Everyone recently fell in love with Squid Game, the Netflix show that featured regular people competing in a battle royal type video game setting where the winner gets to walk away with a bundle of cash, and the losers all die trying. That show in turn is based on any number of competitive video games, from various Mario titles to Call of Duty and Fortnite. The formula works well in video games, and apparently also in movie and television settings. Bloodshore is riding that wave, and does an excellent job of capturing the magic.
Bloodshore is an FMV, or full-motion video game, where the player is presented with a movie clip and then given choices about what their main character will say or how they will act. These kinds of games are typically used for deep storytelling, and there have been many good ones that have come out over the past couple years, driven mostly by a handful of developers who are specializing in this kind of entertainment. Recent FMV games that were really good include the psychological thriller I Saw Black Clouds (which earned 4 GiN Gems), adventure sci-fi game The Dark Side of the Moon (another 4 GiN Gem title), the excellent horror game Night Book (which is published by Wales Interactive – just like Bloodshore), and the arguably best of the bunch, Dark Nights with Poe and Munro, a multi-episode thriller which features two of the most likable characters to ever set foot on the FMV stage. Poe and Munro is the oldest of the previously mentioned titles, yet still maintains a legion of appreciative fans even years after its initial release. (And we really need a sequel to it.)
The reason I am bringing up all of those other FMV games is because Bloodshore might be like them in terms of its interface, but beyond that, it really breaks the mold. That’s not a bad thing, but your enjoyment of Bloodshore may depend a lot on why you like to play FMV type games or interactive movies. For me, a hardcore gamer who generally does not dive too deeply into story-heavy FMV titles, Bloodshore was really a treat. But if you are looking for rich storytelling and slow, methodical plotting through a complex tale, which is a staple of what most interactive movies offer, then you may not enjoy the more action-oriented Bloodshore nearly as much.
The plot of Bloodshore is that as the world collapses into financial ruin, television shows like the fictional Kill/Stream program in the game become white hot. The reality show follows a group of contestants parachuting onto a deserted island and then eliminating one another until only one remains alive. Apparently, the location of the island changes every time, and there is a lot of in-game debate on other television shows (that you will also be able to view) about the morality of Kill/Stream, but that is really secondary to the main action.
In Bloodshore, you play Nick, a washed-up actor who is supposedly fighting so that he can claim the big prize and get his life back together. The island contestants in this season of Kill/Stream include high-profile streamers, entertainers and death row inmates. We are told that the original seasons of the show only involved death row convicts, but it has now evolved to the point where anyone with enough followers on social media can earn a trip to the island to fight for the big prize. Why anyone would want to risk their lives like that is beyond me, but apparently in previous seasons contestants could “tap-out” at some point in the game, forfeiting the big prize but leaving with their lives. So, streamers might take a chance on a trip to the bloody island to boost their popularity. This time, the game officials declare that there will be no tap-outs, which is shocking news to several of the contestants since it’s too late at that point for them to back out.
Although you control Nick, there are other members of your initial party. You can choose to band together with them for mutual defense, which gives your team an advantage in the early game, especially since your group is made up mostly of influencers, streamers, gamers and C-list actors, while at least some of the other groups are made up of murderers and professional killers.
Like most FMV games, you are rated on your performance. While the ultimate measure of success in Bloodshore is if you are still alive, you will also earn a score based on things like team morale, how much the audience likes you and how strong you are. There is also a romance score, and you can pursue a romance with one of two specific characters (one man and one woman) as you play. As part of the main plot, you will also learn that Nick has a hidden agenda. And while his secret mission is not specifically scored, it will probably drive many of your decisions.
Unlike most FMV games where choices are based on things like character building or trying to solve a mystery, most of your actions in Bloodshore are more visceral. Do you shoot the stranger who wandered into your weapon drop zone on sight, or take the time to talk with them a bit? Do you march straight at your objective hoping to catch other teams off-guard, or take a more cautious, meandering route? Should you try and reprogram the electronic mines blocking your path, or find a way around them? Sometimes your choices come down to simple actions like if you should remain hidden when being stalked by another player, or try to move to a new piece of cover as they get closer. If you are killed, the game will rewind your choices and let you try again.
There is over eight hours of footage in the game, and this includes both in-game scenes taking place on the island and also snippets of the Kill/Stream television show, plus other programs covering the news and even reaction videos from streamers who are watching. Everything is extremely high quality. The production value of Bloodshore is about the best I have seen in an FMV title. The acting is also top notch. Sure, it’s not like the actors are playing Hamlet or anything, but they are all believable in their roles and fun to watch. There is not a bad egg in the bunch.
There are also some branching paths, so you will need to play through the game more than once to experience all of the in-game scenes and choices. My biggest complaint is that none of the scenes in the game are skippable, even on repeat playthroughs. We should be able to skip things like news programs hosting morality debates about the game and other less interesting bits of cinema in a second or third playthrough. Some of them were not all that interesting the first time around, and having to sit through them multiple times is kind of torturous.
While I am not sure how much traditional FMV game players will enjoy Bloodshore, it could very well act as a sort of gateway title for gamers who don’t normally play them. The shooter and battle royal theme were a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the action sequences, the choices I got to make and also the interactions with other characters. Especially the first time I played the game, it was extremely thrilling to experience a live action version of a battle royal shooter, and try to decide what I would do in the same circumstances.
If you are an action-oriented gamer or even a shooter-type player looking for something fun and different to try, get yourself a ticket to Bloodshore Island. You may not survive the trip, but it will be an amazing a ride. And if you like FMV games in general, then be sure to check this one out. It may force you outside your comfort zone, but you might just enjoy the experience that this high-quality interactive movie offers.