In an attempt to clear a little backlog in my Steam library, I finally dug into Wolfenstein: The Old Blood recently. I bought The New Order and Old Blood together some time ago, deciding to play the former first. If I’m being honest, I enjoyed The New Order more than I expected to but understandably, it left me a little burnt out on the franchise so the Old Blood sat until now.
In short, I found the Old Blood to be a decent and competent example of the modern game maker’s craft. I would then add “extra marks” if you have played (and fondly remember) Return to Castle Wolfenstein since there has been a clear and thoughtful attempt to draw inspiration from that 2001 classic id Software title. You don’t need to have played RTCW obviously but if you have, you’ll get a little bit extra from The Old Blood.
Story and character development isn’t a strong point here but there’s enough to propel the game forward and perhaps by intent, it falls somewhere near Return to Castle Wolfenstein on the continuum of storytelling in id Software’s intellectual property as a whole. The game borrows from but provides more than Doom’s silent protagonist, allowing the story and context to happen around BJ rather than coming from him. Fortunately I think, Old Blood doesn’t get nearly as cerebral as The New Order tried to, which for me got a little labored at times. From my perspective, there’s only so many ways you can say “war is hell” and “Nazis were bad”.
As mentioned earlier, the Old Blood is something of an homage to Return to Castle Wolfenstein (almost a “Return to Return to Castle Wolfenstein”). It was great the way they revisited and re-imagined old haunts like Paderborn Village, catacombs, ruins, cable cars, the dig site and the castle itself. The game’s stealth mechanic (typically two patrolling commanders that will call in reinforcements unless they are found and dispatched quietly) works really well without the frustrations that plagued RTCW’s stealth missions.
The weapons are sufficient and satisfying, featuring significant differences and meaningful choices without drowning the player in endless options. Likewise the combat and enemies are a new take on familiar old combatants like super soldiers, commanders and heavy soldiers – and there’s no cover system! At regular difficulty I found health, armour and ammo to be a little too plentiful and perhaps a bit too “console-ified”. Most rooms and areas were literally glowing with multiple flashing items and I would much rather have fewer items with more restorative power than having to run around vacuuming up a dozen items that each give you a tiny boost.
If I have any other nitpick with The Old Blood it would be that it might be a little too enamored with its wall climbing mechanic. It was initially fun to scale a rock wall by alternating mouse buttons but after the 4th time it was getting a little tedious. I also grew a bit tired of hitting “E” to crowbar open doors, panels and trap doors over and over again. Lastly, the puzzles that were so well done in RTCW also missed the mark here a bit. Hidden areas were not particularly hidden and unless you’re a completionist-minded gamer, the treasures don’t have any more value in Old Blood than they did in RTCW. Much of the blame for the puzzles missing the mark, I place on this just being a different era of gaming where the puzzles of RTCW simply don’t stand up to being “console-ified”.
Overall, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood was well worth the price of admission. It isn’t the longest game in the world but not the most expensive either. It’s a novella rather than a comic book though. It’s TV rather than blockbuster film but it’s good TV at least. The game will also happily adapt to your style as well, either a romp or a crawl (or both) and as PC games go these days, it did a pretty good job of getting the UI and game mechanics out of my way so I could just play. In this day and age, a PC game that doesn’t make me feel like I should be playing on a console deserves some credit for that alone.