‘Bow to Blood’ hands-on preview

Sci-fi pirate sim 'Bow to Blood' may be our most anticipated VR game of 2018

"Bow to Blood" blends a lot of great spaceship and naval combat mechanics into a fresh and exciting sci-fi flight sim.
"Bow to Blood" blends a lot of great spaceship and naval combat mechanics into a fresh and exciting sci-fi flight sim.
"Bow to Blood" blends a lot of great spaceship and naval combat mechanics into a fresh and exciting sci-fi flight sim.


  • Intuitive combo of motion and gamepad controls
  • Combat is snappy and fluid
  • Feels familiar and fresh
  • Reality show relationship system
  • Gorgeous, colorful aesthetic


  • Some might struggle with nausea in VR

Bow to Blood is a game that wonders if you’d be any good at captaining a sci-fi airship that looks a bit like a flying pirate galleon. It’s also a game about whether or not you can be trusted.

The upcoming PlayStation VR sci-fi flight sim made its first public appearance at PlayStation Experience 2017, and you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know what to make of it at first. Eye-popping and colorful, the game has an aesthetic that evokes the cover of a 1970s sci-fi novel, awash in yellow skies, pink hills, and green, buzzing lasers. You control the captain of a flying airship, competing on a fantasy gladiator reality show, in which you battle other ships, giant robots, and whatever else the show’s creators think might be interesting to watch.

Space Pirate Master

As the captain, your job is to stand at the helm and steer the ship, but controlling your space boat gets a whole lot more complicated than just adjusting the throttle and turning a wheel. Bow to Blood borrows ideas from other ship-centric games — sci-fi and otherwise — to add extra layers of control and complexity to the battle. Through a nearby control panel, you control your ship’s shields, guns, sensors, and engines, dictating how much power of your limited power goes to each system. You’ve also got robot crew mates to boss around, sending them to man certain systems to boost their efficiency, or to put out fires and keep everyone from exploding.

Functionally, Bow to Blood feels like a combination of the naval combat from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the system management ideas from sims like FTL: Faster Than Light and Star Trek: Bridge Crew, the humor of something like Smash TV, all wrapped in an aesthetic not unlike No Man’s Sky. And that’s all smashed into virtual reality.

Mechanically, Bow to Blood feels both familiar and wholly different from traditional flight sim combat. The game mixes traditional and motion controls: You steer your ship with the analog sticks of the DualShock 4 controller, and point the controller at specific rooms when you want your robot crew to man stations or fix things. You adjust your ship’s power levels by quickly pointing and clicking the panel to move resources around. If robot boarders show up on the sides of your ship, you can reach down and grab a sidearm and trigger in a quick, familiar VR shooting session.

Combining fairly intuitive controls with the immersive perspective of standing on the deck of your ship makes Bow to Blood feel fresh. Compared to other VR flight sims, which relegate you to an isolated cockpit, Bow to Blood makes you feel like you’re always in the thick of the action. And while many of its ideas feel familiar, they come together in a completely new way.

Becoming a reality VR star

As fun as it is to control the ship, the most interesting part of Bow to Blood isn’t competing in the fantastical battle game show, but what you do after you win.

Compared to other VR flight sims, Bow to Blood makes you feel like you’re always in the thick of the action.

Between events, you get to interact with the show’s other contestant captains, all of whom are controlled by the game’s A.I. Often before an event, you’ll have some kind of opportunity to make some kind of backdoor agreement with your fellow contestants.

In your first engagement, for example, you’re competing against another captain to destroy a giant, eyeball-shaped robot that’s covered in shields and lasers. At the start of the fight, the captain suggests an alliance — instead of taking each other down, you’ll take down the bot together and split the winnings. Taking the deal helps ensure victory, as well as a smaller take of whatever it is you’d earn for winning, (which wasn’t clear in the demo).

As developer Tribetoy co-founder and Bow to Blood Art Director Tara Rueping explained, the game has a relationship system that will track how you treat the other captains, and whether you’re true to your word. You can choose to team up or not, but how you react to and treat the other captain will have consequences.

bow to blood hands on preview 15014

You don’t always need to play honorably, either; in the demo, you could team up with your rival for the entire fight, win, then double-cross your would-be buddy to keep all the points for yourself.

Rueping said the relationship system will keep players on their toes, making decisions about who’s a friend and who’s an enemy throughout the game. That, combined with procedurally generated encounters and a rotating cast of characters, help ensure that, while Bow to Blood is a single-player game, it’s replayable and each run creates a new experience.

Bow to Blood feels inundated with good ideas, from the perspective of standing on the deck of your own ship in VR, to the marriage of motion and traditional controls, to the sci-fi fantasy aesthetic, and the idea that you can screw over every other captain with your wits as well as your flight skills. We’re looking forward to seeing the game get in ship-shape in time to launch on PSVR in the fourth quarter of 2018.


I'm canceling my backlog for Apex Legends. Be back never

Live service games like Fortnite and Apex Legends are eating up everyone's time, leaving other games out in the cold. While my backlog continues to grow, it seems the gaming industry is struggling to keep up as well.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.

Buy a new Switch console and get a $35 eShop gift card at some retailers

Multiple retailers are currently offering the Neon Blue and Red Nintendo Switch console with a free $35 eShop gift card. The system still costs the standard $300 and includes Joy-Con controllers and the dock.

Become a champion with our beginner's guide to Apex Legends

Jumping into Apex Legends for the first time? Need help becoming a champion? Our Apex Legends beginner's guide has 15 tips and tricks that will hopefully help your team make it into the champion's circle.

Thrive in the nuclear apocalypse with our Metro Exodus survival guide

Metro Exodus is a difficult shooter, especially if you're new to the series' blend of stealth, action, and scavenging. Here is what you need to know to survive the nuclear apocalypse.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Transport your Nintendo Switch in style with these nifty cases

The Nintendo Switch, which boasts both wired and handheld modes, needs a good case to ensure it doesn't get beat up while you're on the go. We scoured through dozens of Switch cases to bring you the best ones.

These are the best weapons for taking down mutants and bandits in Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is a very difficult game, and choosing the right weapons is key for surviving the post-apocalyptic Russia that 4A Games has created. These are the best weapons in Metro Exodus.