Blood of Heroes developer Vizor Games treated me to a preview of the new PvP melee before its open beta started swinging. I got to watch the developers in action, playing their own game. Then I was dropped into some 3v3 Brawls and 5v5 Domination matches to fend for myself.
I got the hang of the combat mechanics after a few beatings, but the difference in skill between the developers and myself was a good indication of the skill ceiling. While I don’t think the combat mechanics are as complex as a melee game like Naraka: Bladepoint, there is depth to battles and tactics are crucial. Team composition, attack timings, and positioning are all essential to winning.
The combat is described as Dark Souls meets For Honor. I’d say that’s pretty accurate. The combat mechanics are simple, but the nuances are going to take you time to feel out. You have a light attack, heavy attack, block, dodge, special character maneuver (kick, shield bash, parry), a special ability, and an ultimate ability. You can also chain attacks together to produce different attacks by running or dodging before you strike. The movement was a little heavier than I am used to, which at times made my character feel sluggish. But I got used to it fairly quickly.
Blood of Heroes will have three game modes available, a 1v1 Duel, 3v3 Brawl, and 5v5 Domination. I didn’t get to try a 1v1 fight, but it’s pitched as the ultimate test of skill. The Brawl is a round-by-round deathmatch where you need to eliminate the entire team to win the round. If you lose a round, you cannot use the heroes you lost with for the rest of the match. Domination is a team point capture battle set in a bigger arena.
Prepare to get messed up
Blood of Heroes is aptly named because the combat is bloody and brutal. When you’re facing just one opponent, you have the luxury of being patient and tactical. But when more than one enemy is looking to split your skull open, fights can get scrappy and messy. Keeping a cool head is going to be another skill you need to learn to master Blood of Heroes combat.
One of my favorite things in the game is the decision to include friendly fire. It’s not something you see very often in melee games, but it adds to the chaos of the fray and forces you to consider your teammates before swinging your blade. I may have knocked my teammates to the floor a few times by kicking them in the back.
Of the two game modes I played, I enjoyed Domination more. It has the feel of a proper battle. There are constantly people hacking and slashing around you while you attempt to capture and hold one of three points. It was chaotic and I never felt like I was being completely outplayed like in the Brawl.
In the Brawl, tactics are far more important. You need to pick a good combination of heroes, and then you need to play your role correctly. If you don’t coordinate well with your team, you’ll lose. This is one aspect of the game’s depth I was referring to earlier. The other is understanding the nuances of swinging your weapons and using your abilities.
Tap into your power
You begin the game with three characters to choose from, and there are an additional three you can purchase with in-game currency. You can also spend real money to get them quicker. But by completing quests and playing the game you will get them eventually. I was also told that there are three additional characters close to being ready and that the hero pool will be increased regularly.
Each character has a unique style. They fulfill a specific role, wield a unique weapon, and have unique abilities. For instance, there is a tank who uses a mace and shield. He can knock enemies down with an area of effect ground pound ability. He can also bash with his shield and cover himself in stone to absorb more damage. There is only one ranged hero who tosses spears. The rest are variations of damage dealers. Some provide healing, others burn everything, and one stuns enemies with a lightning axe. It’s a nice mix and you’ll have fun trying them all.
Get over here
I found the tank and ranged hero to be essential to winning. It might be because I didn’t have the necessary skills or tactical know-how, but I struggled to breach the tank’s defenses and I spent ages trying to run down the spearman. This was my biggest frustration in the Blood of Heroes preview, and I think it’s something the developer needs to consider. Players can run away from each other almost endlessly if you have no way to close the distance or stun them.
I would like to see each character get a limited-use piece of equipment they can use to help overcome their shortcomings. Something like a bola you could throw to trip an enemy. But you only get one or two per round. Or, if you’re the spearman, you might want a breakable wall you can put up to buy time.
One of the Brawl arenas had multiple levels to it. Just ledges and tables. I found it frustrating that the spearman could stand on top of these and hit me, while I had to run around to the ramps to get onto his level to be able to hit him. It gives him a massive advantage that will need to be watched closely.
What do you fight for?
There is a lot of customization and crafting in Blood of Heroes. You can put skins on your character, decorate and change the floor layout of your arena, and even change your character’s weapon to a different variant. Some of these things you pursue are purely cosmetic. Some will change the way your hero plays. And others will change the entire setting for a duel to force you to consider other mechanics, like ledges you can be kicked off. I was kicked off a few ledges to teach me about the dangers of fighting near cliffs.
All of these things you can craft will give you an incentive to wade back into the fray because you’ll earn more materials to craft more stuff. But that will only get you so far. I found myself wondering why I would continue to play the game once I became a proficient fighter.
This led me to ask about an overarching narrative for the game to give context to the battles. Vizor couldn’t reveal much about Blood of Heroes’ story. All I was told is that it is set in an afterlife much like Valhalla, but I was assured there are narrative elements that will be delivered through the winged figure in your hall. My hope is that will give you a reason to keep fighting.
The combat was enjoyable, and I wanted to grapple with it more to learn its nuances. And all the upgrades you can craft will keep you coming back for some time. Like many competitive games, Blood of Heroes will benefit a lot from more variety too. More characters, more arenas, and events (seasonal or otherwise) will all make the game feel more robust. I think that creating this feeling is essential to the longevity of Blood of Heroes.