Battle Royale is the phrase that is on most gamer’s lips these days. Last year we got games like Fortnite, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, and more recently Apex Legends, absolutely dominating gaming conversation, yet all of them play the same way with minor tweaks to each game’s specific mechanics to set themselves apart. None of them is trying to innovate with each of them pinching ideas from the other. Bow to Blood by developer Tribetoy however, takes the genre and gives it a more Hunger Games feel, having you pitted against only seven other contestants in an almost politically focused battle of attrition.
You play as The Freelancer, a new contestant to the tournament and you’ll need to make it to the top in order to survive. Kind of like a morbid TV show, Bow to Blood has you battling it out in episodic events that require varying degrees of skills and abilities. In these events, you’ll need to rack up your points in order to avoid being knocked out of the competition.
Each episode consists of two events that will test your mettle in either combat, speed, or endurance. Things that you can expect to be doing during the game is competing in races, finding treasures and mining materials, all of which will make your score points total go up. Do well in the events and you’ll accrue a lot, but do poorly and you’ll see yourself slipping down the leaderboard.
At the end of each set of events, you’ll have to participate in The Culling, during which you’ll have to vote to eliminate one of the two contestants who have the lowest score points on the leaderboard or avoid elimination yourself if you end up there. The decisions you make during the previous events will all pile up and ultimately make you decide which of your fellow competitors you’ll remove from the competition. Will you get rid of the stronger competitor, or will you play the game fairly?
This is where the more political side of Bow to Blood comes into play. Each of the seven other contestants will either like you, hate you, or be simply indifferent towards you. This will affect how these other contestants vote in The Culling, as political alliances are forged consistently throughout the season. Negatively affect one contestant’s chances of winning and you’ll anger his/her friends whilst gaining popularity with his/her enemies. It’s all a careful balancing act, one that could decide the match for you.
Maintaining your ship and crew is also a crucial part of the Bow to Blood experience. You’ll start off with two crew members who can be swapped between stations on your ship. If a station has a crew member assigned, that aspect of your ship will be improved. For example, if you have a crew member assigned to your engines, you’ll be able to move faster. Have someone assigned to your weapons and you’ll pack a bit of extra firepower. Swapping between each station to suit the situation is crucial but can also be made easier if you have a silver tongue as opponents can, every now and again, choose to retire from the competition if you impress and persuade them.
Bow to Blood is supposed to be played in Playstation VR, but unfortunately, even ten minutes with the headset on made me feel horrific motion sickness due to having the ability to look around whilst also having control of your ship. The floaty nature of your ship’s movements, combined with all the flashing lights and chaos surrounding you during combat makes Bow to Blood a horrible experience in VR. Fortunately, the game can be played on a regular Playstation and it’s quite enjoyable to do so.
Combat can be fun, especially when you’re surrounded by more than one enemy. Locking on to multiple ships and downing them instantly is always satisfying and one vs one situation between stronger ships are tense and gripping. Fighting in this game is one of, if not the most enjoyable aspect and it’s a good job too because if you’re not caught up in heated political battles, then you’ll be blasting ships apart with your crew and gathering up materials to increase your score.
From what little I played inside the Playstation VR itself, Bow to Blood was an impressive spectacle to behold. It’s possibly one of the best looking games I’ve played in VR next to Astro Bot: Rescue Mission but unfortunately I wasn’t able to experience it to the fullest. Outside of virtual reality, the game still looks quite nice but has a strange, almost greasy sheen over the top of everything, probably to make the game look more appealing for people who are playing the game in virtual reality.
Environmentally, the game is also very impressive with multiple different styles of levels for you to explore. The system in place within the game has allowed the developers to use almost every colour that they wanted to and the variety in the game is just spectacular. It could have been more impressive, and there is a little bit of a case of unused potential, but other than that I have no qualms about the environmental design.
However, the enemy spaceship designs could have been a little bit more interesting. Most of the ships you encounter will be a mucky shade of brown in differing sizes. The majority of the ships in the game all look the same, and whilst they are interesting to fight due to how they test your battle prowess and shake up the game mechanics every now and again, they aren’t particularly interesting to look at.
Musically, the game is nothing to scream and shout about. It has a serviceable soundtrack, one that simply just melts into the background and doesn’t really make itself heard when there is intense action going on which is disappointing, because there are situations where a more prominent soundtrack would have enhanced the experience. There are some terrific, tense races that you have to compete in that could have been really improved with some music that would have matched the tense atmosphere.
Other than that, there’s nothing really of note. Nothing really stands out whilst at the same time it doesn’t sound bad. Voice acting is alright with a number of voice actors doing an alright job with their characters and the sound effects are okay.
Bow to Blood is quite impressive when it comes to value for money. You can play the game as much as you like as each season is slightly procedurally generated meaning that each season is slightly different from the last one. Each playthrough is around 2 – 3 hours long and you could probably play it through a few times before it starts to get stale. Contestants seem to drop out of the competition around the same time, so you’ll be going up against the same people in the latter stages of each season, but you can change your rivalries and alliances to shake it up a little more.
I couldn’t recommend Bow to Blood if you’re wanted a Playstation VR game personally because it made me want to hurl the minute I strapped it to my head, but if you have a strong stomach when it comes to motion sickness it could be an enjoyable time. Out of virtual reality, it was still an enjoyable take on the increasingly stale battle royale genre. It looks great, it has a fantastic combat system that is satisfying throughout your experience, and if you’re looking for a PSVR game to throw on every now and again for around an hour, Bow to Blood is perfect for that.
It has impressed me enough to give it a Thumb Culture Silver Award so go and give it a go if you think it’s your thing.
Disclaimer: A review code was received in order to write this article