Editor’s Note: December 2nd, 2015. This is the original and out of date review of Breath of Death. It was massively upgraded here. Thanks for reading as always!
History Of The Game or Developers
BODVII was developed and published by Indie developers “Zeboyd Games” last year. It was the first game published by the company and was initially released on the Xbox 360. This game did well, well enough to get another game published on the Xbox 360. That game was “Cthulu Saves The World”, an RPG in a similar vein to Breath of Death. While both were console games at first, the company did a Kickstarter campaign for Cthulhu Saves the World to make an enhanced version of the game for both PC and Xbox platforms. The Kickstarter was a great success and they gained more than twice what they had originally needed for Cthulhu. So Zeboyd Games released Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World as a bundle on July 13, 2011 for the Steam platform. Zeboyd Games has gone on to do another game called “Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3″ and the company plans on doing more retro-styled games like these in the future.
I picked up BOD at the beginning of the year on sale. It was part of a bunch of indie games I was picking up at the time and it looked intriguing enough. I wanted to see how RPGs played these days on the PC and hadn’t played an RPG like this one in years. My schedule was pretty busy at the time so I didn’t get around to playing the game until the end of March. The main reason I picked up the game was that for the longest time I had an itch to start a Let’s Play series, but my PC isn’t the greatest. So recording any game that was really stressful for my computer was out of the question. However, Breath of Death had two things going for it that I wanted to try out. Retro-graphics that are easy to process and a lot of in-game dialogue.
What Is This Game?
Breath of Death is a retro-styled RPG solo campaign game. It features a fast turn-based combat, graphics reminiscent of 8-16bit RPGs, many dungeons and locations to delve and many more features. Its also a parody of other RPGs that came before, hence the the ridiculously long title that is apparently part of a series of games. I can’t imagine what game they could possibly be poking fun at with the title. There was certainly nothing final about this fantasy game. The game takes many chances to poke fun at itself, at other RPGs and the characters as well. They also like to break the 4th wall from time to time too. But it all fits into the universe somehow without feeling awkward or thrown in. The campaign itself is considered to be about 4-6 hours with additional modes and difficulty levels to challenge you.
BOD follows the story of Dem the Skeleton Knight and his travels through an undead world. He is forcibly joined by three companions who help him with his quest. Sara, the ghost historian, Lita, the vampire techie and Erik, the zombie prince. These four must explore the world around them with all of its mysteries. Eventually, their quest will lead will change with the discovery of some robots. Your four characters are definitely unique individuals. Dem is a stoic knight without the ability to talk, so he’s even more stoic. (Yeah, I saw what they did there). While he tries to act serious and strong, he’s a bit of a push over in my opinion. He, well, ok, his companions forcibly joined him, but its not like he couldn’t have said no…oh wait… Right, that was awkward. Anyway, his first companion is Sarah. Sara is a bit of a hyper ghost with the ability to read minds. She forcibly gets Dem to be her bodyguard in order to help explore the ruins nearby. You’ll eventually meet up with Lita. Lita is a vampire, obsessed with technology and tinkering with it. Much later in the game, you’ll meet Erik. Erik is apparently a handsome zombie Prince who wants to live his days carefree and such. He also has a French accent. Funnily, the only person who has such an accent in this world. Not sure how that works out. But anyway, these are your four heroes in this quest and I rather liked how unique they were.
The story is just a short and simply adventure. There aren’t any dark overtones or similar, its just you and your companions out on a quest. It was actually enjoyable for that. The characters are amusing in their own ways and they all banter with each other throughout the game. The game features an in-game chat system where they will sometimes talk among each other about what’s going on or maybe just random thing. I actually liked this feature, but was disappointed that it does not often change. I think the game should have had more here. I wish the devs had expanded it out more so we could get more interactions from our four heroes. Also, I won’t give away the ending, but I didn’t expect it. That’s all I’ll say.
Settings and Other Things The Game Has
The game is a bit sparce on settings which isn’t all that surprising. Its a retro 8-bit graphics style so you don’t need a lot of configuration to get this game to work on your computer. The settings menu does comes with basic options to make your game full-screen and non-full-screen. You can also adjust sound and music levels, plus rebind your keys. I personally would have preferred to have more control on my sound and video options, but that’s just me and its not a knock on the game for not having it there.
There are quite a few interesting features to the combat and leveling up system. The leveling up system was fairly deep but simple to understand in this game. You had two choices anytime your character leveled up and each choice had its trade-offs. It could be that the one spell hit all enemies but for lower damage or you raised specific stats. This kept things simple when leveling up and I rather liked it. The leveling system seems to end at level 30 though and after level 30 you just get a simple stats boost. Which I actually like that the end of the leveling system is reachable. Some games have the end levels at such a high level you have to do a ridiculous amount of grinding to get the spells you want. BOD, thankfully, avoids doing that.
