Blood of Calamity (Android) review
"Kemco: We create games that...uh...exist."
Blood of Calamity is a typical Kemco RPG, which means it does enough to maintain my interest but fails to capture my imagination. There are some great ideas, but they're dragged down to mere adequacy by a host of minor failings. Depending on your personal preferences, the game's regular asking price may feel justified, but I personally would hesitate to recommend a purchase unless you find it available during one of Kemco's 99-cent sales.
So, after that rousing introduction that could apply to much of the Kemco mobile library, what does one say about this game in particular? I suppose I should start by noting that initially I looked forward to playing it. The more time I spent with the game, though, the more prepared I was to move on to something else. The most interesting thing about this particular JRPG is its setting, which resembles Japan. There are feudal clans, and the realm is overrun by monsters from Japanese folklore, such as Tengu and Oni. That's neat. I've played many, many games in the genre over the years, but had never really seen Japan meaningfully represented.
The protagonist in this particular affair is Kenshiro Totsuki, heir to the throne of one of the world's four clans. He doesn't care much about his birthright, or much of anything other than hitting on any woman he can find (much to the displeasure of his long-suffering aide, Tatsuto). Then, on one atypical day when Tatsuto succeeds in convincing his charge to leave town to train, a pair of mysterious assailants invade the castle. Interestingly, the two didn't kill anyone during the attack. They simply knock out the clan's guards and extract some blood from its leader, Kenshiro's father. Suspecting a sinister motive, the elder Totsuki sends Kenshiro and Tatsuko on a mission to the other clans, both to warn them of a potential attack and, if possible, to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Blood of Calamity was created by Magitec, a team which in the past has shown an ability to at least tell a more intriguing story than Kemco's other developers. For a good part of the game, that narrative aptitude is on full display. While the two Totsuki representatives have little trouble convincing the Mikadoin clan of the threat (in part because their leader, Haruka, recently endured her own forced blood extraction), the other two clans prove more troublesome. The leader of the Yakujo clan openly distrusts the other clans, while the boss of the espionage-oriented Oshitari clan has his own goals that may not be compatible with those of his temporary allies. And, as you progress, you'll hear rumors of a fifth clan that was wiped out by the other four in the distant past because it possessed powers that were deemed too dangerous.
The game also features some other intriguing design elements. Whenever a character gains a level, they gain a bunch of points that can be allocated to their stats in order to either bolster their strengths or mitigate their weaknesses. This is doubly important, because spells and combat skills are allocated by raising those stats to certain levels. If you don't properly allot points, your characters won't be able to do anything but inflict standard attacks and use items. Another way to improve characters is through the use of "Mandaras." You can assign one to each character to buff various abilities. For example, you can give front-row fighters improved attack or defense, while your back-row mage gains superior spell-casting ability. Also, this game has a few side quests that boast their own specific dungeon, rather than simply sending you back to ones you previously cleared, which was a nice touch.
As time went on, though, the nice touches started to lose their impact. A general sense of ennui pervaded my sessions with Blood of Calamity. I never got to the point where I disliked the game, but I did grow fatigued and wanted it to end so I could move on to something else. Things became tedious after a while, for a handful of reasons.
Let's start with the flat characters. When I first started reviewing Kemco games, I looked around online to see if anyone actually cared enough about the titles to hold conversations about them for long after their release. My search led me to a fan site. Concerning this game, I read comments that the dialogue was more adult-oriented than one might expect, with Kenshiro often coming off as an overly lecherous creep. While that criticism does have merit, my issue is that the character's perverted manner is less a personality trait and more a shoehorned attempt to give him a personality. When you start, Kenshiro doesn't care about anything other than hitting on women (generally in a sleazy manner). After meeting Haruka, however, he develops a crush on her and makes an attempt to be more serious. At one point, it's said that he's acting this way solely to impress her, but other than that isolated moment, he near-effortlessly slides from lust-filled and immature into a generic "I always do the right thing!" role. Why? Because that's what a hero does! We can't have any negative traits sullying his virtue, now can we? The whole character arc just doesn't feel genuine.
Also, when push comes to shove, the only difference between early-game dungeons and those found near the end of the campaign is the increased size and complexity. There are a tiny amount of different dungeon tile sets and a very small collection of unique monster designs, to the degree that most bosses are mere palette swaps of one another. I could make the same complaint about virtually every Kemco game, but the flaw bothered me more in this case. Since it was released in May of 2015, I feel like Magitec should have by that point developed a respectable supply of usable assets. Instead of offering some degree of variety, though, the team pits players against the same assortment of frogs, bats, rock monsters, she-demons and whatever in every single dungeon. The mobs are differentiated only by their color. While it only took me about 15 hours or so to get through this game, little things like that made me feel as if that number was much higher.
Even the game's successes start to wear thin. It doesn't take many battles to gain levels in this game, so I was constantly accessing the sub-screen to allocate points to stats. You eventually gain a total of six playable characters, but only three are used in battle at once. I wound up just focusing on Kenshiro, Tatsuko and the first ally they found, and ignored the rest of my options because I didn't want to take the time to build up their abilities. It probably didn't help that this game is fairly easy, as well. I did struggle with a couple of late-game bosses (in particular, the final one), but then realized that I had about 30 of a particular item that automatically fills the game's meter for special "limit-break" moves, ensuring that I could cast those immensely powerful attacks continuously. Those stupid bosses weren't so tough then, I'll tell you!
Blood of Calamity is an average Kemco title, which is another way of saying it's suitable junk food for RPG lovers. The initially intriguing story winds up telling a bland tale of friendship vanquishing evil during an anti-climactic final act. If you actually still want to keep playing the game once the credits roll, you can do so and potentially access a different (and presumably happier) ending. The game ultimately does a decent enough job of playing "connect-the-dots", but it doesn't do anything noteworthy enough to stand apart from Kemco's cluttered library, let alone distinguish itself within the JRPG field in general.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 12, 2017)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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