Blood Brothers is a free-to-play mobile RPG from Mobage, available now for iOS and Android devices. It can be found as a free download in the App Store and via Google Play, and carries additional in-app purchases for premium currency.
Blood Brothers combines the core mechanics of the popular Japanese card-battle genre with the aesthetics of a board game and elements of role-playing games in an attempt to create something that pushes a rather stagnant genre of gaming forward. It isn’t entirely successful in its attempts, being neither a particularly good RPG nor offering any particular innovations on the card-battle genre, but the fact that the developers have done more than simply reskin a title such as Rage of Bahamut is an encouraging first step at least.
In Blood Brothers, the player takes on the role of a vampiric hero who must wander the land, battle monsters, collect treasure and recruit new “familiars” to fight alongside them. There is a plot which gradually unfolds as the game progresses, but it is forgettable, cliché-riddled fantasy fare, and far from the game’s primary focus.
When adventuring, the player moves around on a board game-style map. Moving a single “space” on the map costs an energy point, and very occasionally, an intersection will be encountered, offering a choice of two routes. For the most part, though, this is the game’s equivalent of the card-battle genre’s usual “adventure” modes, in which the player must simply repeatedly tap a button to progress.
Occasionally, the player will come across enemies on the map screen, at which point play switches to battle mode. Here, the player may arrange a formation of their own character and any “familiars” they have collected, and then begin the battle. Battles unfold completely automatically with no input from the player — units take it in turns to attack each other, and each has a small chance of unleashing their special ability, which usually deals more damage or attacks multiple units at once. After battle, the participants receive experience points, and sometimes the player has the opportunity to attempt to recruit a defeated “captive” familiar using special items. Items acquired through play do not guarantee successful recruitment, but items which do guarantee success may be acquired using hard currency or occasionally as special rewards.
Sometimes in the field, the player may encounter player-vs-player battles without warning. These are resolved in the same manner as regular battles, and the player usually has a choice of opponents to compete against. Scoring an increasingly-large winning streak against other players offers impressive rewards, but given the ability to choose opponents, “strategy” for this becomes little more than seeking out the lowest-level opponent and flattening them. It’s also possible to send “ally” requests to opponents after the battle is resolved.
When the player finishes a quest area, they are rewarded with the contents of any treasure chests they collected from the map and are then invited to either proceed to the next area or spend some time managing their forces. Units gain regular experience and the resulting stat increases simply by participating in battle, but in order to power up their special abilities (including the probability of it being triggered in battle), the player must “perform the rite of Blood Brothers.” This is essentially the same as the “Fusion” option in most card battle titles, whereby an individual card may be powered up by sacrificing one or more others. Cards may also be “evolved” by fusing two matching ones together, or “empowered” by using special crystals to increase their stats.
Social features for the game include the ability to add players as allies, view their collections and leave comments on their profile. There’s also a player-driven “bazaar” that allows for the trading of familiars and items between players — a nice idea, given that this is not normally possible in other card-battle games.
Ultimately, the good things that Blood Brothers does aren’t quite enough to outweigh the fact that it’s a rather tedious game with very little depth at heart. The main gameplay involves, as ever for the card-battle genre, repeatedly tapping on a button to advance ever onwards and grind for experience. Early levels are paced quite well, but both App Store and Google Play reviewers complain of hitting a “wall” after a certain amount of play, where progress all but halts for those who are unwilling to pay up for energy-restoring items. Given that play never really gets any more complex than it is at the beginning of the game — a fault that can mainly be attributed to the fact that it’s not possible to take any control in battles — there’s relatively little incentive to continue playing, as the plot certainly isn’t interesting enough to keep RPG fans satisfied.
In the long term, Blood Brothers is likely to enjoy some success, as DeNA/Mobage have repeatedly proven that they have considerable skills at user acquisition and retention, even for games that aren’t necessarily “good” by the traditional definition. Blood Brothers is certainly a considerably more polished, better experience than its stablemates Rage of Bahamut and Marvel War of Heroes, but it still fails to offer an experience with enough depth to truly capture the imagination of the “hardcore” gamer audience.
Blood Brothers for iOS is currently ranked at No. 233 in Top Free Apps, No. 29 in Top Grossing Apps, No. 234 in Top Free iPad Apps, No. 88 in Top Grossing iPad Apps, No. 81 in Top Free Games, No. 26 in Top Grossing Games, No. 99 in Top Free iPad Games and No. 63 in Top Grossing iPad games.
While there are a few good ideas evident here, ultimately the core game is still just a meaningless, tedious grind with very little depth.