Nice Visuals, Mechanically Bankrupt
Taking a quick glance at King’s Blood: The Defense and you might mistake it for Darkest Dungeon, but this strategy game by DAWINSTONE doesn’t play like its artistic inspiration. Visually speaking, King’s Blood: The Defense looks good, though lacking in finer details. That’s all it has to offer, unfortunately.
What King’s Blood: The Defense reveals is good looking games don’t translate to good gameplay. Aside from poorly constructed and boring mechanics, the game has the audacity to add in gacha systems. With this game in your hands, I promise that you too will have a hard time fighting sleep.
Poor Writing Wasted on Good Artwork
As soon as King’s Blood: The Defense starts you’re given a history lesson on where the game takes place, the land of Isylvania. A nameless demon hands over immortality and powers to the lord of the Isylvania, Vlad, and he uses it to his advantage. And this is where my first gripe begins: the writing.
The opening trailer does very little to set up your reason for playing, aside from introducing the “nameless demon.” The little history lesson feels more like an optional story to seek out and add context to your actions, not something you lead with. Such a shame considering the static art used is really great, and I’d love to see it in a graphic novel, but the writing reads like a rough draft.
The game’s dialogue is excruciating to read. It doesn’t matter if a demon, human, or undead creature is talking, I’m not convinced people would ever utter these words in such a way. Characters tell you their entire life story and ambitions as soon as you meet them in these long-winded walls of text. If I wanted that, I’d go watch anime.
To make matters worse, the character you pick already has their own backstory. It’s conflicting because you’re given the opportunity to create a character—only gender and hair style—as if it’s your story to command. Why bother altering appearance if the backstory is already written?
Let the Bodies Hit the Floor
If I had to describe gameplay with a single word, it would be boring. Combat is simple: every time you march, you face off against five waves of enemies. At your disposal are a handful of different troops such as infantry, spearmen, cavalry, archers, heroes, priests, and a catapult. The opposition has the same kind of troops.
Each class has advantages and disadvantages based on the enemy they’re facing off against. For example, sending cavalry to attack a row of spearmen will give the spearmen an attack advantage. Likewise, if you sent your infantry after spearmen, your infantry would gain the advantage—spears are useless in close combat.
The game wants you to strategize on which line of troops to send first because you’ll have to wait a few seconds before you can send another line. What I found was that it didn’t matter in the slightest. Advantages and disadvantages gave such a small bonus that sending the wrong troops was negligible.
Strategy is rendered useless, more so than it already is, in Conquest, a mode where you face off against bosses for gear for your character. In Conquest, the opposition can summon allies just as you can when one or more of your troops go down. What it boils down to is a tug of war, void of any strategy, a game of who can throw bodies faster.
More Gacha Tactics
In order to summon troops, you need bloodstones. These can be picked up playing the game, and even more during Conquest. You also need bloodstones to reinforce your troops should a few fall in battle.
Very early on, buying troops is cheap. However, as you progress through the game, enemies get tougher and troops get more expensive to maintain. This means if you were to use up all of your troops and bloodstones, you can’t summon more during battle. And your character can’t handle the waves of enemies by himself or herself.
Now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. The amount of bloodstones you get per battle is pitiful compared to the amount you need to keep your army healthy. More often than not you’ll be left wondering if you should buy bloodstones or stop playing. I recommend the latter.
Like a Dose of Narcolepsy
Is the game nice to look at? Sure. The artwork, especially the sketching, is what originally caught my attention. By no means is it unique (Darkest Dungeon certainly did it better), but credit where credit is due. Aside from the art, King’s Blood: The Defense is yet another game that injects microtransactions into a game that, quite frankly, doesn’t utilize it well.
For a game that labels itself a “strategy,” I did very little of it. In fact, I spent more time finding clever ways to stay awake than strategizing. King’s Blood: The Defense is like a mean does of narcolepsy.
Is it Hardcore?
Not even close.
King’s Blood: The Defense lacks a rewarding combat system and a compelling story. While the artwork deserves its own rating of 3.5 stars, it can’t save this game. You’d get more enjoyment out of watching paint dry.