'Blood & Glory' Delivers the Goods but Might Bleed Your Wallet Dry
Though the gladiatorial game "Blood and Glory" sports some good graphics, it doesn't quite match the fun or interest of something like "Infinity Blade." But it is good for a few hours of slashy-bloody combat fun. Although the game is free, it might require a few in-app purchases to see all the game has to offer -- unless you're willing to devote many, many hours of your life to earning in-game loot.
When I stumbled across the iPhone and iPad game "Blood & Glory," I instantly got the feeling that it was like "Infinity Blade," the popular fantasy slasher fighting game.
That alone wasn't enough to pique my interest, but when I saw that it was free, sported lush graphics, and had an eye-popping 43,000 customer ratings with a five-star average, I had to download the 111 MB beast and take a look for myself.
Pretty - and Gory
Like "Infinity Blade," which is made by Chair Entertainment Group, the graphics are fantastic. I didn't bother playing "Blood & Glory" on my iPhone 4, but on my iPad 2, they were pretty sweet. "Blood & Glory," however, isn't like a quest game where you walk through various scenes on your way to battle with various bad guys and monsters. "Blood & Glory" is set in a coliseum, and you fight your way through tournament battles with one fellow gladiator after another.
To fight, you use a combination of blocking with a shield, swiping with a weapon (sword, ax, etc.), and using magic potions to do things like replenish your health in the middle of a fight. You can also dodge and parry attacks that come from your foe, who is always a much nastier gladiator than yourself. One opponent rapped his axe on his helmut to get himself psyched up for the upcoming battle in a quick little pre-fight set scene, which sparked a laugh from me.
The fighting itself is pretty good, but to get your weapon onto your opponent, as near as I can tell, you pretty much have to block an attack then strike when the opponent is off balance, and the game lets you get some good slashes in. The other option is to tap a special reservoir of kick-butt attack power at the right time. This option gets ready for use as you block and parry successfully. If your opponent is standing in a position that would seemingly let you slash him open, though, you can't always get much more than a graze. If the game were even a little slower-paced, this would be irritating.
So Where's the Gore?
Oh, the blood and gore. There is a lot of blood. The bad guys get bathed in it, and when they eventually fall to the dirt, a pool forms below them. But that's not what I find gory at all.
What I find gory is the whole premise of the money-making structure behind the game itself.
Instead of charging you $5.99 or $9.99 or whatever, you get the game free ... but to really excel without slogging through the game and slowly building experience, coin and rubies, you can buy add-ons through in-app purchases. For instance, after one battle, I got an offer, "Skill points available. BUY Skills." Yeah, I didn't tap to buy more skills. The whole concept just rubs me wrong.
But this game's maker, Glu Games, isn't the only company shilling a living with games this way, and so many potential customers like the free option to check out the game and see if they want more that it's hard to get too upset at Glu over the method. While some customer reviews in the Apple App Store decry the practice and complain that you can't proceed well into the tournament without having to buy better equipment (with real money), there are clearly tens of thousands of customers who seem quite thrilled.
Meanwhile, the "Buying Confirmation Toggle" in my settings on my iPad 2 was automatically set to "Off." That's not cool. With a game like this, I can imagine some younger users getting confused about what exactly they were buying, and if what they were buying was an in-game purchase (real-life money) or a purchase from the game within the game (using in-game money of no real value). Or maybe they'd have no problems at all navigating the myriad buying options and admonitions to get better equipment after they get defeated in battle.
Rubies, it turns out, are also a key currency that will let you get into the elite tournaments. Some App Store customer reviews claim that you can't acquire enough rubies through game play to get into these elite tournaments without buying some rubies with real App Store money, but I'm not sure if that's true -- with smart playing and dedication, it might be possible. I'm not sure because I'm neither a smart player nor dedicated.
For me, "Blood & Glory" is just a diversion before I have to put the iPad down and go to work. If a game will require hours of play to develop the appropriate skills to get me to the end, I'll most likely not be able to train my brain and slashing fingers fast enough to get there. I could slay the God-King in "Infinity Blade," but I doubt I'll ever complete the Elite Tournaments in "Blood & Glory." I guess I'm just not elite enough -- or I'm simply unwilling to shell out to get the right equipment and skills.
Oh, by the way, the No. 1 in-app purchase is 100 rubies for $4.99. The second is +5 skill points for $1.99.
There Are Other Ways
"Freemium" gamers are likely well-versed in the free model for games, which finds ways through in-app purchases and addiction to the game to drive revenue. If you interact with Glu's partners in some way, you can score more "free" rubies to use in the game.
For instance, you can earn free rubies by signing up for "Tapjoy," getting auto insurance quotes, signing up for prepaid Visa debit cards from RushCard, or even earn two rubies for liking Glu Mobile on Facebook -- then earn two more for following the company on Twitter. You can also shop at drugstore.com, or earn 169 rubies for buying gourmet dipped strawberries. If you like strawberries, those rubies will be enough to get you into at least one of the Elite Tournaments.
Personally, if I had never played "Infinity Blade," I would have been surprised at the graphics and quality of "Blood & Glory." But compared to the earlier game, "Blood and Glory" just doesn't pack the same appeal. I think it's because you're just a gladiator in the game and you're not on a quest with a storyline and concrete goal to keep working toward.
All in all, on an iPad 2, Blood & Glory is a pretty solid game. For free, you'll definitely be able to get a couple of good slashing hours of fun out of it. After that, your skill, dedication, and wallet will likely determine how far along you'll be able to survive the tournaments. If you go into it knowing that you should plan on spending a few bucks (as if you were buying the game for a certain price in advance), you'll also likely have a lot more fun.