God is dead, his rotting flesh is poison now, it’s no longer a mystery. The road ahead is long, dark and dangerous, and if you stumble, it’s not your humanity that is at stake, but everyone else’s humanity.
Blood of Alder, developed by Shockwork Games and published by No Gravity Games, is a dark western game that has the same tone as Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and the unspeakable horrors of Lovecraft. In this adventure of secret tactics, you slip into the role of the chief, the leader of the hunting clan and a good friend of the duke, a man who has been seen in promotional material for game. The first duke is missing, and you and your hunter friends are ready to find him. Your research will take you to a hill surrounded by beasts, and the result seems grim.
Here you start by explaining the mechanics of combat. Each of the hunters in your group carries two weapons, a large one, such as an axe, sword or rifle, and a small dagger. If more weapons do more damage, the best strategy is often to hold on to the knife and execute the knives. If the enemy is attacked from behind, he will be eliminated with one blow, giving you the choice to kill him or run away. But the blood of the alder is a balancing act, and it won’t be long before it becomes visible.
Every action of the hunter is worth the risk – from throwing stones to distracting the beast to breaking cover. It’s hard to decide how to use each hunter most effectively, but it’s important if you want to get out alive. By taking hunters to a higher level, you can increase their chances of success in the field, give them more chances to be criticized as amateurs or reduce the smell of their journey to a certain distance. Because, yeah, there’s a mechanic in this game by the smell. And that’s not the only incentive you have to create. Animals are not only sensitive to smell, but also to noise. This makes the use of any firearm risky. In addition, there are enemies called Rexclaimers who sound the alarm to warn their countrymen when they see you.
The secret is vital for survival in the blood of Alder. Avoiding detection makes the whole mission easier, but there are also enemies against whom you simply don’t stand a chance. Moreover, killing enemies gives more power to the darkness with which you try to fight and banish it, which only a hunter can do, and it costs a lot of money. This work is bearing fruit and each hunter will become increasingly corrupt over time, forcing him to develop weaknesses for different types of attack or damage. If you hunt animals, they collapse even faster. So you often find yourself in a kind of rock and in a difficult situation when you find out if the hunter can fire another shot or if the animal is really worth it.
Because of their speed, hunters are not designed to take all the game with them. You can recruit new people for your group thanks to the camp system, which is in fact your universal hunting centre. But attracting hunters isn’t cheap – it costs money. Wealth is built up by collecting garbage during the camp and happiness, or by rewarded tasks. There are also many factors to juggle, because camping is worth the food, and you risk an ambush if you don’t set up guards. But missionary travel also consumes your resources – it’s also a matter of compensation.
Once the hunter is not about to return, or if you just have a new recruit you want to bring to power, you can make a sacrifice. Only hunters with more experience than the one you want to strengthen can be sacrificed, but this will transfer their strength and hopefully give the newcomers a chance to finally rest. But hunters aren’t the only people you’re dealing with.
Despite a few low star dialogues, the Alsace blood has permeated a deep and interesting world with its own set of political and social norms. As you continue your quest to stop the darkness, you meet the faction leaders of this society and decide how to deal with them. Although this is clearly not the power of the boss, it is crucial to build strong alliances with those who really have the power in this world, since hunters are seen as little more than exiles.
It seems a bit overwhelming to put everything on the screen. But one of the strengths of this game is that although it has so many interconnected systems, it never seems too big. Over time, new wrinkles are added to the systems so you can adjust before more is thrown at you. Things can always be difficult, don’t get me wrong, but it’s part of the fun. Figuring out how to maneuver on a mission, deciding which of your hunters can go further and which are too far away, creating friendship or rivalry with factions – all this makes this world feel like a real place with real problems and people who deal with them in a very humane way. There are as many helpers as there are people who want to use these dark times to their own advantage. It’s up to the boss and his team to find out what’s left of it, and that gives the game the overall excitement it deserves.
And it was fair enough to retain my involvement. As I said before, some of the dialogues are not very good (many of the conversations just don’t seem natural), but the construction of the world as a whole and the bets more than make up for that. When it comes to multi-level systems, things are always interesting. God may be dead, but the world of the old people is alive and well.
PC code for alder blood tests, provided by the publisher.
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