There aren’t many co-op games being made nowadays. Sure, you can play with your buddies in a shooter, but sometimes you just want to play something different, but without having to resort to the singleplayer experience. Here we have Blightbound, a dungeon crawler that lets three friends hack and slash their way through the monsters of the Blight. The game is in early access, but it nevertheless feels fleshed out with a good amount of content for its launch, leaving me with a favorable impression of my experience.
Your goal as a Blightbound hero
There is fragments of story here and there, but you don’t need to know much about the plot. Here’s the chant: Many years ago, an evil being known only as the Shadow Titan was defeated by heroes that were legendary for their time. It was not known to them, however, that defeat was the Shadow Titan’s true plan all along. The world was plunged into total darkness due to the fracturing of the Sun, and the corpse of the giant spewed out a nauseous and corrupting fog known as the Blight. The result is that humanity’s last stand resides in the refuge, a mountaintop hideout that holds the only hope for mankind to reclaim their lost lands.
The refuge will serve as your base of operations. It is here that you will start your expeditions into the blighted lands below. Every party will have three members—either friends or randoms from matchmaking—with each person having an assigned class to play: warrior, assassin, and mage to act as tank, DPS, and healer, respectively. Each class has different heroes to pick from with different skills and abilities to use, but their roles will remain the same. Your destination are three environments: Gravemark, Underhold, and Blade’s Edge. Your goal: defeat the boss, rescue survivors, and collect loot. But most importantly, stay alive. Even on normal difficulty fights can go sour if one of your teammates don’t pull their weight. The warrior must block damage for his comrades, the assassin needs to deal damage as well as interrupt fatal blows from the enemy, and the mage has to heal the wounds the party will inevitably sustain. If one link is broken, the run will end in failure, and the expedition will fall to the Blight.
A respite from the Blight
Whether your dungeon run ended in success or failure, you will return to the refuge and be greeted by … well, nothing, most likely. At the start the refuge is almost completely barren of anything. It is your objective to rebuild it to its full potential by improving prosperity levels through methods such as recruiting heroes and rescuing survivors. Each level you reach will provide you with a reward like stat points. You will also be able to recruit artisans to gain access to new features at the refuge; the merchant unlocks a venue for purchasing goods and the occasional hero, while the blacksmith lets you use the forge to craft new items.
It is in the refuge that you are able to sort through and equip the loot you salvaged from your runs. The two main things you will be looking at are weapons and trinkets. The weapons you find can come in the form of a sword, a shield, a dagger, or a staff. Each weapon will have a specific amount of damage dealt (or, in the case of shields, percentage of damage blocked) and will possibly have modifiers such as an increase to health or a cooldown reduction to your skills. Trinkets also have modifers but are not class-specific. You can equip them on any hero of any class and stack trinkets of the same effects together. If you’d rather not rely solely on the loot you find from the merchant or dungeons, then crafting is your best bet. In the beginning you will only be able to forge items that are common drops, but as you gain more crafting materials, you can eventually create legendary items that are far superior to any generic equipment you could find.
Multiplayer-only: will it be okay?
There is one important detail that must be noted: this game does not support singleplayer. Each run must have three humans players and has no bots to fill in a slot. This decision is understandable when you consider the fact that the game’s dungeons have puzzles to solve and fights that would require a level of teamplay an AI would not be able to replicate. But for those without two other friends to play with, what can they do? Sure, there is a matchmaking feature, but many who would play this game would most likely already have friends to play with. And those who opt to play with randoms will be challenged with the lack of communication a friend with voice chat has. There is an in-game text chat, but no one will be chatting in the middle of a fierce boss fight. My worry is that this game will become even better than it already is, but, years later, will you still be able to matchmake with people? The only reliable way, now and in the future, to play this game is to do so with two friends that you trust.
Still, it is not as if singleplayer is the superior way to play this game. I definitely had a lot of great moments that I would never have experienced the same way if my partners were two soulless bots. One of the dungeons in Underhold had an elevator sequence where my friends and I were forced to fight for our lives in a frenzy of searing lasers and hordes of monsters. It may have been but a few minutes, but it felt like an infernal hour of screaming and metaphorical tear-letting as we struggled to avoid being either burnt or mauled to death. And in a boss fight in the Gravemark, we had a incessant issue of being downed by either the boss herself or her endless horde of writhing orb spawns. The fight ended with two of us downed and our psychotic assassin risking it all by going full DPS on the boss with no regards to how much health he had left. I have no idea how we won that fight.
As of the current state of this game, it’s good. I may be biased due to the fact the game reminds me of Torchlight and Darkest Dungeon, but I definitely would’ve still had fun even if I somehow played this game alone. There were bugs and issues we’ve encountered, but our runs have been smooth overall. Ronimo Games is a reputable developer, so I trust in them to hammer out any problems and introduce new additions to the game. Blightbound is a fun game for people like me who want something to co-op with their buddies with; I look forward to my future forays into its dungeons.
You can get this game from Steam here.