Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame Nomination: Iron and Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft
Developer: Take 2 Interactive
Publisher: Acclaim
Release Date: 10/31/1996
System Released On: Sony PlayStation, DOS
Genre: 3D Fighting

Who Nominated The Game: I did. Alexander Lucard.

Why Was It Nominated: Back in 1996, Take 2 Interactive and Acclaim released a fighting game that was supposed to contain the best aspects of RPGs and fighting games. However when it was released, it was almost universally hailed as one of the worst fighting games ever. Even today, fighting game historians look back at this thing with scorn and hate. Fans of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop series were especially incensed by this game as it took the second most popular campaign setting for the game at the time and ruined it. Absolutely nothing about the game had any connection to Ravenloft itself save for the name and an unlockable cameo by Strahd Von Zarovich, the famous vampire of Barovia. As a person that devoured all things Ravenloft while also playing pretty much every fighting game released in the 90s, I was doubly pissed off by the end product.

The concept of Iron & Blood was that instead of playing as a single character, you played as either a good or evil aligned team. You would pick your team from properly aligned character and then fight until one team had fallen. This is all well and good, as it’s the core concept behind King of Fighters. As well you could find artifacts on various fields and after finding them, you could use them in later battles. However, the game never explained how you found said artifacts and so everything about the game became a case of guess and check.

The controls were awful and characters were unbalanced, leading certain characters to be powerful enough to take out an entire team by themselves if you just ran away and used ranged combat. Character models were atrocious, even for early 3d games. Voice acting and music were appalling and the campaign mode was the exact same as PvP. All you did was kill one team and then the game was over. The computer A.I. was all but non-existent. I personally tried to love the game. I would play it over and over hoping to discover that maybe I wasn’t playing it right, or that maybe something would be unlocked. I desperately wanted to find fun in this game. Alas, I never did and I have yet to meet anyone who has. All I ever got was the ten second endings for each team.

Thankfully the Ravenloft franchise would be redeemed on the PC with two amazing games in Strahd’s Possession and Stone Prophet thanks to SSI. Because Iron & Blood is so infamous with both fighting game and D&D fans, I decided to nominate this as we have plenty of staff member that fit into either (or both) categories. Let’s see how the votes break down.

All in Favor:

Aaron Sirois: Iron and Blood had a few good ideas. It was a team based fighter where you only truly lost when all of your team was defeated. You could find hidden artifacts that could grant you bonus powers. Heck, taking the colorful characters from a D&D setting and putting them in a fighting game is a pretty cool idea in my book.

Of course, all of the best ideas mean nothing when the game is clunky, broken, and absolutely boring to play. My brother bought this game because of the cover. I think the only reason any of us played it was because we were hoping to get our money’s worth out of it.

We never did.

Alexander Lucard: This is easily the lowpoint in Dungeons & Dragons video gaming, and yes – that includes Heroes of the Lance, a previous successful Hall of Shame inductee. On paper, this thing was awesome. I mean, a team based RPG/fighter hybrid. That sounds akin to Guardian Heroes at first, right? Well, it wasn’t. It was one of the worst fighting games ever made. It was ugly, clunky, horribly designed, had no point and all you did was pit one awful team against the other, Supposedly you gained levels and magic items but it was insanely obscure how you gained and/or used them. Strahd Von Zarovich and Lord Soth were hidden characters (as were minions of Order and Chaos), but who cared because there wasn’t a story mode or anything? It was just one team vs. another to the death and then the game ended. Words cannot describe how horribly made this game was and it’s up there with Battle Monsters as the worst fighting game I’ve ever encountered.

All Opposed:

D.J. Tatsujin: When you specialize in playing as many fighting games as you possibly can, you indeed see the crap de la crap of those cashing in on a hot premise. The worst game I’ve ever played in my entire life falls under the fighting game genre, but, alas, it isn’t Ravenloft.

My memory was very fuzzy on the game, but I clearly remember encountering this title in our local rental chain. Back during the days of the 16-bit and 32-/64-bit systems, this chain had a section of elder or unpopular titles it provided to customers at the unbeatable price of two games for $1 for five days. Ravenloft quickly found its way into this section and, eventually, into my hands. Really, the fault of fighting games around this time was its insistence that the genre be shoved straight into the traffic known as 3-D when, at the time, most genres were not ready for this change. I found Ravenloft no less offensive than anything else that churned out messy fighting game polygons and I could easily spout off thirty fighting games that I would rather eat than play before Ravenloft would even cross my mind.

I suppose there are two immediate thoughts that come to my mind to come to my decision: 1) I paid $0.50 to play this game for a day or two, so the issue of post-purchase cognitive dissonance is a complete non-factor and 2) I have no affinity to the Dungeons & Dragons lineage of products. As engrossing as the products can be for players, I have never once been interested in the series, so Ravenloft could have done 5,739 incorrect and insulting things with the IP and I wouldn’t have been the least bit offended because I would be 500 percent oblivious to the fact. To me, Ravenloft was just another disc to throw on the stack of the PlayStation’s fighters that just weren’t ready for the move to the 3-D arena.

Do I think Ravenloft is a good game? Absolutely not. When I look at Ravenloft, everything looks good on paper, but the execution fell short of most players’ expectations. If I felt this title deserved to be shamed, I would also have to nominate nearly every single 3-D fighter released near this time, because it was par for the course known as disappointment I experienced in this timeframe – Battle Arena Toshinden, Zero Divide, Ballz, Evil Zone, Cardinal Syn and the like. Even so, I think titles such as Kasumi Ninja and Rise of the Robots need to be placed under the fighting game microscope first and that doesn’t cover some of the fighters that would make your brain completely melt and drain out of your skull.

Result: 2 In Favor, 1 Opposed, 67% Approval = SPARED DUE TO LACK OF VOTES

Conclusion: In a stunning turnaround, Iron and Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft is spared from the Hall of Shame essentially because not enough people played it to have an opinion. If the PlayStation was as far along when this turd came out as the NES was when Heroes of the Lance came out, it’s possible this would be the second Dungeons and Dragons game thrown into the Hall of Shame. As it stands, it was just obscure enough to get past the vast majority of our writers.

Next Week: What happens when Capcom and Sunsoft team up to bury one of the most popular survival horror IPs of all time? You get a Hall of Shame nomination. See you next week.

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