Bloodmasque is an action RPG that seeks to siphon both blood and money from you at an alarming rate.
Bloodmasque is an action RPG. What that means is that there are role playing elements, but gameplay is limited to combat, and contains no exploration or treasure hunting like a traditional role-playing game.
In the world of Bloodmasque, you are a half-vampire living in 19th century Paris who has made it his/her life work to snuff out all of the full-blood (evil) vampires. Gameplay consists entirely of combat sequences, although, there is a story arc that keeps the game moving. Once combat begins, you have two options: attack and dodge, both of which are accomplished with very straightforward controls (tap to attack, swipe left/right to dodge). The trick is knowing when to attack and when to dodge. If you do neither, your opponent will lash out at you with an undodgeable attack so waiting for your prey to act so you can counterattack appropriately won't work here. Allegedly, it's possible to know when and where to dodge by watching your opponent, although I found this to be far more difficult than similar games, such as the Infinity Blade series. There are also special moves that will require split-second timing and patience, which break up the frenetic combat nicely. Between battles, you will have the opportunity to develop your team, equip new gear, and buy things (more on this later). Lather, rinse, repeat. The core gameplay is actually quite fun, and the gear is imaginative and well-implemented.
Unfortunately, in spite of Bloodmasque's premium price tag, it is heavily balanced toward the use of in-app purchases. These purchases do NOT consist of actual content or persistent items. Instead, you will be buying rubies, which are the sole currency for purchasing stakes (necessary for killing vampires), chronometers (extends the battles to winnable durations), and healing salves (there is no other way to heal!). Of course, rubies do drop in the game, but a ridiculously low rate, and the App Store description of 10-20 hours of gameplay clearly includes hours, and hours of repeating battles in order to gather the rubies you will need to complete the game. Additionally, Bloodmasque has been plagued with bugs since launch, and the recent patch doesn't seem to have solved the crashing if App Store reviews and various forum posts are to be believed. On my iPad 3, however, I was crash-free so your mileage may vary, as mine did. Sadly, another nail in Bloodmasque's coffin is the fact that it inexplicably requires an internet connection to play so mobile gamers will need to find WiFi or be willing to use their precious cellular data to play.
Bloodmasque runs the Unreal engine, so it looks fantastic. 19th century Paris is beautiful and spooky at the same time, and the combat is fluid and silky smooth. As good as it looks, however, its most unique feature is the ability to put your own face on your in-game character. This may sound like a gimmick (and it is, of course), but it's very well implemented, and dead-simple. In just a few minutes, I had texture-mapped my normal, happy, and angry faces into the game, and was off and running. The only downside to this, at least in my case, was that it became painfully obvious how unattractive I am compared to the models who supplied their faces for the stock characters. Honestly, I thought I was better looking than that...
Bloodmasque's sound effects, music, and voice acting are top-notch, and really added atmosphere to the game. Not all of the dialogue is spoken, however, and instead requires you to read the conversations. Ultimately, I found this to be a good thing, as it enabled me to skip through any dialogue I didn't want to wait for.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Bloodmasque has all the hallmarks of a labor of love that has been stripped of its soul by its publisher. If you want to finish the game you will have to choices: spend real money, or go blind grinding to get the rubies you need to advance. Tragic for any game, but unconscionable for one that is premium-priced.
There is a fun action RPG in here somewhere, but you will need a persistent internet connection and lots of either money or patience if you want to actually enjoy it.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - It's a beautiful game, and the face-mapping feature is a hoot. Sound: - 5 - Music, sound, and voice all come together to make this game an aural treat. Controls: - 5 - Great controls that you won't need to spend an hour learning. Gameplay: - 2 - A fun game, mostly ruined by IAP greediness.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Conserve your rubies! If you have the patience, replay battles that you have mastered in order to gather resources. Watch your opponent for indications as to when they are going to strike, and where. It's the only real decision you have during the combat, and it's an important one. Blindly attacking will not result in victory. Ever.
Developer: Square Enix Release Date: July 24, 2013 Price: $6.99 + whatever you choose to spend on consumable IAPs Buy App: Bloodmasque