Bloodbond Into The Shroud (PC Review): Who’s Your Daddy, And What Does He Do?

After returning from a hunt, Astrid finds her village in flames and her mother missing. What the Hel is going on in Bloodbond Into The Shroud?

Vikings are cool. They’re the epitome of alpha’s – notably the berserker types who were a bit better at the spelling bee than the Hulk. But they still had that same raw smashing power. Bloodbond Into the Shroud isn’t your typical Viking protagonist as you play a woman, that for once, isn’t a Valkerie or Shield Maiden.

Astrid is a son of a witch. Actually, daughter – I was being facetious. After a brief hunt that pits her up against an arachnid from hell, or Hel, she returns to her village to find it on fire, and her mother is missing.

Her Viking witch title is half from her mum, half her dad, but he’s not on the scene. Cue the Hero’s Journey as she goes on the search for her estranged father, encountering resistance along the way. Mum didn’t go out for milk, so where the Hel is she?

Bloodbond Into The Shroud (PC Review)

When I first read about Bloodbond Into the Shroud, I was under the impression that you weren’t forced into battles, and exploration was encouraged. From the outset, I was exploring each corner of the tutorial area but had to fight that enraged arachnid, listen to insincere comments about the dead, and follow the breadcrumbs to fight a patrol.

It’s not the end of the world, as that means there’s plenty of action. But the best way of playing this was from afar as get too close to an opponent and the controls, notably the camera, go all over the place. I recorded some gameplay from the beginning, so make your own opinion.

But I have my own, and Bloodbond Into the Shroud feels like it’s still in Early Access. Assets will pop up all of a sudden; the terrain is inconsistent – some paths are flat, witch (ha!) you can’t climb them, while others look like something out of Death Stranding, and you can walk up as if stomping over a model village.

XP is awarded for practically everything you do, from battles to collecting items. Loving a bit of a grind, I was happy to do my South Park bit of killing lower level enemies and harvesting plants, but it was a bit dull. Perhaps an unusual approach was items hovering in the air. This wasn’t a glitch but a design choice – presumably, so you don’t miss anything. But Astrid has a sensor thing like Geralt and will scan the area for anything collectable or points of interest (including pairs of boots to represent footprints). Not sure why this was a thing, but each to their own.

Again, With More Feeling

Astrid has spells, but the go-to weapon is her bow, and when coupled with the mouse, it’s accurate and has unlimited ammo. It can be boosted with varying types, too. What I found frustrating, though, were sequences during battles where the camera would zoom in on a random point far away, then zoom back, but at a slow pace – as if each set piece had to follow a formula. During these transitions, enemies can attack you, and you can hear Astrid’s awful cries of being hurt.

BloodBond Into The Shroud - Are you local
Are you local? Source: Steam

I have a lot of patience with games; even when I feel frustrated when dying, I keep pushing through – there are reviews to be done. Unfortunately, while the camera zooms can be pretty terrible, the voice acting and sound production is the worst.

If the voice actor is from one of the Nordic countries, she’s spent a good deal living elsewhere to pick up another accent. Equally, her understanding of distress that her village is burning down or that her mother is missing sounds out of context. It came across that the actor read their lines without even seeing the game or digesting what was happening in each scene. Maybe it’s me. If I witnessed the same events, I’d not be talking that way. I’d be crying.

It’s not just the voice acting, but by default, the music and ambient sounds drown out the dialogue. With voices set to max, it got to the point of turning the music volume down. As a result, sometimes you’ll see dialogue on screen, other times, someone will be talking, and you have no idea what they’re saying – it’s as if they’re speaking from another room.

In Development

As for the story and concept, I like it. The meeting up with an estranged family member and the subsequent expedition across unknown lands has been used a lot in film, but not so much in gaming, so that’s nice. I also liked the visuals and character designs in the game. It has the potential to be an engaging experience, but the current technical issues are frustrating.

Bloodbond Into The Shroud PC Review - Dungeon master
Dungeon master. Source: Steam

It’s clear that Bloodbond Into the Shroud has dramatically improved since it was first showcased, and it’s clear that the team want to make it the best it can be. I only know this from watching a few other videos from a year ago. The graphics are much more polished now, but it still feels very unfinished when playing. 

Almost every scene will fade in and out as if interrupted, and dialogue scenes are awkward where Astrid will say the dialogue you select, performed in her quirky way, but as you’ve already read and selected the speech, you tend to skip it. The developers could have omitted the voice acting completely, and it could have worked in their favour.

Still, the combination of dodgy angles, erratic terrains and awful voice acting ruined my experience. Fortunately for the developers, W.R.K.S. Games, I’m abandoning review scores once again as they seem pointless. The aggregator sites aren’t interested, and it would be a bit harsh on the creators of their debut title. As much as my experience was poor, I’m not in the business of rubbishing people. 

Bloodbond Into the Shroud Review Summary

In short, Bloodbond Into the Shroud wasn’t for me, but check out some other reviews to weigh things up. The premise is good, the core gameplay has potential, but my experience was frustrating. As for Astrid, I wish her well in her endeavours.