Alder’s Blood Impression
Alder’s Blood is not a game for people who grow overly attached to their party characters.
In the dim and damned world of Alder’s Blood, God is dead. Humanity has been paying for that transgression ever since. For from the putrid fumes of that numinous corpse arise darkness and the terrors which stalk within it. Twice before have hordes of ravening beasts come to cleanse the world in blood and fire, and twice have the forces of Man repelled them: once with blades of steel and once with bullets of lead.
That won’t be enough for the coming Third Flood.
So, we have established the mood of this game: grim, grisly, dark. Everything about the setting in Alder’s Blood reflects a growing decadence, a rot within human society that will end it as surely as a beastly monster’s claws. The player takes command of a caravan of hunters, those strange folk who walk like men, talk like men, and yet are not. Theirs is the strange strength to do battle with the things in the darkness, though never without cost.
This is a tactical title, but the essence of the setting takes it in weird directions. Very rarely is an objective as simple as “kill all monsters,” in large part because it’s a huge assumption that the party will be able to kill all the monsters in a stage. Sneaking, flanking, and running like hell tend to be the order of the day, with experience points handed out to those who survive the mission, rather than for the kills.
The game’s opening tutorial expresses this brilliantly as the player witnesses a hunter named Duke make his way past monsters. A few he kills, but most he distracts with the sound of pebbles thrown. Careful steps does he take to ensure that he remains hidden in the bushes, and that his scent does not carry to the noses of inquisitive (and hungry) beasts. This is a game that includes body odor as a stat like any other, and the need to be concerned about standing downwind changes how one approaches tactics.
It’s no small thing to be caught out, either. Even the least of the monsters can take a hunter out in two or three hits, and each hit also costs the hunter much-needed stamina. While stamina usually refills at the start of each round, anyone brought to zero will have to wait two rounds before they can get up and go. Most likely, they won’t be going anywhere ever again.
The darkness is an antagonist in and of itself at times. Its influence usually starts out as weak, but with the deaths of more monsters within a mission its power waxes, until it can do far more than hide monsters from the eyes. There will be times where it changes the weather, or the direction of the wind. It may summon new creatures to the area or (Heaven forbid) channel such power that one creature is transfigured into an avatar of the darkness itself. That is usually when the player gives the order to retreat, if they’re smart.
Alder’s Blood is not a game for people who grow overly attached to their party characters. In the lore, the hunters were once known as the Children of God, and their connection to the long-slain deity remains intact. They use this to sense monsters from afar, or to ensure their shots always hit, but power comes at a price. Slowly, inexorably, corruption will grow within them, bringing with it a laundry list of debilitating effects, and there will be plenty of times where the player must literally sacrifice a character for experience boosts, so that they go quietly into the long night rather than screaming and cackling and ripping off faces as they escape.
While the game does a decent job of explaining to the player what things can be done while in camp, it takes a while for the necessity of scavenging while out in the field and crafting while near towns to be apparent. The caravan’s main source of income is the sale of excess equipment, because missions generally pay little or nothing beyond experience, scars, and filled coffins, but the hiring and provisioning of new hunters takes more cash than would be on hand if the player relied only on mission rewards. After I finally figured out how to properly balance foraging, crafting, item sales, and new hunter recruitment, I didn’t have too many issues with running out of food or warm bodies, but it was touch and go for a while.
And underneath it all, there is the darkness, and the darkness shall consume.
If this sounds like an intriguing game to you, then by all means check it out. Still, I’m not sure if I’m going to finish this one, simply because it is so dark. But I’m not other people. Give it a look and decide for yourself.
Disclosure: This impression is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.