Reviewed by Thomas
One of the sad truths in our society is that reality television is here to stay. Once you tune in to such an event it can be hard to turn it off. Humans are creatures of habit. Habit and drama. Watching a cast of strangers compete for love, money or survival has all the hooks. It doesn’t matter how fake or scripted the drama is, we can’t turn away. It reasons to stand that reality TV will last well into the future of our species. Thus enters Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing.
In Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing you are known simply as The Freelancer. In a setting where steampunk style airships rule the skies, you captain one such vessel. In a reality show ran by the ominous Overseers, you are a contestant seeking to become the Champion of Bow to Blood. Over multiple playthroughs you unlock more and more tidbits of the surrounding world. Some of these come in the form of trophies and collectibles adorned in your cabin. Other information trickles out in conversation with your competitors. Despite the vibrant colors, the world you live in feels quite dreary even though you’re always confined to your ship.
Following a tutorial to help you feel comfortable at the helm, you must multitask the safe operation of an airship. Piloting the ship and manning the broadsides are your main functions. You can also trigger a boost to different systems aboard your ship. You can assign one of two helpers to either shields, guns, engines or a helpful drone. At first the slew of tasks seemed daunting. After a match or two of flying the ship and barking out orders, it became second nature. The pair of mismatched teammates have polarized views about the competition and make sure to add their two cents when you play dirty or fair.
Piloting through floating mazes and poisonous mist while shooting down hordes of drones is one thing. Sure, it has thrills and excitement but it still needs that good old fashioned drama. A total of eight contestants vie for the championship. The matches never pit all of you together at once. There were only a few cases where I outright fought another contestant. The matches offer a lot of variety. There are seven rounds with two events per round. The first event is a free for all point grab whereas the second event is more unique. You may end up racing one opponent while the next round has you taking out a floating cargo train or a taking out a massive combat ship.
Following each round the points are tallied and each participant is ranked. As with any reality show, the bottom two go to the culling and one will be voted out of the Bow to Blood competition. You converse with the other competitors during and in between each match. Typically one at a time. A key element of gameplay focuses on these interactions. You have the chance to form alliances or rivalries. You can share your points or sabotage a fellow captain’s ship. Each decision plays into the voting process and how other captains interact with you during a match. Sometimes they work with you and other times against you. Balancing these relationships is not only important during the events but play a big role when you make it to the finale.
Art and sound
Bow to Blood is a colorful world yet something feels off. The whole of the game takes place in the arena or in your captains quarters. Even with such a narrow perception of the world, it feels drab and foreboding. The sound effects are pleasant and the music was never bothersome but it didn’t stand out either. For a game that originated as a PlayStation 4 VR title, it’s not surprising there were some technical hiccups. Roughly every five minutes or so in a match the game would stutter. It happened so often that it soon became the norm. I found the lack of pro controller support unfortunate as well since the aiming system was jittery at times causing you to target friends.
Despite the flaws and hiccups, Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing was fun to play. The matches increase in difficulty and always offer a challenge. The intrigue of forming alliances and rivalries was exciting to watch play out. As often as I stabbed someone in the back I knew the same would happen to me. Deciding to take stolen points to avoid the culling could just as easily pay off or backfire. Each playthrough gave a different taste of the varied outcomes. I never had the same choice play out the same way. The lack of a detailed world left me wanting more.
- Engaging Combat
- Multiple Playthroughs
- Intriguing Character Interactions
- Technical Stutters
- Shallow World
- Sporadic Aiming System