Far Cry Blood Dragon has always been credited with being one of the best, most original pieces of video game DLC. It is so beloved that people have always wondered if we would ever see it again and what franchise it would possibly insert itself into. I can’t say that many people expected Trials to be the the answer however. But, that is what we have gotten, a combination, in Trials of the Blood Dragon and since Blood Dragon is known for doing some wacky things this version of Trials obviously does go outside the box. Unfortunately, they took it too far.
Trials of the Blood Dragon is presented as an 80s satire cartoon and not going to lie it’s pretty spot on. You take control of Slater and Roxanne, two teenagers whose parents have disappeared and have been adopted into a secret task force called the cyber-commandos. Throughout the game they will fight communists, aliens insects, and ninjas in what is a ridiculous plot that is quintessentially 80s. The dialogue is cheesy, the characters are stereotypes, and hell even levels are made to look like you are playing them on a CRT screen. It’s all handled pretty well while simultaneously making fun of and paying homage to, 80s cartoons.
The bike gameplay is, for the most part, very good. You ride your motorcycle over jumps and obstacles, maneuvering through the terrain in order to complete the level as fast as possible avoiding death. It’s really fun physics based gameplay, that is all about shifting your weight and controlling your speed. Mastering certain areas is always fun, and there’s a ton of replayability as you try to beat your high score and achieve the best letter grade possible on a level.
Unfortunately, other than these sections where you’re on a bike, only riding, the game spectacularly falls apart. That’s because Trials of the Blood Dragon has on foot platforming sections, shooting sections, jet pack sections and grappling hook sections all of which range in quality from mediocre to downright bad.
About half of the game you are on foot, usually breaking into government facilities, and those sections are mediocre at best. The jumping is incredibly loose and imprecise, making the times when you miss a jump infuriating. The shooting suffers from a similar fate, as there is no aiming reticle, you just have to point in that direction with the right analog stick and hope the shot is roughly where you want to put it. These sections aren’t hard per se, but since Trials of the Blood Dragon is a game based on your time, you can’t afford to make mistakes, and imprecise controls lead to just that. But even putting all of that aside these sections just feel tedious, and every time you are stuck playing them you just yearn to get back on a bike.
However, even when you get back on that bike, all isn’t well. The shooting has also been brought over to the biking sections, as many levels will have you both shooting and riding. Once again, poor aiming plays a huge role as not only do you have to time your maneuvers but on top of that you have to shoot perfectly as well. There is also a grappling hook mechanic, that has you latching onto items and swinging yourself and the bike across. I’m not against new mechanics like these to increase the challenge and gameplay variety but in both of these cases the aiming is so imprecise that you feel cheated. Grappling isn’t as simple as just timing it correctly, the objects you grapple onto are large and the grapple can connect at different places and angles that drastically affect momentum and therefore your ability to make a jump. And once again you are left messing up and having worse times not because you aren’t good enough but because the controls aren’t good enough.
Finally let’s get to the worst mechanic, the jet pack. This thing is the bane of my existence. Every part is just way too sensitive, from the steering to the propulsion. Giving the jet pack even a little gas makes it move way too fast and even lightly changing direction can send you hurdling in the wrong way. There is simply no way to be in any semblance of control. And that’s a problem when you’re are trying to dodge obstacles. Then they take it one step further in a later mission, by strapping a giant bomb to your character. So, your trying to navigate obstacles, with a jet pack you can’t steer, and a bomb that weighs you down and explodes whenever it touches anything. It has been many years since a portion of a video game has infuriated me more than that level. The one saving grace here is that the jetpack only appears in a handful missions, but that’s still enough time to completely sour the rest of the experience.
Trials of the Blood Dragon can be a tedious, sometimes frustrating game to play, and no aesthetic or story can change that. It’s a shame because if they had just stuck to what the Trials series is good at it would be awesome. There are flickering moments where you see the potential, like when the world on screen starts rotating but gravity doesn’t, which feels really trippy, or when you’re riding through a communist warzone with giant explosions going off all around. The Blood Dragon theme is fun and interesting, but they took a lot of risks with the gameplay that totally backfired. I can’t recommend this game to anyone but the most hardcore of Trials fans, and maybe not even then, as the you’ll have to wade through a lot of sub-par gameplay to find the good stuff.
A PlayStation Version of Trials of the Blood Dragon was provided by the developer. To learn more about our score, read our review policy.