Blood and Pixels
Developed by Shengqu Games and Immortal Studio, Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire is the latest title from Crunchyroll Games. While inspired by a manga, the turn-based gacha RPG doesn’t have a direct connection to any shows on the streaming service. However, if the game is indicative of the books, I can’t say I’m looking forward to the anime.
Crunchyroll’s latest game opens with a chance encounter between the vampire princess Lilo and the sibling Ren and Leah. She promptly reveals to Ren his sister Leah is a ghost, something he was apparently unaware of. Before he can process this reveal, a team of monster hunters attacks the group. Not fully understanding what he’s getting into, Ren forms a pact with Lilo, offering his blood for her protection. The trio then embarks on a quest to escape the forces of the Holy Land and aid in Lilo’s search for her father.
Players form a party of six characters and command them in turn-based battles. These include five from the player’s collection and one borrowed from another player via a matchmaking system. Each character has a standard attack, a Skill and a Captain Ability. Skills are unique to each character and include buffs, self or group healing and area of effect attacks. These Skills can be extremely useful but consume a limited supply of Action Points. Players will therefore need to consider when to deploy Skills and possibly base their party composition around it. Finally, Captain abilities are passive, party-wide buffs that characters grant when placed in the center spot of the party formation.
Warriors of the Night
Bloodline splits its characters into different classes and elements. Classes include the damage-dealing Warriors, Assassins and Marksmen, Clerics for healing and buffing, and Mages who specialize in area-of-effect spells. Most elements follow the usual rock-paper-scissors of strengths and weaknesses, while Light and Dark deal extra damage to each other. Overall, it’s a standard setup, and the pseudo-co-op mechanic doesn’t shake things up much. Bloodline features various events and modes, including PvP, but if the combat doesn’t grab you, you probably won’t care for those either. Bloodline’s combat definitely gets the job done and can be very satisfying at times, but does little to set itself apart.
However, I was more interested in Bloodline’s Evolution mechanic. When certain characters reach their level cap, players can spend rare materials to Evolve them into a new form. Doing so increases their stats, star level and level cap and changes their portrait. The visual differences aren’t always drastic, but it adds something to the “card collecting” aspect of gacha games.
Of course, we can’t talk about a gacha game without looking at the unlockable character themselves. Each has a pixel art sprite and an anime-style portrait. The former look great, are well animated and are visually distinct enough to be identified at a glance. However, the portraits are less impressive. The quality varies from character to character, the art style is inconsistent, and a few faces dip into uncanny valley territory.
What Could Have Been
Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with Bloodline’s story. This is partly because of how the game frequently sprints past events in a way that robs them of any weight. The protagonists also lack any real agency, fighting a revolving door of cartoonish villains until they randomly blunder into a plot point. You can also add personalities to the things that Bloodline’s characters lack. I honestly can’t remember anything about Ren other than that he likes his sister, and he’s supposed to be our main character.
The worst part is that Ren and Leah could have been great characters. A typical high school student stumbling into a war between vampires and religious fanatics should be interesting. If the game started before they met Lilo, then Leah secretly being a ghost could have been an intriguing twist. However, the game doesn’t seem interested in exploring these concepts or making sure it’s characters act in a believable way. Bloodline tries to wring some pathos out of them further down the line, but it is too little, too late.
And before anyone thinks I’m expecting too much from a gacha game, Studiobeside’s Counterside had a relatively strong narrative focus. And while the writing was not perfect, the developers did a good job of getting players emotionally invested in its characters. I’d also cite games like Figure Fantasy and RPG Dice: Heroes of Whitestone as additional examples. All three games also had the benefit of marrying their plots to engaging gameplay.
Despite my criticisms, I don’t think Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire is necessarily a bad game. None of its flaws have to be dealbreakers, and I can imagine someone liking it. However, the overall experience is just mediocre, and Bloodline does little to stand out amid Google Play’s crowded landscape of gacha RPGs.
Is It Hardcore?
Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire is a functional turn-based Gacha RPG. However, the story falls flat and the gameplay does little to make it stand out from the crowd.