in graphic artistry, atmosphere and story-telling. I believe this developer has the chops to create a truly outstanding game, and it's my hope that Luminy will move forward and do just that with its next one.

But alas, in its current state, I'm unable to give Bloodwood Reload anything higher than a C-. With a patch that fixes the game's bugs as well as its errors in grammar, spelling and syntax, I'd bump it up to a B.

Bloodwood Reload is currently available as a free digital download from Zodiac Storeitch.io and Game Jolt. It will be available November 2, 2015 on Steam

 
Great atmosphere/ambience
Imaginative (though underdeveloped) story
Appealing music and graphics
It's free
 
Extremely short
Released with known bugs, including a potential game-breaker
Errors in spelling, grammar and syntax
Visually dark with no way to adjust brightness, contrast or gamma settings
 
 Logo
 
 
Trailer:
 
System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC (confirmed with Luminy as correct):
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD equivalent
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX 9c compliant card with at least 1024MB of VRAM
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Hard Drive: 1 GB available space
 
Specials from Digital Download
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