Trials of The Blood Dragon Review – PC
+ The dozen levels that were actually fun
+ Cheesy presentation
+ Realistic bro/sis banter
- Anything where you weren't on a bike
- Anything on a bike where you shoot or grapple
I’ve been a big fan of the Trials motorcycle racing/physics platform-puzzle series since the beginning. I was also a huge fan of the Blood Dragon spinoff for Far Cry 3 back in 2013. So when Ubisoft announced at this year’s E3 that the two franchises were being brought together in some radical new hybrid I was more than excited…especially since the game was launching at the very moment they announced it.
Blood Dragon was an endearing game thanks to its great nods to 80’s pop-culture taken to extreme levels of parody. Just how that would translate into a motorcycle game had me more than curious. Trials of the Blood Dragon puts a unique twist on the try-and-try-again racing design of the regular Trials series by adding a story…a substantial story told through stylized cutscenes, graphic novel style static images, and occasional live-action video inserts.
Throughout the game you’ll be switching between Roxanne and Slayter, the twin teenage children of Rex Power Colt, the hero from Far Cry 3’s Blood Dragon. Seems daddy is MIA so you are being raised by a stereotypical general who sends you out on missions no teenagers should be going on; even if they do have blood dragon DNA in their system. The hub to your activities is a dorm-style room with beds, closet, sticker books, and a mystery chest under Slayter’s bed that requires five keys hidden about the game levels. Must be a helluva porn stash. After a brief intro mission to acclimate you to the controls you’ll start unlocking posters that get tacked up on the wall and grant you access to the various themed chapters of the game. Each chapter has 4-6 missions that take place in neon cities, in outer space, in war-ravaged Vietnam, an Indiana Jones style temple, and many other unique and interesting locales…even a quick trip to Hell!
Trials of the Blood Dragon is amazing and fun when you are playing it as a Trials game, and by that I mean riding a bike. Sadly, that is only a fraction of the game design as RedLynx has seen fit to include numerous levels that have you fighting on foot like some lame-ass Contra game, or even worse, trying to navigate side-scrolling space station levels in a wonky EVA suit. This might work in a game that was using an engine designed for those things, but trying to play a twin-stick shooter or fly a jetpack using an engine tweaked for riding a bike is borderline insanity and totally saps 60-70% of the fun right out of the game. The physics are just wrong. Characters are floaty and platform jumping seems imprecise and way too unpredictable for a game that requires this much speed and precision.
There is a notable moment of dread every time you start a new mission as you cling to the hope that it will be a bike mission, but some missions will even mix up riding and running, so you are never truly safe. It’s not that the running and shooting is unplayable. It’s simple not fun. By design the enemies are at weird angles forcing you to break out your pocket protractor to find the right trajectory to shoot them before they shoot you. There are plenty of sucker situations too where enemies will appear from off screen or from a door that just opened, and don’t get me started on the crossfire encounters.
And somehow they managed to screw up many of the bike riding levels by having you shoot while riding or using this crazy grappling hook to swing you and your bike across gaps or dangle from green cylinders to ride through mazes of lasers ready to slice you into sushi. Shooting from a bike is handled with the right stick and is fairly inaccurate. Thankfully, if you can manage to shoot one or two bad guys you can easily run over the rest on most screens. Perhaps the worst moment in the game is when Slayter must tow a trailer with a bouncy ball (I think they stole it from Rocket League) across all this crazy terrain without it flying out of the flatbed. Good luck doing this level on a single life – especially when you leave the bike and must deliver that ball-bomb by flying it in using a jetpack.
Thankfully, the game is super easy in that you merely have to finish each level to advance. Sure, the game keeps track of your time and your lives and rewards you with letter grades from A-F, but you can continue even with an F. As someone who prides himself in getting triple gold medal rankings in all the previous Trials levels it was super-frustrating to complete several levels with an F ranking, but even worse; those levels sucked so bad I had no desire to even try and better my performance. One level took me so many tries it stopped counting and just put an X in the retry spot, and there were at least 4-6 levels where the timer would expire before I could reach the mission’s end.
Honestly, if I wasn’t reviewing Trials of the Blood Dragon I may never have finished it – it was just that frustrating and poorly designed. Even the story started to fall apart near the end, and the huge surprise cliffhanger ending wasn’t nearly as “epic” as the developers wanted it to be. I’ll admit there were at least a dozen levels that I really enjoyed in this game – all of them bike levels – but that was only a small percentage of the game. If you don’t mind paying about $1 per “good” level then you may get your money’s worth, but as a whole, this is one of the biggest disappointments of 2016 so far…perhaps because it had so much to live up to.