“I came here for the art style…”
In the course of the Nintendo Switch’s life cycle to date, this statement has been said time and time again. It is as apt here as it has been in any other instance, as the TribeToy published ‘Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing’ is a visual marvel. Vibrant and brimming with personality, Bow to Blood has you competing in a seven-match season across a variety of arenas – each just as beautiful as the next.
“…I stayed for the gameplay.”
It can often be the case of style over substance in the world of digital gaming. For all the positives that a digital eShop offers, it offers the opportunity for a smaller price point and subsequently, a wider audience for a cash-and-grab by developers who have not taken the time and dedication required for a video game to be successful. On the surface, bringing TribeToy’s recent PSVR hit to the Nintendo Switch could be misinterpreted as yet another example of this. To the credit of the development team, this is not the case, and ‘Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing’ proves to be an excellent eShop acquisition.
The premise of ‘Bow to Blood’ is one that immediately grabbed my attention. In a design somewhat similar to The Hunger Games, you battle to become the champion of the arena over the course of seven matches. Stylised as a ‘winner takes all fantasy reality show’, you match-up against a rotating cast of challengers, participating in a plethora of random encounters. Each match consists of two events, one where you are free to explore a given zone, earning points whilst searching for the elusive warp key to the next event. The second is a challenge set by ‘The Overseers’, where you interact with the other combatants and compete for more points – obtained by shooting as many enemies as possible and completing small tasks along the way.
In a rather unique twist on points dictating success, the two teams with the lowest points at the end of a match are then voted for by the opponents to determine who goes and who stays. Conceptually, this is my favourite part of the game as there are relationships to be formed with the AI members – they all have their own motivations, objectives and personalities. An early run-through had me working alongside one of my opponents to obtain some loot, only to find that it was a trap and there was no loot, just a whole host of enemies awaiting me in an incredibly small space. I was motivated to get out, not just for my own season, but to look to destroy theirs when I got the chance.
Within each match, there is so much more than just blindly shooting. Whilst it represents the bread and butter of this title, there is a crew to manage, the ship’s movement to consider, and, when it all gets too close for comfort, you can jump into the action with a small pistol-like weapon. It makes for a relatively detailed affair and one where it can be easy to forget the options at your disposal as you fight fires.
No game is without fault, and ‘Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing’ has a few worthy of note. For starters, the loading times are considerably longer than one would expect. I rarely comment on this, so the fact that I am here is a clear indicator that the loading times felt abnormally long. The second and third on my list is how the ship controls and the disconnect I felt with the battle.
It was a previously released Playstation VR title, and you can feel it. Looking left to right as the pilot can be slow and hinders your ability to see the action, and I also found the position of the pilot in relation to the rest of the ship to be an odd choice. Owning a PSVR headset myself, and I can relate to how well this would have worked if you were a part of the action, but it feels as though tweaks should have been made here for the Switch version to foster that true sense of battle.
The aforementioned graphics are a delight, and the game has a gloss and finish to it that many an indie title aspires to. With this comes the need to balance the visuals with the action, and Bow to Blood almost misses the mark. Fortunately, a simple to use target system is on-hand to spot any enemy ships you cannot see for all the colour and detail. Although I found myself to be somewhat reliant on the target system, it never did detract from the fun I had with the game.
“Randomized encounters and a rotating case ensure no two experiences will be the same. Play over and over again to discover new environments, opponents and challenges.”
TribeToy had every reason to bring Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing to the Nintendo Switch, and I am glad they did. There is a steady increase in the number of action-shooter titles aboard a spaceship, and Bow to Blood holds its own among them. Whilst they have looked to ensure longevity with the inclusion of randomised encounters and the like, I think replayability will be its biggest sticking point. Personally, I have had a lot of fun playing it and I am sure there will be many more who feel the same way.
Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing is an enjoyable romp through a variety of beautifully crafted environments, where skill and luck will be needed in equal measure to trick your enemies and defeat your foes.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox
Release Date: 03/04/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Simulation
Download link: eShop