I know I am late to the party, but I just got around to playing Wolfenstein: The Old Blood and I wanted to share my thoughts on it.
Warning: Contains spoilers for The Old Blood and The New Order
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood takes place before Wolfenstein: The New Order and follows series protagonist BJ Blazkowicz as he tracks down a document that will lead to General Deathshead’s compound. It is divided into two parts: Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves and The Dark Secrets of Helga von Schabbs. They introduce minor tweaks to The New Order’s combat, but fail to improve upon the narrative.
The first part, Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves, is the better of the two halves and features the titular Castle Wolfenstein. It is a little bit more stealth focused than the other half and allows the variety in gameplay to shine. Just like in The New Order, stealth can be utilized to get the drop on foes and the many weapons provide somewhat different ways in taking out enemies. While they all are guns, each one feels different and packs its own unique punch. A bolt-action sniper rifle, a pistol-like grenade launcher, and a new shotgun have been added to the mix; the shotgun feels a little redundant but the other two weapons are fun to use.
The worst part of the gameplay is the fact that nothing special happens. It is still the same core gameplay from The New Order, which is great, but there are no moments that try to play around with it at all. Other than the new weapons, the combat and stealth all fundamentally feel the same. I enjoyed my time with it, but I was disappointed that I was never surprised by anything it did.
Unfortunately, the narrative is significantly inferior to The New Order’s. BJ is basically just another first-person shooter protagonist and I did not care for him like I did in the prior game. The new characters have no memorable characteristics and the antagonist, Rudi Jäger, could be swapped out with a generic Nazi enemy in each scene and the story would lose nothing. Additionally, the game fails to do anything with the castle itself. Castle Wolfenstein was where the series started, it is an iconic location, yet it is easy to forget that it is something more than a normal castle.
The Dark Secrets of Helga von Schabbs fared a little better in terms of narrative but stumbled when it came to gameplay. Helga is still a little underwhelming of an antagonist, but she does have more depth to her than Rudi Jäger. Notes and other collectibles can be found around Castle Wolfenstein that detail the archaeological dig she is on and also reveal that she is a bit of a King Otto fanatic. The specific details of the dig are all revealed in these optional notes and can also be found in the second part, so even if she has little screen time, Helga seems more than just another Nazi.
None of the other characters that appear in Dark Secrets get any sort of depth. They exist solely to push the story forward and then probably die after their part is done. Eventually an evil force is released that starts turning all of the dead Nazis into zombies. It opens the story to more over the top opportunities, yet other than the last boss fight, does not do anything with the premise.
That lack of originality also makes the gameplay suffer. All of the zombie enemies are typical zombie cannon fodder and do not pose much of a threat at a distance. Some of the zombies wield guns but have the accuracy of a tipsy Stormtrooper. The only time these fights get fun is when normal enemies are thrown into the mix. Most of the living Nazis will turn once defeated, so killing an enemy will temporarily distract surrounding Nazis as they take care of their undead brethren. These types of fights are few and far between and even the great shooting mechanics cannot save the zombie sections from feeling like a slog.
The Old Blood was the result of combining two different DLCs into one standalone package; I wonder if Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves and The Dark Secrets of Helga von Schabbs had been developed as a unified game instead of two distinct parts, then would the resulting product be more cohesive. As is, the setup for both parts is intriguing, yet both fail to do anything special with the narrative or gameplay.
I keep saying the story was underwhelming, but I did find some enjoyment out of the ending. The final scene sees BJ and friends as they start to prepare for the assault on Deathshead’s compound. This attack serves as the prologue to The New Order and leads to BJ’s decade long coma. I found this interesting because the attack seems to be akin to the final climactic showdown that is seen in so many stories: The good guys know where the bad guys are and they use all their might to finish the fight once and for all. This ultimately concludes with the good guys standing atop the rubble of the bad guys’ ambitions and ends with everyone living Happily Forever After. Yet, the assault on Deathshead’s location fails. The failure is so spectacular, that the good guys do not have time to stand up, dust themselves off, and try again. BJ becomes a vegetable, the Allies take a huge blow, and the Nazis end up winning. The Old Blood’s ending seems to be optimistic, yet there is this ominous undertone to the whole thing, as the result of the attack is already known.
The Old Blood is worth a look for anyone who really liked the core gameplay of The New Order, but anyone who liked the narrative should approach with severe caution. It did not occur to me how big of a role the narrative in The New Order played in my enjoyment of it. Overall, I liked The Old Blood even if the narrative was a massive step down from its predecessor.
Riley Berry is an Associate Writer for MONG who wishes he could have a cool name like Blazkowicz. You can follow him on Twitter.