Review: Blood: Fresh Supply (PC – Steam) ~ He lives AGAIN.

Blood_logoWikipedia entry – Steam linkSteam link
The Build Engine. One of the biggest game engines ever created in 3D shooter history. Three landmark titles have been created in that engine called Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and today’s topic: Blood. Back in the day, I used to download a lot of old archived shareware or demo versions of old DOS games. In one of these adventures, I downloaded the demo for the legendary Blood, and I was hooked. At the time, things like Steam weren’t what they are today and I still was in secondary school (high school for you Americans) and too young to start a holiday job. Then, on one summer Steam sale, I found this game for a rather cheap price and I thought: “Why not.”. So, I bought the game for €1 and moved on with my day. Then, COVID-19 happened last year, and I was looking through my game library to play after work. I booted up Blood, and it got my top 10 games of 2020 list. Why did I give this game a spot on my top 10 games list? What did I like so much about this game to place it on that list? Let’s find out together while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on the content of the article and/or the game.

He lives AGAIN

Blood 1In this game, you take on the role of Caleb. Caleb has a reputation for being a merciless gunfighter from the Midwest. Caleb is a servant of the god Tchernobog and his minions called ‘The Cabal’. Now, for some reason, our “friendly” god kills Caleb and his fellow chosen for whatever reason and dumps Caleb in a grave. Caleb rises up from his grave several years later, and he is looking for vengeance of course.

Like your typical old school 3D shooters, the story isn’t the main focus of this game. Most of the story in this game is told through cutscenes at the start and end of a chapter and the environment that you are going through. Speaking about which, there is are  a lot of moments like: you start on the train you that you crashed in the previous level. The whole game feels interconnected due to small details like that.

There are a few cutscenes in the game that enhance the story by a little. The reason I’m saying only a little is that the total runtime of these cutscenes is give or take only 5 minutes. Which is a shame, since the cutscenes really added to the atmosphere of the game. On the other hand, I think that if this game had more cutscenes, it would overpower the gameplay and the environmental story telling.

There is voice acting in this game. Of course, you have your typical enemy shouting that is as immersive as the cowboy shouting from Outlaws. You also have your wise-cracking main character Caleb voiced by Stephan Weyte. Stephan also did voice work for one of my favorite edutainment companies Humongous Entertainment. He voiced several side characters in the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish games. Before I start rambling about unrelated things for this review, I have to say that Stephan killed it with his performance in this game. His delivery is extremely memorable, and I love his voice work for this game. A fun fact is that the voice acting for our evil god has been done by the executive producer Jace Hall.

Should you play Blood for the story? Oh, heavens no. Don’t misunderstand me here, the story of this game is fine, but it is far from the best story you can experience in a shooter. The story is there to set the mood and set up the atmosphere of this game and to help you immerse yourself in the game. But, nothing more nothing less.

Now, if we check on the Blood Wiki on the amount of different versions and ports that this game got we learn that there are two versions of this game on Steam. You have Blood – Fresh Supply and Blood – One Unit Whole Blood. At the moment of writing, the “One Unit Whole Blood” version has been removed from Steam and the “Fresh Supply” version is still up for sale. I found a nice forum post about the biggest differences on the GOG.com forums between the two versions. As the title suggests, I played Fresh Supply for this review.

Crazy cultists

Blood 3I don’t think I have to explain what you have to do in old school 3D shooter games. You have to fight various enemies, find keys to open doors, do some platforming and solve some puzzles. Personally, I compare this game in a way to games like Heretic and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s an old school 3D shooter with amazing weapons and power ups to aid you in your battle against your enemies. There are a lot of different enemies with their own attack sound, strengths, and weaknesses.

Most of the weapons in this game has a secondary fire mode. For example, the double barred shotgun secondary fire shoots both bullets at once or the Tommy gun’s second fire let out a burst of bullets where you swing the weapon back and forth. You can even use one weapon as a turret and another weapon is a voodoo doll.

But the most iconic weapon in Blood is the dynamite. There are big differences in terms of the dynamite you can use. You have your normal dynamite, proximity, and dynamite you can remotely detonate. Depending on the chosen difficulty, the skill to use your weapons and especially dynamite is essential to your survival. I can’t count how many times I had to resort to dynamite to “thin out the herd”.

