Bloodless is a 2D Sekiro with non-lethal, bare-fisted combat

With fantastic pixel art and combat that focuses on counterattacks, this action adventure features a wandering ronin who has sworn not to spill blood.

Point N' Sheep

Don’t mess with the old lady. The ronin Tomoe, once called The Slasher, has returned to her homeland of Bakugawa to confront her past and defeat the soldiers of Shogun Akechi as non-lethally as possible. This is the story of Bloodless, a 2D action-adventure game developed by Point N’ Sheep and published by 3D Realms. I had the chance to play a 20-minute demo of the game, featured at The MIX showcase during GDC 2024, and it was easily one of the highlights of the event with its wonderfully stylish pixel art and swift, parry-centric combat.

A mission in Life

Bloodless Preview Dash Counter Tomoe
Tomoe's dash-counter is an all-purpose attack, but it takes a lot of stamina.

SOURCE: Point N' Sheep

Bakugawa is a land of violence. Shogun Akechi, Tomoe’s former master, still reigns supreme in a place that has only known war, oppression, and invasion. In the past, she gladly spilled blood in service of the shogun, but after a traumatic incident, Tomoe abruptly deserted, renounced her former ways, and became a wandering ronin. It’s unclear in the demo why she decides to come back to her native land; in any case, it only takes her a few footsteps into Bakugawa before she finds several bandits who stand in her way.

Despite being unarmed, Tomoe is specifically built to disable and disarm her foes. Her core skill is a dash counter that is used against enemy attacks that flash white. Those highlighted red cannot be parried and need to be dodged. While she is capable of dealing damage with her martial arts, counterattacks inflict the most. These parries require a fair amount of stamina to pull off too, so patience is key to success. Combat becomes a deliberate dance where the player needs to discern enemy patterns quickly and react with the right maneuver, especially when Tomoe is surrounded by different types of adversaries. 

There's always time for tea

Bloodless Preview Enemies Combat
When surrounded by enemies, Tomoe will need to learn the attack patterns of them all to survive.

SOURCE: Point 'N Sheep

Fortunately, players have some leeway when it comes getting the proper timing down for parries and dodges. Similar to Sekiro, Tomoe is given a gourd by Hina, an old acquaintance and proprietress of a teahouse, and can recover health by drinking servings of tea. The ronin can find tea leaves growing in an area or purchase them at a shop using mannen, which is effectively gold pieces, to restore charges for the gourd at a Baku Brazier. If Tomoe ever falls in battle, she will resurrect at one of these braziers so that players don’t lose too much progress.

As Tomoe faces tougher enemies with trickier movesets, she will learn more techniques and obtain crests to augment her abilities. The skill tree provides various boons, like being able to deflect projectiles, gain stamina for good timing, extend her string of combo strikes, and increase the distance of her regular dash. Later on, Tomoe acquires the ability to perform secret techniques by using a meter made out of sakura petals in case she needs to punish foes or get out of trouble quickly.

Pushing beyond the past

Bloodless Preview Skill Tree
Certain skills will make ki strikes even more powerful.

SOURCE: Point N' Sheep 

Taken altogether, these abilities give Tomoe enough power to reach the end of the demo, where she discovers that the bandits are actually protectors of the Harmony Tree. After witnessing her skill firsthand, the leader of the group entreats the ronin to fight for Bakugawa, but then a warrior leaps out of the shadows and kills the leader with a single swipe. While this is an impressive, heroic feat, the gory assassination triggers Tomoe, as she stands frozen in place for half a minute before she is able to move again. We’ll have to see if she overcomes her past trauma and defeats the army of the shogun in the full game.

Bloodless is scheduled to release in Fall 2024 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam. 

This preview is based on a demo for the game shown at The MIX showcase during GDC 2024.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

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