The turn-based combat system had a combo count system. The higher your combo count from attacks, the more damage certain combo-breaking attacks did to the enemy. And you have a pretty wide array of spells to choose from. However, some of these spells included combo breaking so you had to plan out how you were going to attack your enemy as well as keeping your companions alive. You’ll need to pull off those combo-breaking moves at the right time too because as each turn passes, your enemies grow in strength and hurt harder and harder every round. So this prevents you from using any sort of tanking strategy, you’ll have to take them down quickly.
Overall though, I didn’t find the combat system as satisfying as I would have liked. It was challenging enough, but I felt like it was in constant conflict with itself. Reason being is that in order to regenerate your magic points, which are needed for your techniques, was difficult to do. You couldn’t regenerate your magic points without either visiting an inn, finishing a battle quickly or find a save point. There were no potions to recover them. So even if you try and conserve your magic points, this can get you in trouble as the monsters hit harder and harder each turn. The conflict, to me, is that your only viable spells in this game are damaging attacks but so very often you needed to use very costly spells in order to survive all the monsters. This could lead you to getting stuck in the middle of the dungeon if you ran out of magic points all of the sudden. I felt like there should have been something added to make the techniques more interesting, rather than they just be primarily damaging attacks, healing or stat boosting abilities. Lita did have some techniques that let her bind or put enemies to sleep, but far too often the enemies would resist or be immune to it, so I quit bothering using them as the game progressed.
I get that they were trying to make combat more challenging and interesting. But it didn’t feel as satisfying to use the combat in this game as most other RPG combat systems. Sometimes the game felt like a badly designed rogue-like because you could wind up in the middle of the dungeon with no mana and no good way out. This usually lead to loading previous saves and grinding to level up and be able to take on the monsters. Its not that the combat is terrible, it just needed something more. Something was missing to give it that…whatever it needed to be really good. I can’t put my finger on it though. I’ll also give the game kudos on placing a limit on the amount of times you could be randomly attacked by monsters in an area. I just wish it had been lower though and it rarely came into play as you were usually rushing through the locations just to survive.
I will give the game credit. It did manage to keep monster fights challenging throughout the whole game. Most game’s monster fights towards the end game of RPGs tend to get pretty easy but in this game, if I ever slacked off, the game would kill me pretty quickly. BOD also mostly avoided requiring as much grind as most similar RPGs normally would. I know I talked about the need to grind earlier, but there were only three distinct times when I played BOD that I needed to grind up XP to get powerful enough. This is in stark contrast to other similar RPGs that felt like it was required in major new areas. So I felt they did a good job in this game on that front.
Looking at Graphics and Aesthetics
The game is a 8-bit 2D game and will not push your graphics and CPU to display them. However, while the graphics are retro-styled, the game delivers them in high definition. So the game looks great and the style works for it. I liked the look and aesthetic of the game but wouldn’t say its my favorite I’ve seen from similar RPG games. While other RPGs will feature big special effect attacks for your moves, BOD does not. Which is nice on one hand because it doesn’t make every monster encounter incredibly long as you wait for the animation sequence to play out. On the other hand, no pretty lights to look at in the game. Trade-offs…
Sound, Music and Everything You Hear
The soundtrack of this game is laid back and somber for the most part, exempting the more up-beat battle music. Its fun to listen to and really easy to hum along and matches nicely with the theme of the undead world your exploring. I have no complaints about it other than it tends to repeat the tracks too often. There aren’t many sounds in the game and what sounds do exist are for any actions you take, such as attacking or opening a chest. So they work fine, there just isn’t much to comment about.
Bugs, Errors or Things Gone Wrong
The game was a smooth experience and nothing went awry when I was playing through it. Would have been surprising if I had.
BODVII is a good and funny game to play. For $2.99, the game gives you a fun RPG experience without any extra fluff. It is a more simplistic RPG than most but it has some elements of strategy thrown in to keep things interesting. The description says the campaign plays for about six hours though I somehow got 12+ hours out of the game. While the game has some conflicting combat mechanics, Breath of Death VII: The Beginning is worth a look if your an RPG fan. Plus, you’ll get some laughs out of it. Also, you get Cthulhu Saves The World so why not get two games for that low price? You’d have to be silly not to want to.
Buying & Important Links
If your interested in getting the game, it is available on Steam as a bundle with Cthulhu Saves The World for $2.99. Click on the picture below to get directed to Steam. You can also visit Zeboyd Games’ website if you want the Xbox version as well as links to their other games.
I also did a Let’s Play series on the game as I mentioned above. It is a bit rough at first but it does get much better as I go along. I bring unique voices to the characters of Dem, Lita, Sarah and Erik as well as the rest of the characters in the world. I also talk at times about the game mechanics and how the game is going. If I have to critize myself on one thing, its that I did a bad job of paying attention to some game mechanics. Also, there were a few too many slow parts in my opinion. I plan on fixing these problems in the future. Below is the playlist for the series and if your interested in Let’s Plays similar to Breath of Death VII, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. I hope you enjoy!
And I also hope you enjoyed this review of Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. Got any thoughts? I’d like to hear your comments. Like? Well, hitting the WordPress like button is much appreciated. And as always, until next time…