Speaking about the difficulty, if you aren’t too familiar with all Blood’s mechanics and secrets and different routes, I don’t advise the higher difficulty settings. I have to admit that I’m not the most skilled player when it comes to shooters and I had an extremely hard time with the medium setting. Get used to the mechanics of this game before you play on the highest difficulty settings and thank me later. The game is otherwise too frustrating for newcomers.

Earlier, I said that this game feels quite interconnected due to the level design. That start of the level represents the previous level. Most of the levels have a sort of linear design. You have to backtrack quite rarely. Yet, I found myself stuck in a few levels and the map system, while impressive, was far from helpful. Now, in terms of map systems, I think I might be spoiled by the more modern design methods where the key door locations are marked on your map.

Sadly enough, there are some moments that the level design wasn’t the best. For example, I found one or two spots where you can get soft locked. But more annoyingly, I found some monster rooms quite annoying since the exit gets locked, and you have to go switch hunt. I think these moments could have benefitted from Caleb saying: “Where is the switch” when interacting with the door.

This game is controlled through mouse and keyboard. While this game has controller support, I only played this game through mouse and keyboard. I didn’t have any problems with the controls and felt they worked amazingly. After a minor bit of tweaking to fit the AZERTY lay-out better that we use here in Belgium, I was able to master the responsive controls.

Visually, this game still looks fine. The visual improvements you can choose to either enable or disable are a great way to choose between the vanilla textures and the newer “more modern” visuals. Of course, this game really shows its age in the visual department but, that isn’t a bad thing for this game. I still find that the visual atmosphere is created amazingly, and I feel that the world still feels somewhat real and alive.

Something that truly impressed me are the animations. The animations in this game are a masterclass in how animations should look in shooter games. Enemies that get shot in the legs crawl towards you and keep shooting, enemies set on fire with a flare run around crazily… And that are just two examples.

Very rarely, I found some visual glitches. In one level there was some Z-fighting with a pillar switch. (Z-Fighting is when two textures overlap and the game can’t decide which one to show, so it flickers in between them.) In some spots, the shells of the Tommy gun vanished. These moments were thankfully rare and didn’t impact gameplay too much.

Dynamite

Blood 2The sound design in this game is extremely important. If you don’t pay attention to the well crafted sound effects, you might miss some important enemy cues especially from the zombies. Since those don’t die right away from the weaker weapons. So, yeah, heard of hearing and deaf people are disavantaged when it comes to this game.

Sadly enough, the soundtrack could have been better. I feel that it’s too short and for some reason, it bugged out during my playthrough and it didn’t always play. While I was writing this section of the review, I was listening to the soundtrack on YouTube and I heard some tracks I haven’t heard in the game. While the music in itself is quite good and adds a lot to the atmosphere but it being only around 30 minutes, I felt that the soundtrack is too short for the game’s length.

This game has the perfect length for a shooter game like this. This game packs all the expansion packs so that means that a casual playthrough might take you around 10-ish hours. If you want to go for 100% you might be able to double that. But, this game gets so much more challenging and rewarding when you play it on higher difficulty settings so you might be able to get a lot more hours out of it than that.

Now, there is one thing in terms of the UI I really didn’t like. That’s the weapon wheel / ammo system. Let me explain. In the bottom center, you can see how much ammo you have for your weapons. Just like in other shooters from that time period, you have no idea which number corresponds with which weapon. It still shows “0″ even when you don’t have that weapon. The weapon wheel also doesn’t really show well to which weapon it’s going to switch since, it’s a wheel. When you pass the last weapon, it goes back to the first.

There is one thing I feel that the game totally dropped the ball on. And that’s the saving system. It’s not that the saving system doesn’t work, but it’s extremely bare bones. This game uses manual saving. There is no checkpoint saves when you enter a new level, but that isn’t such a big problem. I don’t mind manually saving once in a while I enter a new level or passed a difficult section. What I do mind is that the load system doesn’t give you ANY information in which level the save is. On top of that, you only have a limited amount of save slots and no visual information when you successfully saved the game. I worked around it by naming my saves with the level name like: “E1M3” (Episode 1 Map 3) and some additional info, but it shouldn’t be such a pain. Thankfully, we have a way better system now-a-days.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like in this game is the respawn mechanic. Of course, when you die, you are going to respawn at the start of the level with only your pitchfork. No problem there. But, the issue is in my opinion that the reloading just take a bit too long for my liking. It’s always faster to load your save from the pause menu then waiting on the game to respawn you. It might also save you some frustration since “pitchfork starting” isn’t always the most enjoyable way to play some levels.

