Monday, April 8

Review: Bow to Blood - Last Captain Standing [Nintendo Switch eShop]

What do you get when you combine flight, ship-to-ship combat, some command decisions, critical and sometimes dramatic negotiations, and a futuristic game show? Something completely different, but in this specific case its name is Bow to Blood. With its futuristic take on what would have traditionally been a seafaring adventure perhaps involving pirates, in this game you’ll play the part of The Freelancer, a contestant in a game show pitting either captains against each other racing, fighting, and perhaps backstabbing their way to victory.

When discussing the game first you’ll want to be focused on the care and control of your ship. To be clear, there’s a whole lot that’s going on and at first it can be a bit overwhelming, but once you’ve run through a few rounds of competition it begins to make more sense. Events in each round will vary but your primary concerns tend to be maneuvering your pretty substantial ship through the environment effectively. The second layer of concern tends to be combat, whether that involves taking down drones or opponents’ ships or trying to manage your shields and defend yourself. Consistent with classic ship warfare your firepower is heavier to the sides so you’ll need to get good at setting your course and then turn your head to lock onto enemy targets and blow them away. Managing your ship can be as complicated as you choose to make it and you have numerous systems to manage power to if you’d like, but assigning your two crewmembers to your most urgent needs is usually a great idea as they help to reduce some of the pressure on you to keep on top of everything while trying to keep yourself in the air.

The other major aspect of the game comes from strategy in the form of negotiating deals with the other ships’ captains. Whether that’s agreeing to split a bounty on an objective, throwing some credits their way to keep them alive, or doing a little head hunting while you can go the lone wolf route the likelihood of success on that road may be tougher since each round ends in a Culling where the person with the least number of votes is eliminated. This makes forming smart alliances and honoring your word whenever possible a smart move to keep people in your corner, just always keep in mind the people on the wrong side of your deals may then also choose to work against you by the same token. It’s the balance of these two pieces of the game, and how they’re quite different each time you play, that keeps things interesting and thinking about your every move.

While you can certainly get by focusing only on your major concerns to a point the abundance of things you can manage and tweak are tempting but since there are so many options it’s impossible not to note that remembering how to do it all is a challenge. There are quite a number of interfaces for altering settings and moving things around and it can take a bit not to feel lost with them or to plain forget how to do something crucial at the proper moment. While you can get over this curve with some practice it can also be intimidating so be aware of this when you’re giving the game a look as it’s not something that’s easy to jump into, leave for a while, and then come back to due to this complexity.

More than anything else the positive of Bow to Blood is that it’s thoroughly unique, offering up an experience I can’t say I’ve ever had. The mix of controlling the ship, managing your crew, engaging in some combat, and then trying to plot to get as far in the competition as possible will keep you on your toes, though after awhile the missions will begin to blend together a bit in you mind as they don’t tend to play out that radically differently. If you’ve been aching for something that’ll offer a new challenge and a dose of negotiative intrigue it’s worth a look and should satisfy at least for a little while.

Score: 7.5

  • Simply a different kind of experience
  • Mixes ship-to-ship combat with strategic negotiations

  • The controls and all of the systems you can manage are a bit intimidating
  • After you’ve spent some time with the game the events start to get a bit repetitive