From Shieldbearer Studios comes The Bloodline, currently in Early Access. This Norse-tinged open-world adventure is filled with goblins, foraging, and tons of exploration. You play as Harbinger – the last in the Harbinger bloodline. From the moment you wake up in the game, you can do what you want when you want. There is still an underlying story, though. Decades ago, the Unforgiven attacked the land, but your bloodline’s heritage is the gift of foresight, and their visions were able to help thwart them.
Now, as the last remaining Harbinger, it’s up to you to make people remember the history of the land. The Unforgiven could return at any time, and if the people are to be prepared, they have to remember the deeds of the Harbingers of the past. A noble undertaking, to be sure, but unfortunately for the people of this land, there is no set goal, and thus The Bloodline became ADHD: The Game.
I started by exploring my rundown castle homestead. Upon waking up, there was just a dude standing in my bedroom. After yelling “Stranger Danger!” for a few minutes, I talked to him. This was a good idea because he was the Basic Tutorial Man, font of knowledge, and keeper of the control scheme. Then, it was time to run full speed around the sprawling building, talking to people, learning where the shops are, picking up small quests, and learning some basic skills. There’s even a library where you can “learn” runes, which involves matching the rune to its corresponding letter and spelling a word.
Then, it was time to run/jump outside the walls and see what was happening there. The answer is not much because it’s all been destroyed or fallen into disrepair. This means you can rebuild and populate your village with useful buildings like a bakery. This means collecting resources, which means heading to the over world. If you reach the boundary of an area, you can press E to access the overworld map or access it from the menu using tab. From there, you can scroll around and see what areas are available. The middle mouse button will give you information about each area. For towns, you click to travel, then press E to enter. For wild areas, choose to camp, then you can explore.
I spent approximately four hours running around the first area. Almost any action you can make in The Bloodline can be leveled up. Hence, my tried and tested combination of run-jumping was executed. I’m the best jumper now. I am an Olympian jumper. If the scourge of the Unforgiven returns and gets no air, I will prevail within minutes. There’s also foraging, fishing, cooking, climbing, and mining, and your overall level will also increase. You can also hunt the wildlife using your bow and arrow, or if you’re fast enough, just run up and slash them with your sword. When you find pigs and inevitably kill them for their delicious ham, note the horrific, twisted, slinky way they die. Horrible!
As it is in early access, there is some jank present. There’s some graphical clipping; the combat is a little bit clunky sometimes, and frequently, my character would be stuck in a climbing animation after climbing a ladder. This is interesting because actual climbing, as in rockfaces, is very hit-and-miss as to whether it will actually work. I also encountered a few NPCs who trapped me in a soundless conversation or glitched out and disappeared. There was also the occasional floating weirdo, which no early-access game is complete without.
Despite the glitches, The Bloodline is still incredibly fun to play, especially if you enjoy exploration/collecting. There is a lot more to explore than I thought would be available. There’s an abandoned fortress filled with goblins and loot. There’s an old crypt in the middle of a lake filled with Undead and treasure. There are strange blazers that can be lit with blue flames and a dwarven door that says it will only open when the rains return. This is just some of what is in the closest locations to the Harbinger stronghold.
There are lots of little features that make playing more enjoyable. For example, if you pick off a deer from a distance, you don’t have to go collect the loot from it. It automatically goes into your inventory. Please don’t change this, developers; it is much nicer. There are big gold sparkles on anything that can be foraged, mined, or chopped down. Again, extremely helpful. Also, loot from crates currently seems to respawn if you die or leave and return to an area, but you retain whatever you previously looted if you die. Please also don’t change this, I need to possess all the things. No, I don’t know why; I just do.
The fact that the buggier aspects of the game don’t detract from it for me is a testament to how much fun I’ve had playing it. It’s very reminiscent of the open-world aspects of the Dragon Age series, one of my favorite game series of all time and another fine example of ADHD as a game. Oh, I have to kill a massive dragon? Wrong, I actually have to go collect every single wild herb on the map, find every hidden thing, and try to make Alistair my husband for the 800th time.
Hopefully, The Bloodline can only get more powerful from here on out as more bugs are ironed out and more content is added. Until then, I will be endlessly picking mushrooms and laughing at the death throes of pixelated pigs for the foreseeable future.
The Bloodline is out now in early access on Steam.