Microtransactions will suck you dry
Bloodmasque is a mobile RPG by Square Enix that allows you to scan your face into the game and hunt vampires with it. Yep, you can walk around showing off your mug for all the world to see through the game’s online party share system, complete with multiple emotions, and utter campiness all around.
As you might have guessed, this gimmick can only go so far.
Bloodmasque (iPad [tested on an iPad Mini], iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: July 25, 2013
Bloodmasque offers up a decent narrative set over the backdrop of vampires, half-breed hunters, and a by-gone era set in France. It isn’t the deepest story in the world, but the storylines and arcs remain interesting enough throughout the roughly ten-hour odyssey, and string you along with conflict after conflict as you build you hunter’s gear and take on the next vampiric menace. You’ll progress through the game by choosing missions from a main map, engaging in limited free-range exploration around towns, and entering combat, which I’ll get to later.
As you can probably tell from the screens, the game oozes cheese from top to bottom. The voice acting is the definition of acceptable (and only half the game is voiced, presumably to cut development costs), but it gets the job done. When combined with the utterly campy ability to scan your face into the game, it somehow works.
So about that — the main gimmick of Bloodmasque is the “masque” system, which allows you to snap a photo of yourself and place your face on the main character’s in-game model. You can take a neutral picture, as well as a surprised/angry face, which makes for amusing moments at different points in the story. Unlike other low-tech scanning solutions, this actually pans out, and pretty much super-imposes your exact face into the game — male or female.
So how does the actual game play? Essentially through a series of fights, all of which operate under the same parameters — fight a couple of goons, then take on the main baddie, which is usually a vampire. Combat isn’t deep in the slightest, but it’s serviceable. In fact, it’s basically just a dumbed down Infinity Blade, since all you really have to do is tap to attack, occasionally swipe left or right to dodge, and press an on-screen button to engage your super ability. As long as you’re not looking for something earth-shattering though, this system isn’t really a bad thing, as it’s great to pick up and play, and can be put back down within minutes. It works.
So everything doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well here’s the really bad news — the game is hard-locked to online play. While this may seem like a DRM issue, it’s actually because the game allows for the recruiting of other real players, and as such, Bloodmasque is constantly updating data in real time to accommodate this “feature.” You’ll adventure with other people online, with their real faces, stats, and everything, which is a nice touch. But it’s very unfortunate for those who don’t have a stable internet connection at all times, especially since this mechanic could have easily been an optional addition and still allowed for a full offline game.
Bloodmasque would have been a great buy at $6.99 if you could put up with the aforementioned issues, but it has the audacity to feature a horridly designed microtransaction-based store. Some of the best items in the game can only be purchased with rubies, and the game gives out so few of them, you almost have to spend real money to keep up. In particular, wooden stakes, which are used at the end of each battle to eternally vanquish vampires, earn you superior rewards for using higher-quality versions — which you cannot possibly afford consistently without doling out cash.
In many ways, Bloodmasque is a shame. It offers up a simple combat system that can easily be enjoyed in spurts, a captivating world, and a cheesy veneer that will have you laughing constantly at your ridiculous face in-game. But with the online requirement and microtransactions on top of the existing issues and premium price, it’s a bit hard to recommend.