The Bloodline immediately got my attention once the developer mentioned the Mount & Blade franchise inspired it. I don’t know what it is about sandbox RPGs, but I’m always a sucker for that type of world. There’s just something about starting at the bottom and working my way up. While also having an impact on the world I’m a part of.
This is why I had to check out The Bloodline’s Steam Early Access launch and see how well it holds up. Within my first 20 hours or so, I can already see the massive scope of what this small developer is going for. Which worries me a bit since there’s so much to do with how large this world is.
Such as the currently limited main questline, side quests, grinding crafting skills, unlocking new combat skills, building your own village, and more. As long as feature creep doesn’t become too much of an issue where there’s always something new to work on, I’m excited to see what The Bloodline becomes.
With that said, the many combat skills you can unlock are where the early access gameplay already shines. As teased on the store page, one of the best parts about The Bloodline’s skill system is that it doesn’t lock you into any path. For example, I started using spears but at some point thought it’d be more interesting to try unarmed combat.
This has led to some of the more ridiculous skills as I beat the heck out of goblins and bandits with my fists. Who needs a sword when you can grab a goblin and pummel them up close? Or combine two skills together where you can uppercut a bear flying into the air before slamming them back down.
And for when an enemy ragdolls just a little too far out of my reach, I have Necromancy spells to hit them with. Such as my Necro Bolt projectile that homes in on them. But, there’s also the much sillier Tombstone spell I found while exploring. It’s the equivalent of dropping a piano on someone in a cartoon, but instead, it’s a Tombstone.
Even if you don’t have a ranged weapon or spell to hit a distant enemy, there’s still a great option available, the grappling hook! Right from the start, I have a grappling hook for swinging around and also flinging enemies toward me. Which makes me feel like a mix between Tarzan and Spider-Man.
As much as I love talking about The Bloodline’s combat, that’s far from all there is to experience. Even though there is a Druid skill for transforming into an exploding chicken. Thus far in early access, the main questline is extremely light so I get most of my direction on what to do from side quests.
This is where one comparison to Mount & Blade is unfortunate since the side quests often don’t have much to them. They’re frequently simple fetch quests that rely on traveling far away to retrieve an item. With some being on par with theme park MMO quests such as, kill 10 slimes to get 10 slime globs.
With that said, I can overlook basic writing if I’m enjoying the overall grind. Aside from leveling up your character to get more skills, there are plenty of passive skills to train. Similar to numerous RPGs, you can increase your level with many skills by simply doing the relevant action. Such as chopping trees for Woodcutting or creating weapons for Weaponsmithing.
This is the same case for every weapon level, magic type, crafting skill, and even the more ridiculous skill of Ragdolling. Which can feel like you’re playing the insurance fraud minigame in Saints Row as you hurl yourself at the ground. Funnily enough, training this skill will help you take less damage when you’re ragdolling for unintentional reasons.
While you’ll level up many skills without much focus, the gathering ones do feel a bit grind-heavy. At first, it was fun playing the little minigame for Woodcutting and Mining but then it started to drag on. And then I realized you only get experience when nailing the quick-time event minigame successfully. This could be a bug but even if it isn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised if they change it.
Segueing from gathering skills, I’m curious to see how a certain system develops in The Bloodline where you can create your own village. It seems barely implemented right now, but I can see the foundation for what’s coming. Currently, there are 20 different buildings even though they’re mostly a work-in-progress.
This includes buildings like a General Store for trading items or an ominous Necromancer Shrine for performing rituals. However, what has me intrigued is how the village will develop over time. By looking at a noticeboard I can see a stat for population, a dominant theme, weekly income, and even upcoming events.
I already like the idea of watching my village come alive and seeing certain people attracted to it depending on what I build. Such as a village full of engineers, necromancers, or even thieves for maybe a Thieves’ Guild vibe. And on top of that, a weekly income mechanic could be simple but interesting. In spite of The Bloodline’s economy feeling a bit too easy.
I’d love to continue building out my village and contributing to it, but I haven’t really noticed a need for money or a struggle to get it. Even the Mount & Blade games have trouble with simulating an economy, so I wouldn’t expect anything too advanced in The Bloodline. However, I’d still like to see it get some more attention.
There are only a couple more things I’d like to mention before wrapping up this preview. Such as the overworld map where you can travel between areas. Currently, the overworld is more tedious than anything as you slowly travel around. And it can be a pain trying to find where a city or location is for your quest.
This is in part due to the massive overworld and taking too long to get around it. Despite being able to speed up time, it’s still a drag. I often find myself staring at my phone or a second monitor while waiting for my tiny little guy to reach his destination. With that said, there are rare Portal Coins for fast travel that I hope become easier to get.
Finishing up this preview, don’t be surprised if it feels like an early access game. Because that’s exactly what it is. It’s rough around the edges, has some jank, and sometimes the performance heavily drops. But, The Bloodline has the potential to be a great sandbox RPG with excellent combat.
The Bloodline was provided by the publisher via a Steam code.
Jeff is a journalist with over 10 years of experience writing, streaming, and making content about video games. With an associate degree in journalism, he’s a sucker for RPGs, survival games, roguelikes, and more.