I’ve spent a good amount of time with a preview build of Bloodline: Heroes of Lithas over the past week. I’ve fought hordes of enemies, managed my kingdom, courted a companion or two, and raised heirs resulting from those courtships. On the surface, the game has all the hallmarks of a typical mobile RPG: multiple currencies, menus upon menus, and rudimentary auto-battling gameplay with the occasional tap to activate a character’s ultimate attack. Start to dig below the surface, however, and you’ll find…nothing, because that’s as far as the game goes.
You begin Bloodline by creating a character: you choose from a few preset races, do some light customization, name your new hero, and assume the throne of your kingdom. At the start there’s not much to do in the kingdom itself, so you set off on your journey through the story, accepting missions and fighting through the hordes.
Don’t blink while playing through these missions, however, or you might miss the action. That’s slight hyperbole, but not by much; missions really do fly by. The two factions mindlessly attack one another, dealing damage with each attack. Eventually the boxes for your party members light up one by one, and you tap them to activate that character’s strongest move. Once the enemies are defeated, you see a victory screen, maybe watch a “cutscene” of two characters talking to each other while reading their dialogue, then go into the next fight. There’s no meat on the bone, just mindless watching with the occasional tap as you wait for the last enemy to fall so you can move on.
As you progress through these missions, you unlock more of your kingdom, with its resources contributing to your story efforts. You help make decisions in the Senate that aid the city, you manage districts and collect the taxes, and you fight other players in the arena and interrogate prisoners in the dungeon. The kingdom is an engine, and you, the player, are its ignition…but it’s a shame the engine runs on little more than menu management. If you see a red mark on any one of these areas, you go in, tap what needs to be tapped, and get out, and even then all you aredoing is collecting one of the game’s myriad number of currencies: gold, bread, diamonds, and so on.
The one mechanic Bloodline hangs its hat on–it’s in the title, after all–is the ability to develop a bloodline of your heroes through courting companions. These companions are unlocked through daily log-in events, completing missions, or other means, with each one waiting for you in the designated Companion menu. Raising the heirs is neat, as you shape how the child grows up through one of three actions: training, apprenticeship, and studying. Of course, these actions are again just a matter of tapping, but at least there’s some agency on how the kid grows up. Some children require more actions than others–one child I birthed needed 75 actions before they grew up–and the time it takes to raise them is artificially inflated by in-game timers, so not even the trademark mechanic could avoid mobile shenanigans.
I’d enjoy the lineage aspects of Bloodline more if the courtship phase wasn’t so…weird. When you open the Companion menu and choose a companion, you have the option of bestowing gifts upon them, raising their charm levels and producing children of higher rarity. When you’re ready, tapping “Court” starts a small cutscene where a curtain closes and reopens, with the chosen companion appearing, saying a very cheesy one-liner, and then the baby appears. The whole thing feels gross, especially the forced one-liner. Another companion in my play-through (the one holding handcuffs for some reason) says, “You’re very good with a bow, I wonder what else you’re good with?” I’m no prude, but a simple closing of the curtain followed by the appearance of the baby would have gotten the point across.
Bloodline: Heroes of Lithas feels like the type of mobile game you’d see in a Facebook ad. There’s very little substance here, you simply tap through menus, unlocking more currencies so you can unlock more menus to add more currencies. There’s adventuring and battling to be done, but the way it plays out feels like the game just wants to get the fighting over with so you can go back to menu-tapping. Bloodline, ironically, is a relic of an older age, as mobile gaming has begun to evolve past these sorts of currency-laden, menu-heavy experiences. It may be time for a new hero to enter this Bloodline and prepare it for the new era.