Infinity Blade. Horn. The Dark Meadow. Developers are releasing amazing Unreal Engine 3-powered mobile games with such regularity these days that I was growing a little tired of talking about them. Then came Gameloft's first Unreal Engine 3 game, Wild Blood.
Wild Blood looks as good as any of the UE3 games that have come before. It's pretty with its console-quality graphics, all shiny armour and giant boss creatures and lovely ground textures. Impressive giant boss fights fill the screen with unexpected spectacle. Visually the game is a delight.
The story is Arthurian legend meets God of War. King Arthur has gone mad upon finding out about the whole Lancelot/Guinevere situation. Taking advantage of the king's despair, the witch Morgana tricks Arthur into opening a Hell Gate, flooding the land with demonic forces. It's up to Lancelot to go all Kratos on the forces of hell, saving Queen Guinevere and restoring peace to the land. Perhaps doing so will make Artie forgive him for sleeping with his wife. I don't know, I prefer the legend proper, in which Lancelot just feels like crap.
That bit might not be in the game, but it's communicated to the player through gameplay. Wild Blood features some of the worst touchscreen controls I've encountered since the early days of iPhone gaming.
The game employs a virtual left stick to control character movements. On the right there are virtual buttons for attacking, using magic and sprinting. Swiping the right side of the screen also controls the camera. While the right side control cram has cost me a fair amount of health, the biggest problem with the controls is that left stick — it's just horrible. Clumsy and often unresponsive, the left stick is at its worse during special magical attacks. Some of these require the player to manoeuvre Lancelot about the screen, running into enemies in order to affect powerful elemental attacks. These simply do not work. There's no degree of accuracy, I've wasted so many magical attacks simply because the control wouldn't let me go anywhere near my enemies. I could almost hear them laughing.
And don't get me started on the bow and arrow controls. I dread sequences that require me to knock an arrow.
Perhaps these control limitations are why the game's boss fights are so basic. That angel-creature at the top of the post made my heart skip a beat when she first appeared. Unfortunately she appeared in a section of her level featuring a ballista, the only way to kill her. That's bad strategy. So is sitting still at regular intervals so I can shoot her.
This is a game that craves a real control pad, something I don't currently have access to for my iPhone or iPad. I do have one for my Android tablet, however, so I am quite looking forward to the eventual release for Tegra 3 devices.
Perhaps then I can truly appreciate the game's deep customisation system, allowing me to spend gold earned in game on powering up my statistics and weapons and learning new combat moves. It's a slow progression, one that leans heavily towards getting the player to pay real money for a quick customisation fix, but it shows much promise.
And maybe adding a control pad will make Wild Blood's competitive online multiplayer, already rather enjoyable despite control issues and connection problems, that much better.
Other Unreal Engine 3 powered games have limited the player in some way, be it keeping them on rails or, in the case of the recently-released Horn, letting them explore but tightly controlling combat. Wild Blood should be praised for its ambition, but without the use of outside peripherals its ambition gets the better of it.
Wild Blood - $US6.99 [iTunes]