Digital Dragons Indie Spotlight: Tarnished Blood

Ned Jordan
In Short
Tarnished Blood was one of the more unique games on display in the Indie Zone at Digital Dragons 2023.

One of the things that I really like about indie games is that they sometimes invent an entirely new style of gameplay that would never get the greenlight from a major game company. There were plenty of intriguing games on display in the Digital Dragons 2023 Indie Zone, but one that really caught my eye was Tarnished Blood from Juggler Games. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who found the game interesting - it took the second-place prize at the Digital Dragons Indie Showcase Gala.

If you’re familiar with the game My Memory of Us, you’ll remember that it had an iconic art style backed by an engrossing story of two young friends trying to survive during a time of occupation. Juggler Games is the developer that brought that game to life, and their talent for unique visual styles and compelling narrative have been fully applied to Tarnished Blood.

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In Tarnished Blood you awaken to find yourself at the base of giant tree and are almost immediately attacked. Survive the battle and you’ll learn that a great dome has enclosed the ancient Protector Tree and you are trapped inside along with it. You’ll need to find a way to release the tree, and you as well, from the dome, but before you can do that you’ll need to defeat the enormous monsters known as Maultigores who roam the dome ensuring that the tree stays trapped. When I was speaking to Juggler Games, they let slip some twists in the story, but since I think that they qualify as spoilers I will leave things at that. Let’s just say that everything is not necessarily as it seems.

Tarnished Blood is a (sort of) turn-based strategy RPG, so you can expect to lead a party of characters with unique abilities, level-up their stats as they gain experience, and equip them with all sorts of gear. However, I don’t want to focus on the expected here. The reason the game is (sort-of) turn-based is that it uses a truly unique mechanic to execute its battles. Juggler Games described it as Darkest Dungeon meets Worms, but honestly I don’t think that description does the game justice.

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When a battle begins – and as I understand it every battle is essentially a boss fight – you’ll see your characters and the enemy in a 2D side view that takes up most of the screen. Along the bottom of the screen, though, sits a bar with your party along the left vertical axis and a timeline on the top horizontal axis. Each row within the bar corresponds to one of your characters, and you’ll order them to perform actions by placing them along the timeline. If this sounds like video or audio editing software to you, then you’re right, it’s a lot like that.

As you’re giving your party orders, you can advance, freeze, or reverse the current time bar to see how the actions you’ve command will play out. You’ll also get to see how timing characters’ actions together will affect the battle. But you’re not planning your strategy in an information vacuum. As you advance and rewind time you’ll see the actions that your enemy will take. Maybe that acrobatic leaping attack isn’t such a good idea after all if it lands your character into the middle of a projectile attack. Sometimes you’ll just have to accept taking a hit, and if that leads to any status effects, you’ll see them on the timeline as well. Once you have everything worked out to your satisfaction, push play and watch the ensuing battle. And once you complete it all, you’ll have the option of playing everything back and enjoy watching the movie of your adventure.

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Tarnished Blood can be found on Steam, so if it sounds interesting to you, you can wishlist it now. We’ll bring you more information on the game as it becomes available.

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Transmitted: 4/16/2024 11:23:26 PM