This game also has Steam Achievements. These were a whole lot of fun to try and get. After I had beaten the game, I got 6 out of the 20 achievements. I could have gotten more but for some reason, my game glitched out and some achievements are still locked. Oh well, all the more reason for me to play through the game again at a later date.

There is quite a long list of references in this game. While I was 5 years old at the time of the original release, I had to admit I was able to pick up on several references. Maybe my love for retro games and retro media might have helped me out quite a lot there.

Oh, before I forget, there is a multiplayer mode in this game. I’m sorry but I haven’t played it at all so I’m not going to comment on it. But, from what I have read and seen, you both have your typical death match gameplay and a way to play through the campaign in a co-op fashion. That is sounding quite interesting for when I can let friends come over again.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for me to wrap up this review. I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game and before I ramble on and on, I’m going to wrap up this article in a neat conclusion like I usually do for my review articles.

Conclusion time

The good:

+ Amazing shooter with replay value.

+ Easy to learn but oh so difficult to master.

+ Still good looking after all these years.

+ Amazing audio design.

+ …

The bad:

-The save and load system isn’t the best.

-The weapon wheel is a bit broken.

-Some softlocks / switch hunting moments.

Final thoughts:

Blood is a game that came out in 1997. This game is almost 25 years old and I have to say that this game still holds up amazingly well. The visual improvements that the Fresh Supply remake brings to the table are amazing. It gives a breath of fresh air in an already amazing game.

While I was researching this game, I found several video’s by one of my favorite YouTubers Civvie11. The release of this remake wasn’t the best. Thankfully, through the years, the game got various patches and updates that improved the game quite a lot to the point that I barely noticed the points that Civvie gave in his original “Blood: Fresh Supply is broken” video.

Apart from some flaws, this game holds up amazingly well. I knew that Blood had a high reputation when I started playing it and I was so happy when the game didn’t dissapoint me at all. Of course, I encountered some jank because this game isn’t the newest but that’s to be expected.

Would I recommend this game to people who enjoy shooters? Absolutely. This game gets an easy recommendation from me. The game costs only 8,2€ here and let me tell you, you can play a lot worse games for that price. The few issues this game have can be taken care off and they won’t hinder your playthrough too much. Is Blood one of the best retro game shooters? Easy answer, yes. Yes, it is. It’s as good as the original Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Duke Nukem and if you enjoy retro games and especially shooters it should be a crime to not at least give this game a try.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 95 / 100

Gaming History: The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle Of Seasons ~ A Look Back

The_Legend_of_Zelda_Oracle_of_Seasons_and_Oracle_of_Ages_Game_CoverMy review of the game

So, today we take a look at the history that the game The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle of Seasons has. The Oracle games are my favorite Zelda games. I’m only going to write about Seasons. If you are interested in the article about Ages, you should go to AdventureRules, since it’s there. For this article, I took out my Hyrule Encyclopedia and started reading all over the internet. So, I can tell you about this game that originally started as a trilogy but got split into two games. Let’s go to Holodrum again, together and let’s take a look at how this game got created. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or if I have missed anything interesting.

First third party Zelda games.

I remember the time I first booted up this game quite well. This game got released in late 2001 here in Europe. I was introduced to the Zelda series, two years later. When the Gameboy Advance SP dropped. At first, I picked up an “NES Classics: The Legend of Zelda I” from my local video game store. When I played that game, I fell in love with the Zelda series. A month after that, I went to the seaside with my family.

presentation2There, I went to a garage sale and saw “The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle of Ages”. I didn’t think twice and I picked the game up. I finished the game a month later. That’s when I saw the “TO BE CONTINUED IN SEASONS”-screen. It took me several garage sales, but I could hunt my own copy of Seasons down in 2004. Sadly, it was a fake cartridge. But in 2005, a friend of mine sold his boxed copy of the game for 10€ to me and I had the original cartridge boxed. Now, I own both the cartridge and the 3DS eShop version.

That’s how I acquired my very own copy of the game. I don’t own the fake cartridge anymore since I sold it on a garage sale after I got the real copy. During my playthrough of the game, I always felt that this game could be part of a trilogy. I mean, how two Goddesses are represented in the Oracle games. So, I went digging.

