Trials of the Blood Dragon serves both properties well in its design and story, but the gameplay is overall inconsistent as the title tries to expand beyond basic Trials.
Trials of the Blood Dragon sounds like a mashup made in heaven. The goofy, psychics-based world of Trials combined with the reverent ‘80s throwback that is Far Cry: Blood Dragon is not the most obvious pairing, but it does make sense. However, a concept can only get a game so far, and for Trials of the Blood Dragon it is the execution that weighs the final product down.
For the first time in a Trials game, Trials of the Blood Dragon offers players a true story to explore, with each level serving as another chapter in the saga. Picking up several years after the events of the Far Cry spin-off, Trials picks up with the children of Rex “Power” Colt, Roxanne and Slayter, as they “fight” against alien insects, futuristic Communists, and even Satan himself. We say “fight” because this is still a Trials game, and therefore players will spend the majority of their time riding some manner of vehicle (motorbike, bicycle, all-terrain vehicle) through an intricately designed course filled with jumps, hills, flips, and some new twists on the formula. There’s even some gunplay thrown into the Trials tracks, which give them a fun flair, but can be a bit distracting when trying to stay upright.
Those new twists include portions of the game not set on a moving vehicle. Instead players are essentially running through a fast-paced platformer, shooting bad guys along the way. It’s certainly a departure for the Trials franchise, but one that isn’t all that successful. Where the actual Trials of Trials of the Blood Dragon requires some careful handling of the game’s inherent physics, the gunplay is loose and hard to manage. Not to say that it’s impossible to navigate, but compared to the refined mechanics of the driving, the non-driving portions lack a ton of polish.
Worse than that, Trials of the Blood Dragon tries to mix things up with new vehicles, many of which betray the core tenets of Trials gameplay. While the main series entries have a certain set of rules about how the vehicles control and use momentum, these new traversal methods have their own logic. In most instances the new vehicles are fine once players get a handle on the controls, but there are a few jetpack portions that are extremely frustrating. Trials is about giving the player ultimate control, and letting them make the mistakes, but these jetpack levels rip all of that away from the player.
That being said, it’s hard to knock Trials of the Blood Dragon for trying to deliver something different. The game could have easily been a Trials game with a Blood Dragon wrapper, but the developers at Red Lynx actually tried to blend the two series together in some fun ways. Not all of that blending is successful, but when it is the game takes on a fun, new identity.
Having a story to follow and urge the player through each course is arguably the smartest move for Trials of the Blood Dragon, as it further incentivizes those players who may not be as invested in the Trials concept. And for the most part the story has that pulpy ‘80s vibe that worked so well in Far Cry: Blood Dragon. It even boasts random infomercial interludes that further add to the random humor.
Similarly, the design of each level has the right balance of outlandish concept and functional design. Players may be trying to outrun a giant Blood Dragon, or riding a mine cart through the depths of hell, but the tracks all have a great sense of pace to them. Granted, the tracks might not be as challenging as in past Trials, but that’s for a great reason. Restricting players from finishing the story would have been a big misstep for Trials of the Blood Dragon, so luckily the tracks are fairly easy to get through – save for a few instances.
Those who do want the added challenge of Trials, though, can still shoot for high score thresholds and the top of the leaderboards. As with any of the past games, Trials of the Blood Dragon includes all of the necessary competitive elements, from player ghosts to score and time-based leaderboards. The multiplayer is obviously not as robust as it has been in past games – there is no competitive multiplayer in a “live” setting – but those who look to improve on their runs will find plenty of incentive to do so.
However, that will likely only be true of the truly Trials tracks; the ones that deviate from the formula also lack the spark that makes Trials so addicting. There’s a certain sense of pace and momentum to Trials tracks but running and gunning ditches that in favor of something a bit more haphazard. Granted, all of the tracks still have a timer and checkpoints, but the progression feels a bit more random when not on a bike. There were plenty of times where it felt like the controls were fighting against me, to the point of extreme frustration.
And that’s ultimately where Trials of the Blood Dragon loses some of its luster. The concept is endlessly creative and the design fits perfectly within the two franchises, but in trying to serve two masters Red Lynx falters quite a bit. Any time that the player is not on a bike, there are moments where it feels like the controls have not been refined to the same responsive, tight experience that Trials has become known for. It’s essentially trying to expand on the Trials framework with gameplay that may not fit into those rule sets. For the most part that’s inoffensive but occasionally, like in the aforementioned jet pack sequences, it can become a huge point of frustration. There are naturally going to be moments where the player feels like there’s a deficiency in their own ability, but feeling like there is a deficiency in the controls brings the experience down.
It’s a shame too, because Trials of the Blood Dragon really goes for it. The game has the look and feel of a Blood Dragon follow-up, and some goofy humor to back that up. Moreover, its Trials sections are just as fun as they have ever been, boasting lots of creative tracks, cool flourishes, and plenty of style. But those moments where the game tries to lean too far into the Blood Dragon part of the equation with run and gun gameplay or other variations on the Trials concept are where things fall apart. Overall, there’s a lot of fun to be had with the game, but inconsistent is the best way to describe the experience as a whole. Trials fans will find something to enjoy, and so will Blood Dragon fans, but neither will be wholly satisfied.
Trials of the Blood Dragon is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.