At Ubisoft’s 2016 E3 press conference, Antti Ilvesuo of RedLynx and Dean Evans of Ubisoft Montreal took to the stage to not only share a trailer for their new mashup, Trials of the Blood Dragon, but to release it almost instantly to everyone’s surprise.
More than just a merging of two games — which are ridiculous enough on their own, but also insanely different from each other — the analogy of the two titles making a baby couldn’t be more accurate. Trials of The Blood Dragon is made up of great highs which are rudely interrupted by annoyances which you would rather ignore to let someone else deal with them.
The game is set twelve years after the events of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Rex Power Colt is dead, his wife Dr. Darling has disappeared and his teenage children Slayter and Roxanne have taken up where Rex left off. That is, fighting “commies” in Vietnam War 4 as cybernetically enhanced super soldiers in an early 80’s sci-fi stylised world… on motorbikes.
Yes, it’s ridiculous — but this is what people expect from Blood Dragon. A stupid-in-a-good-way plot delivered between a barrage of laugh out loud, action hero one-liners. The problem in TOTBD is that there was literally one quip in the whole six hour experience that managed to extract laughter from me… and that’s being generous. At most it was a half-arsed chuckle occurring in the final forty-five seconds before the credits rolled. With comedy being the primary selling point of the Blood Dragon world, this baby didn’t inherit its father’s excellent sense of humour.
For the most part the gameplay of TOTBD is the same as any of the previous Trials titles. Get your bike from point A to point B as quickly as possible, using your throttle, brake and the angle of the bike to make massive jumps, perfect landings and to bunny hop across challenging gaps. It’s as smooth and responsive as it always has been thanks to this game seemingly being made in the exact same engine as the previous Trials Fusion. The levels purely dedicated to bike riding are just as fun as any Trials fan would expect if not more so thanks to their excellent 80’s dystopian style. But then they went and ruined it all.
To mix things up a bit, whilst on your bike in certain areas you’re given an automatic weapon to fire at enemies and specific targets, or a grappling hook (which only clings to occasional and very strategically placed objects) to swing across larger gaps. These additions are clearly intended to freshen up the Trials game play with an injection of Blood Dragon but they felt more of an annoying hindrance to the full throttle racing that we’ve come to expect from Trials. Literally every time I was forced to use one of these items whilst on a bike my enjoyment of this game decreased. Why try fix something that ain’t broke?
Further to this, there are several instances where your character is off the bike completely during some platforming sections. With the ability to shoot objects and enemies, you’ll jump around levels pushing boxes, hacking computers to open doors and dodge lasers. While I love a good a platformer, these sections were just an irritating interruption to the bike riding sections which are so much fun. The character movement felt floaty for lack of a better word and the controls just weren’t responsive enough to truly enjoy traversal of the more intricate sections. This engine was built for riding motorbikes and not for running and jumping. In one area you’re tasked with using your jet-pack to move through a level with a highly volatile explosive chained to you and weighing you down. This section was nothing more than a display of the game’s physics engine and was so frustrating to play I would swear the developers were trolling their audience.
The game attempts to keep things interesting even further with sections that involve the use of an RC car, an 8-wheeler tank and a mine kart. These moments are much more fun than the platforming levels but still don’t compare to going full throttle across a psychedelic landscape whilst being chased by a poorly animated blood dragon atop your trusty dirt bike (or BMX on some levels).
While the quality of the visuals matches that of Trials Fusion (again, same game engine), the design of the levels along with the cutscenes, which appear to have been inspired by Rob Zombie and Gorillaz film clips, is where the Blood Dragon component really holds its own. Everything is over the top in the best way possible and is a far cry (BAM!) from the style we’re accustomed to seeing in video games.
Level design is as ridiculous and clever, as we’ve come to expect from RedLynx. From riding across a Vietnamese jungle with an aforementioned blood dragon in pursuit, to entering a drug induced psychosis causing you to transcend dimensions whilst ever changing gravity somehow allows you to ride down the side of a building, the design is almost excellent to a fault. As you work to get the best possible grade (A+ through to F) on the level at hand you’ll often find yourself distracted by something cool in the background causing you to miss that perfect launch or landing. Visually these are some of the best looking and most fun Trials levels I’ve played. And I’ve played them all.
With 30 levels, too few of them being actual trials and too many being stupid platforming, Trials of the Blood Dragon seems nothing more than an attempt at showing off what a few developers could do after getting drunk and watching 80 action movies and Saturday morning cartoons. The disappointing thing is this could have been so much better by simplifying the concept and making it a DLC map pack for Trials Fusion.
Die-hard Trials fans will play this once, but probably never again; that said, they might enjoy it. Die-hard Blood Dragon fans will be unimpressed.
Trials of the Blood Dragon was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.
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