Posted on 03 Apr 2019 by Jay Shaw

Bow To Blood: Last Captain Standing

The Defence

Developer: Tribetoy
Publisher: Tribetoy
Genre: Action, Indie
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 03 Apr 2019

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 5200U @2.2 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
AMD equivalent
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 4 GB
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: Yes
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel 3.2 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 750Ti
AMD equivalent
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 4 GB
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: Yes
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Bow To Blood: Last Captain Standing puts you in the boots of a captain aboard an airship, but this isn’t some clunky dirigible, you’re armed to the teeth with cannons, lasers, and missiles. You take command of two other crew members and attempt to navigate a blood sport style game show where you’ll face off against the whims of other contestants and the mysterious Overseers. Does Bow To Blood rise above, or sink into the choking misty depths?

The Trial

One of the earliest moments of Bow To Blood is being told your airship is literally powered by your life force and being instructed to turn it on. It does a great job of linking you to the ship; you’re instantly put in a mindset that the ship isn’t just a tool, it’s you and you need to take care of it if you want to get through what’s coming. There’s more of a disconnect between you and your two crew members who can man various stations around the ship to boost or automate their functions. The man is boisterous but likeable while the woman feels more professionally restrained. The personality clash has them shooting witty banter back and forth frequently.

Control of the airship is pretty simple: You’ve got a ship style throttle with three forward speeds and one back speed, you can turn left and right, and pitch up and down. Your lasers and cannons are slaved to where you’re looking and the selected weapon depends on what firing arc you’re looking into. It can take a moment to adjust to the throttle style but once you’re used to it you begin to appreciate that it leaves you time to focus on other aspects of managing the ship.

Speaking of; getting your crew where they’re needed. We found that 90% of the time it was best to leave our crew on the shields and crew cannons for a little extra survivability and bite but you’ll have to shuffle them around in other situations. An elite enemy, for example, might be easier taken down if your crew hits it with a steady barrage of drones. Escaping from a battle or winning a race will be best accomplished by someone manning the engine station. The sensors – not so much use. We found that having good situational awareness was far better than wasting a crew member’s talents on the sensors. There are some tangible benefits though; enemy detection and missile locks become jammed, and your detection range is increased. Even with those in effect, it found it to be less effective than turrets and shields.

Shields are very important in a situation like this.

Power can also be shuffled between ship systems to tailor the amount of charges available to special actions. Of these you have four: a temporary shield that absorbs all damage, turbo boosters, a special weapon, and a drone that briefly disables enemy ships. The shield and special weapon are instantly effective and seemed to offer the best performance in combat. The brief shunt to top speed afforded by the booster is great for dodging a large attack or getting into cover before a barrage hits but is more situational. The drone however suffers from a long activation time. Don’t get us wrong, it’s useful once it lands but if you’re shooting at your opponent they’ll probably explode before it gets there.

Each round of the game show takes place over two missions – the first is often a variety of tasks, generally flying around and collecting things, racing to get loot before the timer expires, or something else aimed at boosting your score. The second half usually pits you against a boss type enemy with another contestant with the aim being to out-do each other. Damage incurred in the first mission carries over to the second, so sometimes cutting and running can be to your benefit.

Once the daily rounds are over, the bottom two contestants on the rankings are voted against by the remainder to decide which one is removed from play. You can forge alliances and gain sponsorships from the other contestants. Making friends may initially seem pointless when you’re trying to beat them anyway but having more people on your side when voting time comes around will really help you out. You gain favour either through dialogue choices or actions in game; sharing points or helping kill a dangerous elite are two common ones. Be careful though, some characters will eagerly stab you in the back should a chance arise.

A laurel award will get you a permanent bonus for the rest of the season.

The relatively sedentary pace of Bow To Blood lends itself well to a relaxing session. Combat tends to be brief and vicious but between encounters you’ll find yourself floating along enjoying the chunky scenery or diving into the poisonous mists below to look for hidden loot. Settling into the slower pace is worthwhile too; between rounds an exuberant announcer will show results and banter like a 1970’s game show host (complete with huge hair and collar) and he can ramble on a little too long. An option to skip his dialogue would make repeated runs far less painful.

For all the fun those first couple of runs provide, the game starts to suffer after that. You never get another ship or chance to play as other characters, there are no different weapons or crew members, there are no upgrades to unlock or even ship skins. The room you visit between rounds gradually fills up with knick-knacks as you complete challenges and make friends but none of it does anything except sit on shelves. It’s truly a shame because when you’re still discovering things and there’s novelty to the experience, it’s a lot of fun.

The Verdict

Bow To Blood‘s single player elimination style tournament in airships is a breath of fresh air in today’s gaming climate. The real shame is that it doesn’t stick around long enough to really sink your teeth into, which hampers our recommendation of it a bit. Player’s relationships with the AI, and randomized nature of the missions means each run is different and uniquely interesting but once you’ve mastered the format there’s little incentive to come back.

Case Review

  • Lucy In The Sky: Some of the terrain is wonderfully trippy and a joy to fly through.

  • Is It A Bird?: No, it’s an airship and airships are always awesome.

  • Dread Pirate: Stealing kills, loot, or outright murdering an opponent is so satisfying.

  • Motormouth: Unskippable announcer dialogue between rounds.

  • Small Haul: Though there’s several hours of fun to be had, we were left disappointed there wasn’t more.

4 Score: 4/5
What's here is delectable, but it's only an entrée.

Evidence

  • Display: Resolution and full-screen/windowed selectors. Offscreen indicators toggle.
  • Audio: Separate volume sliders for master, music, sound effects, and dialogue.
  • Controls: Full rebinding of keyboard controls, mouse sensitivity, and Y axis inversion toggle.

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