With my desktop PC out of action over Christmas – it contracted a nasty case of conjunctivitis of the front-side bus – my options for gaming with my weedy laptop were limited. One thing I did managed to spend a few hours with without the poor thing fainting was indie devs Sakari’s third-person shooter Foreign Legion. It’s cheap, it’s cartoony, it’s about killing lots of wee small men for points. It was pretty much ideal for a 3 hour train journey to the Lake District, in other words.
It’s essentially a series of Alamo moments – you as one heroic soldier against waves of invading Gentlemen Of Terrorist Persuasion. You’ve got to kill ’em all until the timer runs out and rescue arrives, but also protect a) yourself and b) some manner of objective. In the first level, that’s an oil pipeline that springs apocalyptic leaks of black gold as it takes damage, in the next it’s a town hall that gradually grumbles, and in a later one it’s a bus full of civilians that flees across the uncaring desert at agonisingly slow speeds.
So it’s a matter not simply of killing, but of prioritising who you’re killing. Is it the guys trying to paint your face an attractive lead’n’gore colour, or is the suicide bombers running at the thinger you need to defend? Or is the rocket launcher guys who are an explosive menace to all concerned? It’s essentially an old-fashioned farce movie: you peg it to one end of the map, shoot everyone as quickly as possible, then realise you’ve got to peg it back to where you just where before the building comes down. Somewhere in the middle of all this, you’re also summoning and collecting ammo drops, and grabbing repair kits to try and keep the wolves from the door of your damaged objective. And back, and forth, and again, wave after wave. It’s an inherently repetitive affair – as anything that’s ultimately about highscores is – but it’s so absolutely manic that it can mask this for a time, and keep itself compulsive.
There are unlocks. Of course there are unlocks. They’re a big part of what kept me playing, which can be a difficult thing to rationalise. Am I playing because I’m enjoying the experience of playing, or am I playing because some cold, weird part of my brain needsneedsneeds a better gun and a blue hat? Alas, I’m leaning more towards the latter in Foreign Legion’s case. It isn’t quite as charming as I suspect it wants to be, so I’m not invested in anything other than earning in-game bucks. After a couple of hours of pleasant headshotting of silent Legolike soldiers and the occasional unafraid chicken, it all starts tp ring a little hollow.
That said, the free update Sakari chucked out soon after release is hugely impressive for a game with this kind of pricetag – up from one map to six, plus a bunch of extra weapons and outfits. If that’s a sign of future intent, there’s a good chance this will blossom from the promising but disposable arcadey thing it is now into something genuinely meaty. It’s certainly crying out for either co-op or multiplayer – especially in the bus defense level. Having your objective roam rather than be fixed gives it a totally different feel to the rest of the game, and means the ammo and repair drops end up being a country mile away. Having one guy defending the bus while the other legs it back across the desert would be a top time, and a hint of real tactics admist all the panicked bullet-spray. But expecting a cheap indie game to suddenly throw in networking is a tall, unreasonable order.
So, despite the right attitude, Buckets of Blood doesn’t really live up to the comic excess the name suggests, but Sakari are definitely onto something with it. A little bit Battlefield Heroes, a little bit Shadowground, and some canny approach to map design – I’d definitely like to see where they go with this. First things first, though, they should get a ruddy demo out. £6 ain’t much, but it’s not quite impulse-buy cheap. I suspect getting the insta-joy of the first half-hour with the first level into a horde of eager hands would shift quite a lot of copies. Until then, here’s what it looks like:
Foreign Legion: Buckets of Blood is available now, currently only via Steam.