Alder’s Blood is an upcoming turn-based tactics game with stealth and RPG elements that was Kickstarted back in September. Developer Shockwork Games were kind enough to give us a chance to play a preview build recently as well. Here are our early impressions after around two hours of play.
Alder’s Blood is set in a grim world that blends elements of Victorian Gothic horror, and Wild West aesthetics. God is dead, and his rotting corpse has fallen to the earth, spreading a malevolent corruption across the wilderness. This dark essence has brought all manner of horrific creatures into existence, and they all now roam the wilderness attacking any human settlements they stumble across.
To combat these dark creatures, the Hunters were born. These clans of warriors wander the outskirts of civilization, hunting monsters and protecting settlers. Hunters have a disturbing connection to the same darkness that is threatening humanity, and use it to banish monsters.
Using these dark powers has a heavy price, and gradually corrupts the Hunters as well. This has turned them into social pariahs, and they are rarely tolerated once a job is done.
You manage a clan of Hunters, roaming from place to place, taking on odd jobs and trying to find a way to end the corruption, and save humanity for good. You’ll travel across a node-based map, picking up quests and side quests, scavenging for resources, crafting useful items, and managing your party of Hunters.
Most of the management aspects of the game happen on the Camp screen. From here you can allocate your Hunters to different tasks, like going out to gather food and resources, crafting items, guarding the camp to prevent attacks at night, or resting up to heal their wounds.
Your Hunters all gain experience and level up, allowing them to learn different perks. Each Hunter can carry a large and a small weapon, a charm, and a few consumables, like healing items or traps. Charms offer passive bonuses, but once they are bound to a Hunter they can’t be unequipped, only replaced by a different charm.
Each Hunter is a limited resource in their own way. They can easily fall in battle if you aren’t careful, and the game’s corruption mechanic means that a Hunter will gradually be driven mad as they continue slaying monsters and taking part in missions.
When a Hunter’s corruption gets too high, you’ll need to sacrifice them in a ritual at your camp. While this will kill your Hunter, a portion of their experience can be transferred to someone else.
I advise you to not get too attached to your Hunters, because even if they don’t fall in battle, they will eventually all share the same fate.
Each Hunter has several action point bars, with each action taking up anything from half a bar, to multiple bars. There is an interesting risk versus reward element to action point management.
While a character might have five action points, using all five will make your Hunter exhausted. This means that they will have to skip their next turn to recover. You’ll need to learn when to play conservatively, and when it might be worth it to go all out.
The fragility of your Hunters, as well as the corruption mechanic, means that you can’t really go around each mission slaughtering everything in sight. In fact, unless the mission outright requires you to kill enemies, you can just as easily sneak past everything in your way.
While sneaking from cover to cover is an obvious strategy in any game like this, it isn’t always enough in Alder’s Blood. You also need to be weary of your quarry’s sense of smell, keeping your characters downwind of any enemies. This isn’t easy, as the wind can change between turns. Once they catch wind of you, enemies will begin actively patrolling the area. If they spot you, they’ll get a free activation.
When you do have to fight, your Hunters have a decent arsenal of ranged and melee weapons at their disposal. Guns are powerful, but risky because of how much noise they make.
Your best bet for quickly taking out enemies is to knock them down from behind with melee weapons. Once knocked down, a Hunter can use their connection to the darkness to banish the monster. This is effectively an instant kill move, but increases your Hunter’s corruption.
While Alder’s Blood‘s combat mechanics show a lot of promise already, I really hope they allow you to remap the controls in the final game. Currently, the game has the “select character” and “move” actions bound to the left mouse button. More than a few times I found myself accidentally moving the Hunter I currently had selected when I meant to select a different character.
Alder’s Blood is shaping up to be a solid turn-based tactics game. While the character development is fairly simple, there is quite a lot of depth to the game’s tactical battles.
The corruption mechanic is particularly interesting, and adds another layer of strategy you’ll need to consider as you take on contracts and build your hunting party.
Alder’s Blood was previewed on Windows PC using a preview copy provided by Shockwork Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.