Price: Free/$6.99 for full game
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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In a world where attention is commodified, the only way to compete is to keep doing more outlandishly attention-grabbing things. This is exactly how Alyn Corp rose to prominence. With their mega-hit reality series, Kill/Stream, players compete in a deadly competition to win a huge cash prize. Bloodshore is an FMV game that centers around this killer contest, giving you control of one of the contestants as you make your way through hours of footage that only manage to stay interesting thanks to the underlying core premise, provided you can actually finish the game.
PUBG meets Survivor
In Bloodshore, you play as Nick Romeo, a washed-up, down-on-his-luck actor who finds himself competing with other desperate streamers and micro-celebrities for a $10,000,000 prize. The rules of the game are simple. 50 people parachute onto an island in a contest to "survive by any means necessary." When the competition begins, Alyn Corps also airdrops weapons and ammo across the island and starts activating concentric rings of "smart mines" to drive players together and encourage them toward violence.
As an FMV game, you mostly just watch the action as it unfolds, but at key decision points for Nick, you call the shots about who to trust, what your overall strategy should be, and how to avoid death. Along the way, you can pause the game to view a tracker that measures your performance across a few different metrics like team morale, audience opinion, and insight, which presumably also inform the outcome of your overall journey.
One of the more remarkable aspects of Bloodshore is just its timing. Less than two months from the acclaimed Netflix (and smash-hit) series Squid Game premiered, Bloodshore comes along with a remarkably similar premise and plot progression. This could make anyone who is simply looking for some video game equivalent of the show pretty curious, though if you go in expecting a similar level of quality or social commentary, you probably won't get what you're looking for.
For the most part, Bloodshore is more concerned with moment-to-moment action, which is understandable. The logistics of stitching together over 8 hours of video clips into one cohesive narrative based on various possible sets of player choices can't be easy. This is especially true considering this is a game that revolves around killing other characters, some of whom could be core to your story had you done things differently to keep them alive.
Dead in the water
The strongest moments in Bloodshore aren't anything that happens on the island, though. Kill/Stream is a hugely popular and controversial reality show in the game world, and there are a ton of break aways from Nick that cut to viewers reacting to the show as it progresses that provide a glimpse at the society where a show like this exists. It's these meta-commentary moments that are the slickest and smartest parts of Bloodshore, mostly from an aesthetic level, but there are times where the game's actual commentary feels well-reasoned (though at other times not-so-much).
There are a few problems with this, though. First is: you don't get enough of it. Any time you exit the media cloud surrounding Kill/Stream, the island itself feels drab and boring by comparison. It also doesn't help that every character plays a pretty wooden stereotype and a lot of the acting and tone of every competitor is bizarrely light-hearted.
The bigger problem with Bloodshore though is that it suffers from some pretty severe technical problems. On every playthrough I attempted of the game, I hit a stopping point where scenes refused to load. In some cases, I could force quit the app and restart at a checkpoint (which was usually several scenes back, by the way), but in others I had no other option but to start the whole game over again. For this reason, I'd say steer clear of Bloodshore entirely until it gets a fix.
The bottom line
Don't pick up Bloodshore until it fixes some of its scene-stitching issues. Even once this gets fixed, Bloodshore's greatest strengths are at its margins, and its core somewhat works against it to serve up pretty traditional FMV schlock.