I was right, this game was, in fact, going to be part of the trilogy. In fact, back in 1999, this game was called “The Mystical Seed of Courage”. Capcom made a demo for the Space World Expo. Wait, what? Capcom? Is this a mistake? No, actually it isn’t. Capcom created this game. The Oracle games are actually the first third party Zelda games planned to be externally created. The Zelda CDi games might be developed and published a few years earlier, but those weren’t planned by Nintendo.

Development Hell

I could talk a bit more about the development history of this game, but I think that the Zelda Wiki has covered it quite well. You can read about it here. So, if you want to know more about the development of this game, read that article. It has sources too. But here is a summary of what’s said on that page:

Capcom proposed to Nintendo to re-create the original The Legend Of Zelda I NES game. Yoshiki Okamoto pitched his idea to Shigeru Miyamoto. Yet, the development team said “NO!” to Okamoto’s ideas and started to create a new title in the series.

ZeldacourageThe subsidiary Flagship was tasked to write the story. This didn’t prove successful since they prioritized story over gameplay. Thankfully, Miyamoto’s help came to the rescue. Miyamoto had the idea to create the “Triforce Series”. The Zelda formula as we know and love would be split into three.

So, in 1999 the more action-based game was presented to the public. The subtitle the game got was “Mystical Seed of Power” and on the 1999 Space World Expo, it even had a different subtitle “Chapter of Power” or “Tale of Power”. The demo started with Ganon kidnapping Princess Zelda and the Rod of Seasons.  The demo itself has a lot of elements that made it into the final version of the game. There are some major differences though.

The first difference is that in the final game, Onox is introduced as the big villain who kidnaps the Oracle of Seasons, Din. The second difference is that the game doesn’t take place in Hyrule but in Holodrum. And the 3rd difference is that it’s not Hyrule Castle that sinks into the underworld, but it’s the castle of Holodrum.

So, why did we get two games instead of three? The reason for that is the game-linking system. You could interact with the other games via codes. But, this proved too difficult to develop, so only two games were to be developed. Everything from “The Mystical Seed of Power” got into the game we now know as “The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Seasons”.

Yet, you can still see signs of the first Zelda game in this title. Remember, this game first started out as a remake of the original Zelda game back on the NES. Take the old men, several recurring bosses and the Gnarled Root Dungeon.

The Goddess that didn’t get her own game, the “Mystical Seed of Courage” which got canceled, appears in both Oracle titles. She is in the Hall of Secrets.

My personal memories

I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Oracle games are my favorite Zelda games. I have beaten them repeatedly. I enjoy them so much. I especially love the mechanic where you can transfer over some progress from one game to the other. I can’t choose my favorite game between both Oracle games.

To finish my article, I want to give 5 memories I have with this game. So, here we go.

  1. There is one dungeon boss I always have trouble beating. That’s the boss Manhandla in the 6th dungeon called Ancient Ruins. This boss is so difficult since you need to hit his head with the boomerang and getting to the boss door is such an ordeal. It’s highly recommended to get the LVL2 shield and sword to defeat this boss. I remember one time when I finally had beaten that boss, I shouted in excitement. But, I had forgotten that it was past my bed time. My parents weren’t too pleased when they caught me. My Gameboy was taken from me for a month.
  2. When I was 12, I used to make maps and write guides for all my games. I also wrote each level code I had down on a list. All these guides and such were bundles in a folder that set on my shelf. I still remember writing a complete step-by-step guide how to get the LVL2 sword. But, I did the quest so much, I can now do it in the game. Apart from the maze bit at the end, I always forget the sequence.
  3. To get access to a dungeon, you need to collect a certain number of gems. I found two of them before I knew what they were for. I was so proud of myself.
  4. I seriously love how the Natzu area differs from the animal buddy you get. But, I feel that Dimitri’s one is a bit useless. Since not too long after that, you get the flippers which make the unique ability of Dimitri useless. Since you can swim in the water now. The only thing you can still use him for is to eat enemies while you are in the water.
  5. I have beaten Veran, Oracle of Ages main villain, multiple times. But, I have only beaten Onox twice. I always have trouble in his boss battle. But, I have beaten Ganon on my cartridge of Seasons… but, disaster struck. The internal battery died and I lost my save file.

In any case, thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog, but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

One final thing, if you enjoyed reading this look back on the development and my personal memories of this game and you would love to read more articles like this from other games in the Zelda series? Well, don’t think twice of reading the hub article! Since this article is part of a big collaboration I did with various other bloggers! You can check that out here.