On some level, you can see exactly what Ubisoft were going for with Trials of the Blood Dragon. A new entry in the stunt bike series Trials, infused with the universe created for the Far Cry 3 spinoff, Blood Dragon. Given the increasingly daft tone Trials was diving into before this, it fits fairly well as ideas go. The only real issue here should be the balancing of the two franchises being done well enough that one doesn’t drown out the other. So you can understand my disappointment in Trials of the Blood Dragon for not bringing anything remotely relevant to the Trials franchise, and doing little to flesh out the Blood Dragon story either.
Trials of the Blood Dragon is set in Blood Dragon’s universe, circa 2019, and revolves around Roxanne and Slayter (yes, not a typo), the children of Far Cry Blood Dragon’s protagonist Rex Power Colt (gruffly voiced by Aliens and Terminator star Michael Biehn). They are embarking upon a mission to ‘save freedom’ by heading to Vietnam War 4. They plan to do so using a combination of Trials-based stuntery, and some light platform/shooter action. Everything is drenched in Blood Dragon’s cartoonish neon hue, presented like the saturday morning cartoon spinoff of an 80’s Hollywood action movie. While the game engine is undeniably Trials, the level decoration and low-rent Gorillaz music video cutscenes are very much BD’s contribution to the package.
Neither Welcome, Nor Offensive
The twist to the Trials formula, as you may have gathered earlier, is that there are sections that see Slayter or Roxanne on foot, mowing down bad guys with bullets rather than wheels, whilst occasionally doing a bit of stealth. In the right hands, this could have led to a nice little change of pace for Trials. Sadly, the hands it’s placed in are made of tissue paper, and it’s raining hard. You see, the platforming is absolute dross. It lacks weight, feels imprecise, has little challenge, and is downright unimaginative—-it’s everything Trials isn’t. I’m not sure if it’s the Trials engine being unsuitable for platforming, or if very little effort went into making it work at all, but either way, it’s a hugely sloppy oversight. Shooting is a little better, but how could it not be? It’s extremely simplistic and almost equally as uninventive and dull as the jumping. Anytime you get off your bike in Trials of the Blood Dragon, it feels like you should take a walk yourself, perhaps in the hope that when you return, someone has done the section for you.
Shoving that aside, you do still have the beating heart of the hugely compelling Trials series underneath. The problem here is that what stunt-biking there is has only a fraction of the amount of fun and ingenuity found in the main franchise entries. It stands way above the platforming of course, and there are some novel moments created via the Blood Dragon mashup such as a delightfully trippy bike course. These bike sections only make playing the on-foot sections even more of a torturous chore. Throw in the new additions in guns and grappling hooks for the bike sections and they even perform better at the platforming and shooting than the on-foot sections do.
The addition of a gun in some levels is neither welcome, nor offensive, but the grappling hook does at least serve its purpose, with gaps created that are just big enough to require it. Still, if neither had been in Trials of the Blood Dragon, it wouldn’t have been any better or worse for it.
More Ham Than a Butcher’s Truck
The story is probably the highlight of the Blood Dragon aspects of the game, in that it serves to further the parodying giddiness of Far Cry Blood Dragon and potentially set up for a future game in that series. The tone may be vapid and lighthearted snark, but Slayter and Roxanne are a close joint-second to Edward Furlong’s portrayal of John Connor in the list of Michael Biehn character’s irritating offspring that ride dirtbikes and have a whiny attitude, and Furlong’s Connor was the ever-loving pits of Hades in that regard. There’s also not as much of Blood Dragon’s silly, sartorial bite to the story either. Instead, Trials of the Blood Dragon seems content to just listlessly spew out 80’s references. No one could expect anything close to greatness in plot terms about a neon-soaked world that has more ham than a butcher’s truck on the Saturday market, but this is a below par by even Blood Dragon’s fairly low standards.
As if Trials of the Blood Dragon didn’t sound disappointing enough, it also manages to be an incredibly light game when compared to, say, Trials Fusion. There’s no online play, few levels of interest, and no sniff of the barmy track-editing found there. The most damning thing you could say about this game is that you could probably pick up Trials Fusion and Blood Dragon combined for less than Trials of the Blood Dragon, and either of them has far more content and quality than this merging of the two can muster alone.
Fun on Trial
All in all, Trials of the Blood Dragon just feels rather pointless as a standalone game. As slightly cheaper DLC for Fusion it would have been more acceptable. It still would have been a pretty subpar addition, but at least it would have had a smidgen more purpose to it. There was potential here, but whether its indecision or ignorance, this mashup just doesn’t stick together.