Sometimes mindless button mashing against hordes of enemies can be a satisfying experience. You can switch your brain off and zone out as you smash hundreds of enemies to smithereens. Machiknights Blood Bagos takes this premise and places it in a near top-down perspective and adds some RPG grinding to the party.
The world of Machiknights is mechanical. All your enemies are robots of some kind and you’ll be piloting a robot yourself. There are three classes which change up mildly how you play but more important than that are the weapons you can equip to them. Swords and lances are good for single attacks whereas axes have less range but are easier to combo. It all depends on your play style as to how you want to equip your bot and then charge into battle. I personally enjoyed the dual axes best and built my character around them. For each weapon, you’ll have a basic attack, a special attack and a passive buff or secondary attack. Basic attacks gain you stamina whilst everything else drains it so you’ll need to manage your pace effectively to avoid sticky situations.
Across the 60 levels of the game, you’ll be placed into small arenas to achieve an objective. It may be clearing a certain amount of enemies, killing a boss or an enemy type or demolishing a building. Each level will also have a timer to complete the objective in or its game over but only in the lightest possible sense. Each of the 60 levels has four difficulties (each with a star to collect) and so your biggest mission if you are a completest is to clear the hardest difficulty and gain all 240 stars.
As the levels progress, enemy types upgrade and there are around 10 enemy types, most of which upgrade 3 or 4 times during the game. Bosses are on top and offer by far the most difficult challenge – especially when they team up. Enemy attacks are often warned of by giant red trajectory paths for you to avoid. You’ll always have the ability to dash forward to avoid these and this is a skill you can improve and alter with your weapon loadout. Dashing also costs stamina and that is a crucial mechanic to consider in the late game. Often the difficulty in Machiknights Blood Bagos is the number of enemies coming at you at once. Whilst they do not all attack at once, the bigger foes have the ability to stun you and that leaves you open to a quick pummelling.
It is worthwhile noting that the overall speed of the game is quite slow and that takes a while to get used to. Not only do you move slowly and attack slowly, your enemies do too. There is some game slowdown on busy levels but it is also part of the games design. It is an odd choice as hack n slash games are usually pacey. It isn’t because one hit can kill all the time either – so it is hardly a Dark Souls approach – its…just…slow.
Once a level is complete, you’ll be awarded gold and gems that have collected during the level. These are then multiplied by the difficulty and time bonuses you have and you can use these in character screens. Coins let you level up your HP, damage, critical damage rate and critical damage. All four are valuable and they are interlinked with weapons which you can buy from gems. In a rather annoying twist, gems buy weapons chests of randomised tiers of weapons. You run the risk of getting three weapons that do not suit your play style and you’ve just lost a lot of gems and that is frustrating. The randomised stats for each weapon plays a large part in your set up though. Do you go for less attack but a faster attack rate? The devil is in the detail.
As you progress through the game, you’ll be moving up weapon tiers and therefore needing to ditch older weapons for new. That means your set up will change because you won’t get the same thing ever again. It keeps you on your toes and forces you to try new things. Each weapon has five perk slots that are randomly generated when you buy the weapon. Some might reduce cooldowns, add HP or damage, double your special attack damage or increase your dash radius. There are loads in play and whilst you are reliant on the random number generator, it is fun to try out different combos. If you miss specific attributes from your older weapons you can merge an old weapon into your new one but you can only take one of those old perks with you. If you were lucky enough to get a 20% critical attack rate perk early on, you’ll be desperate to keep hold of it later on, but it may come at the expense of something else huge later. You really need to consider how you’ll play and that in turn informs how you’ll level up your HP and damage stats too. It really is a clever system.
The other string to Machiknights Blood Bagos’ bow is co-op. This really enhances the experience and adds to the somewhat simple battle mechanics in the game. This can help with the difficulty curve later in the game immensely. In one of the few cheap moves I didn’t like, instead of making enemies smarter, the game adds missiles and bombs dropping from above all across the map at all times in some of the last levels. It wasn’t fun and felt really unnecessary so having two players to get in, kick-arse and get out for those was nice.