Take Dark Souls. Add Chinese swordsmen and kung fu. What could possibly go wrong?

Well... the game can be really frustrating and it has a boring story full of typos.

But Bloody Spell, a Chinese action RPG on Steam Early Access, is pretty interesting -- and not just for its bizarre backstory.

In Bloody Spell, you play as a swordsman who wakes up in a dungeon, trying to fight his way out. Along the way, you pick up weapons, unlock spells and battle ninjas and orcs that bizarrely look like they’re from Mortal Kombat. And there’s a bit of puzzle-solving and platforming -- pretty standard APRG stuff.

But there is a huge difference between Bloody Spell and other ARPG titles: The game has no checkpoints, so you only get one life. And your health also doesn’t automatically regenerate, but rather heals only when you collect orbs (a la Devil May Cry).

And if it wasn’t hard enough… when you die, the map rearranges itself. You wake up in the same prison cell each time, but the routes you take and the rooms you visit are different. In other words, every time you restart, you have no idea what’s coming -- and where the next ambush is.

Sounds difficult, right? Yes, yes it is.

But even though it can be quite frustrating, I thought the challenge made it surprisingly fun. It felt like it brought something valuable to the genre.

(But Xinmei thought that this game was still a completely waste of time because she was so frustrated. Maybe I am just a sucker for abuse.)

I was pleasantly surprised by the game’s controls and combat. I expected it to be terrible, but they’re decent.

Why such low expectations? Well, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But it’s really hard not to judge it here, because even for an Early Access game, Bloody Spell is really raw and unpolished.

The UI and menus are so crude, they feel almost Windows 98-esque. And the game is littered with typos and nonsensical sentences, as if a native English speaker never bothered to check the translations.

Apparently, there is an Easter Egg in the game where you can visit the game developer's office. But we didn’t get that far. (Picture: Yi Long Games)

The story is also boring and doesn’t seem to make much sense. There are no cutscenes or animations to help tell the story. At the beginning of the game, your character’s brother is found dead in a prison cell -- something which doesn’t affect your character at all.

So maybe it is unfair to compare Bloody Spell with Dark Souls, because Dark Souls is one of the best games ever made and Bloody Spell is just not even close to being finished.

But there’s a twist here. Bloody Spell is actually pretty high-profile in China, because it’s meant to be the flagship game for a much-anticipated new game console from an old-school Nintendo knockoff.

That company, Subor, gained prominence in China and some countries in Africa as a maker of Nintendo-like consoles at a time when people couldn’t get Nintendo consoles. Now it’s working on a new console, the Subor Z-Plus, and invested in Bloody Spell to make it a key title.

The odd thing is that the Subor Z-Plus, rather than a traditional console, is closer to a gaming computer that runs Windows 10. So it’s a little strange that Subor is releasing it this way, since that theoretically gives you one less reason to buy their console. 🤷‍♂️

If you want to find out more about Bloody Spell, check out our full stream here!