Running to an open window, stark naked, then diving out and falling to my death — yet hilariously getting a skill increase in Jumping and Ragdolling as a result — was not the start of The Bloodline I expected. In hindsight, it was a daft decision. In my defence though, I didn’t even know I was naked until I saw my body splayed out on the ground covered in small little pixels of crimson.
An NPC in the room I decided to leap from was waiting to give me some clothes, but I rushed right past them to my two-storey oblivion. That’s all part of The Bloodline’s charm. It’s an open sandbox RPG where you can craft, explore, and quest to your heart’s content, and its nonlinear nature means you can easily get sidetracked with whatever you choose to pursue. Even jumping out of windows and accidentally killing yourself.
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Miles Whittaker is a one-person dev team, taking on the mantle of founder and sole developer for Shieldbearer Studios and The Bloodline. He tells me that workload balance has been one of the biggest challenges during development.
“I have always tended to overwork myself, especially with game development,” he tells me. “I’m so passionate about The Bloodline that it can be hard to pull myself away from work. When I’m not working on the game, I’m posting to my social media or answering questions on The Bloodline’s Discord or other social media. I believe my passion for the game in this regard has paid off, as many of the long-term fans of the game have become my friends, and the community I’ve grown is welcoming, friendly, and accepting. I think this is one of the best aspects of indie games.”
The Bloodline features charming low-poly graphics with familiar characters as it utilises a popular asset pack. Whittaker explains that this is because when he first started the game as a hobby, it was a much easier option for a solo developer to buy assets. When the audience for the game grew, he opted to keep using the same assets.
“I personally don’t believe you should throw a project to the sidelines because of the assets,” Whittaker tells me. “Especially small studios who simply can’t dedicate the time or afford a team to create the massive amount of assets required to make a game. That being said, I do understand the perspective of those who are hesitant about a project when seeing familiar assets.”
The Bloodline has become a community-led project, with Whittaker regularly hosting polls and discussions to let the community weigh in on development decisions. If anyone pitches a good idea on social media, he does his best to discuss the idea with them and try to implement it.
The idea for The Bloodline came from a desire for a game that could scratch that old-school RPG itch, Whittaker tells me. Morrowind and Mount & Blade, two games he explains hold a special place in his heart, also inspired him during development. “I pull elements that I love from both games and try to make a unique blend in The Bloodline. I wanted something that allowed players to craft their characters while also having fun, [with] dynamic combat that is approachable and exciting.
“I think, for the most part, I have stayed true to that initial vision, although there are definitely a few changes that I made to lean into the game’s strengths. The game initially had large-scale combat events, similar to Mount & Blade — those have been shelved for the time being as they just weren’t as fun as I was hoping they would be. I have some interesting plans to implement them back into the game eventually, but in a different and hopefully fun way.”
Whittaker is most proud of The Bloodline’s combat, and its style that, while challenging, leans into the power-fantasy feel that he originally imagined for the game. Combat relies heavily on the many available skills, offering a lot of freedom for players to create their own combos and fight however they want.
Like everything else in the game, you can discover and explore combat at will, usually with little direction about even the basics. In one battle, I failed to get my weapon out and resorted to grappling a Goblin to death in a panic. It wasn’t very efficient, but it was effective, so I’ll count it as a win.
Though The Bloodline features an open sandbox world with freedom to wander, it does have something of a main storyline, which will be expanded upon with each Early Access update. Though there is an overarching plot, it’s ”never to the extent where players are forced down a funnel”.
Open sandbox worlds that limit directions to allow players the freedom of choice can be overwhelming for some, and Whittaker concedes this was a concern during development. “The game will continue to expand and allow for plenty of role-playing opportunities. I believe that if I’m able to strike a balance in tying player actions directly to how their character plays, this issue should mostly work itself out. In other words, rewarding players for simply playing the game how they want to play should make it much less intimidating.”
The Bloodline is currently available in Early Access on Steam with plans for additional updates that will expand the overworld continent with new biomes that contain an entire kingdom, new guilds, areas to explore, mounts, and more.
- Shieldbearer Studios
- Action RPG, Open-World, Sandbox
- Unreal Engine 4
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