Review: Vengeance Is Fast and Brutal in Bloodroots
At this point, the western themed revenge epic is a tale as old as modern cinema. There have certainly been a few video games that tackled the subject, but none quite like Bloodroots. Made in a style that is a little Tarantino, and a little Leone with some Hotline Miami thrown in, Bloodroots is a story about revenge where not everything is as it seems—but you’ll have to fight your way through hundreds of bandits, soldiers, and even your crew to get answers.
Bloodroots is a top-down weapons-based brawler with some shoot ‘em up elements. You play as Mr. Wolf, hell bent on revenge after you were betrayed by your crew and left for dead. You’ve tracked them down to enact your revenge, and will kill whatever stands in your way—with whatever means necessary. Mr. Wolf doesn’t just use his fists, but many different weapons, including whatever debris he can get his hand on. One hit and you’re dead, so you have to be quick, and clever.
The different weapons you can pick up range from axes to futuristic Gatling guns—and everything in-between. Everything in-between sometimes includes whatever you can pick up, like fish or a hockey stick—and these weapons, though ridiculous, are effective. Weapons can’t be used forever, though. Each weapon has a use limit, usually one to three hits, before you have to find another. This makes for dynamic gameplay where you’re always looking for the next weapon. Weapons don’t just do damage, either—they change the way you attack, and move. Some of these objects you pick up work like pole vaults to get you to higher locations. There are weapon archetypes, so every single object isn’t’ going to give you a unique interaction—for instance, saber and cow skulls both give you a dash attack, though sabers last for three attacks as opposed to the cow skull’s single attack. Weapons are essential if you’re dealing with a group of enemies. If you’re just using your fists, Mr. Wolf takes longer to recover and that leaves him wide open for attack.
Blood Roots takes place in a wild west that isn’t quite like ours. Since the story is told from the perspective of Mr. Wolf, I can’t say if these oddities really exist or not. Mr. Wolf is an unreliable narrator, after all. But in addition to futuristic, laser shooting Gatling guns there are objects that exist that make no sense in a wild west setting. This can be chalked up to wackiness—but these odd props set a tone that is at odds with the narrative, which is surprisingly dark. I won’t get into story spoilers, but there’s even a sort of “No Russian” moment that is surprisingly dark for a game that takes a light hearted approach to its violence. And Bloodroots is a surprisingly violent game, especially with its close-up kills—the last enemy in an area that is defeated is treated to an extra brutal coup-de-grace. While never gory, there’s plenty of blood.
Bloodroots is a challenging game. One hit, and you have to replay the entire previous section. There are a variety of enemies to end your playthrough, though they mostly fall into four categories: those without weapons, those with weapons, ranged enemies, and enemies on fixed positions like the futuristic energy turrets. There are also boss fights for each of the crew members you’re chasing down. These boss fights were some of my favorite parts of the game—and while they’re just as unforgiving as the rest of the game, at least there are checkpoints in between major phases of the fight. Dying won’t set you back to the beginning, which is good, because these fights can be pretty damn long and difficult.
Bloodroots is a stylish action game that I really enjoyed, even though it can feel repetitive. It has a ton of parallels to Hotline Miami, including an enigmatic and compelling reason to keep up with the violence—to find out what the mystery is. While I would love to say that the answer to that was extremely compelling, it was, unfortunately, something I saw coming a mile away. Even so, I was hoping for a payoff that just never came, and Bloodroots ended up on a haunting, melancholy note.
While not a perfect game, Bloodroots is a very good game. I would have liked to have a more satisfying conclusion, but its story was something I definitely had to see to the end. As revenge stories go, Bloodroots isn’t anything too unique. As action gameplay goes, it’s fast and brutal and a whole lot of fun.
Bloodroots is available now on Steam and the Epic Game store as well as on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
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