User review spotlight: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (DOS)

BloodNet (DOS)

65
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  András Gregorik (65)
Written on  :  Dec 17, 2001
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful

write a review of this game
read more reviews by András Gregorik
read more reviews for this game

Summary

The original urban-dystopian RPG

The Good

This game was never really a fan favourite. I can see why, but it's also clear to me why it was one of my cherished games as a late teen. The collective of writers, graphic artists and composer(s) in Bloodnet is nothing short of brilliant when it comes to setting a particular mood. I would label this unique mood as, well, urban-dystopian-futuristic-cyberpunk-gothic-mystic: a deliciously unique mess that ends up being both oppressive and enchanting at the same time, which is quite a feat in my book. Especially four years before the original Fallout.
It's amazing what Microprose can bring out of the dedicated player with little more than a mixture of pre-rendered and handdrawn futuristic stills, and peculiar midi music to match. Especially back then as a teen, Bloodnet's distinctive atmosphere engulfed my very essence and managed to linger around me even when I was not actually playing it. Few games (or movies, or books) are capable of this, as it takes a certain kind of giftedness, one that this bunch of developers happened to possess.

I also like the fact that Bloodnet is a game of alloys: it fuses classic adventure with RPG, a distant future with Medieval vampire myths, a bright and loud metropolis with a dark and silent mystery, a detailed and possible future with implausible supernatural goings-on. This aspect was accomplished well.

The Bad

On the other hand, the game feels like it is not interested in letting us actually play it, but only in showing off its cool graphics, ambient music and, above all, writing. At the same time, it clearly has high ambitions of attempting to merge the genres of laidback point-and-click adventure and rigid stat-based RPG. The end result is a weird mishmash of endless conversations, heavy turn-based combat, and wandering about on motionless landscapes. Weirdness can be a good and a bad thing, and in this case it's both. Part of the appeal, I think (at least for me).

My biggest beef with the overall experience is the pre-scripted, absolutely non-interactive dialogs. Again, the sprawling, gritty conversations in this game are masterfully written and are just as memorable, if not more, than the ones in big-time sci-fi movies like Blade Runner, but leaving them non-interactive is the biggest deal-breaker, a missed chance for an additional layer of depth and player involvement.

The Bottom Line

Bloodnet is not a good game. It feels static and almost non-interactive. It is, however, a good experience. So good that it ended up as one of the very few games from the early 90's that I actively revisit from time to time. The ultimate praise I can give the game, I think, is that it is a spiritual and atmospheric precursor to the Deus Ex series and VTM: Bloodlines, which are of course much better games, but Bloodnet holds its own against them in terms of mood, writing and originality. No small feat for a 1993 DOS game.