Expecting a simplified hack 'n' slash with overdone Gothic elements, R:B surprised us with some really cool features and a deep character growth system. Our full report and trailer after the break!
Now, right up front, let's just get it out of the way: when a game company says their title is 'mature', that typically means that it's bloody or graphic in some sense. There's nothing wrong with this, and probably has a lot more to do with the way games are rated on their boxes, but in this particular case, 'bloody', 'graphic' and 'gory' fit the bill precisely, and 'nudity' also makes an appearance.
The world of R:B is dark indeed, where magic and science have combined in the most horrific of ways, scarring the landscape and producing no end of grotesque creatures for you to battle. Story is not why you will want to play this game. Rather, the character customization system and combat will decide for you.
Combat in R:B is rife with blood spatter, head lopping, and limb removal. The animation per enemy changes depending on the type of weapon you wield, but other than that it's pretty straightforward, using weapons and magic to deal damage. Beneath this surface layer, however, lies a great deal of customization.
There are 3 aspects to customization worth discussion: the Skill Menu, the DNA System, and Beast Possession. The Skill Menu choices are manifold, and visible to the player from the outset, so it's easy to plan ahead and choose to either specialize in a particular type of damage dealer or become a Jack of All Trades. The developers made the decision to allow this as a reaction against the 'skill tree' method of choosing skills seen in games like WoW, where to unlock the skills you really want you have to go through several rounds of picking lesser, perhaps unwanted skills. Suffice it to say this method is much more flexible.
The DNA System affects your character's base stats, and is completely mutable. There are 5 slots available to fill with various boosts, and a rather large selection of DNA to choose from. These choices can be equipped at any time, swapping out one for another whenever you choose. This works well in grouping, where you can offset your character's weaknesses compared with another group member, or remove redundancies to better support the group. Additionally, there is an unlockable 6th slot, which becomes active when the proper combination of 5 DNA choices is selected. This will, of course, make available for use some über stat, though what it will affect remains undisclosed.
The Beast Possession aspect of R:B is interesting. Essentially, as you fight, a gauge called the 'Hardcore Meter' will slowly fill up. Once full, your character changes into a larger, monsterlike form capable of dealing more damage, but only available until the Meter depletes. Your Beast form has its own set of stats and its own armor. In fact, it's almost like being able to play two characters for the price of one. Say, for example, that you've chosen a character class approximating a Healer. Your Beast might go the other route and be a Tank, making you a dual threat in any PvP/group situation.
Your Beast must level up the same way your main character levels -- through usage. Making this easier, however, is the ability for Beasts to share experience points. So let's say your beast is a Healer, but if you don't group much, you're unlikely to make the most of it. You can choose to transfer experience from another beast to level your Healer, buffing its stats without having to go through an interminable grind.
There are a few other items of interest in R:B. During the dark hours, the 'normal' creatures you fight will be replaced by Nightmare-level monsters who are a lot tougher to kill, and accordingly drop better loot, including Beast Possession pieces. PvP works on a battleground basis, where you could be involved in group combat involving upwards of 96 players on either side. And a big grievance of mine is addressed: creatures of sufficiently lower level than you won't even notice you. This is a boon to players who just want to get from one area to the next without having to stop to take out every little annoyance that wants to eat you.
The Requiem: Bloodymare team says they'll likely be going into closed beta in about a month, and that they're taking the time to get the localization just right, which is always nice to hear. If you're looking for a little indiscriminate mayhem, this MMO is the one to watch for.