By Colin Malone / February 10th, 2015
|Release Date||January 20, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Blackguards 2 is the sequel to Daedalic Entertainment’s The Dark Eye: Blackguards, a game which I have never played. The gameplay is based on the rules of the tabletop RPG, The Dark Eye, another game I have not played. I feel like it’s worthwhile for me to mention that, just so you know where this review is coming from. Anyway, let’s take a look. Does Blackguards 2 make it feel good to be bad, or does it fall short of total domination? Let’s find out!
The game starts with the main character, Cassia, dumped into a spider-filled prison. Who she is, and why she was thrown in prison aren’t explained fully until later. Her escape attempts as she wanders the catacombs serve as the early game’s tutorial. Sadly, her attempts at escape fail, and we take control again, four years later, of a Cassia who has had her face disfigured and her mind warped by spider venom. Now driven by only one desire; to rule, Cassia emerges and sets to collecting allies to help in her conquests.
Her main three allies consist of three of the surviving characters from the previous game:
Gimli Naurim the Dwarf, Zurbaran the Mage, and Takate who thinks he’s the son of a god. Sadly things have not been going all that well for them since the first game, as Naurim has given up his axe and turned to shady business dealing, Zurbaran has been forced into slavery and lost his passion in life, and Takate has gone back to his forest tribe and now forces people to fight to the death in his arena. The characters, while somewhat dark, are still very fleshed out and likable. It’s not just their backstories that bring them to life, though, as each major character in the game has well-written dialogue and excellent voice acting that really brings them to life. Thankfully, even if you haven’t played the first game, the game does a good job of filling in what happened, so you’re not missing too much. Plus, the story of this game is disconnected enough from the first one that even if you haven’t played it, you still wouldn’t be missing very much.
Compared to the characters, the story comes off rather blandly, as the game focuses primarily on battle sequences, with little story outside of the conquest. It’s really the characters, their interactions, backstories and development that carry the story. That said, the campaign itself does have some twists and interesting moments. What is most interesting about it are the moral choices the player will be forced to make. Every so often Cassia will be called on to make a judgement call on what action to take, such as whether to kill or release captured prisoners, or whether or not to let her mercenaries slaughter the inhabitants of a village.
What makes this game somewhat different is how it actually leans on the player to make evil decisions. Nearly any time I tried to pick the “good” option, my companions almost always tried to dissuade me out of it and gave me another chance to pick the evil option. No such second chances were given if I picked the evil choice. That said, you’re still required to do some pretty messed up things as part of the story, such as interrogating prisoners and conquering villages, but, other than that you’re as free to be as good as being an amoral, usurping conqueror allows you to be.
When it comes to gameplay, Blackguards 2 is a turn-based strategy game in a similar vein to Fire Emblem. During each fight, you guide your units around a small map divided into hexagons and try to defeat the enemies on the field or fulfill some other objective. As far as strategy games go ,it’s not too difficult, yet still provides some challenge. Likewise, for your four main characters, each has a good degree of possible customization options, such as their strength with various weapons, the spells they know and the abilities they have. While these offer a good deal of freedom in customization, they never get too complex. Aside from the main characters, you’re also given a few contingents of mercenaries over the course of the game to fill out your forces. While they’re not customizable, they can still help turn the tide of battle.
Despite all its good points, the game still has a few flaws. The main problem with the fights comes from their poor pacing. In most strategy games, when the AI’s turn comes, the game will take measures to speed it up a little, because watching the computer play can get pretty boring. For example, Fire Emblem: Awakening just lets you skip watching the enemy’s turn entirely, and Civilization doesn’t play AI animations unless they directly affect the player, so that AI turns are over incredibly quickly and the player can get back to playing.
Blackguards 2 does not do this. Any time an AI character’s turn rolls around, you are going to have to wait for them to take that turn, even if they’re not doing anything relevant to you. You can’t choose to skip or speed up the animation. This gets particularly annoying since, in most levels, AI characters outnumber your characters, so a good deal of each battle will be spent waiting for the AI characters to take their turns, even if they’re not doing anything that affects you.
Likewise, I noticed some slowdown during a few of the later levels. And, while I didn’t experience any myself, I’ve heard some players talk about bugs and the game freezing altogether. It wasn’t game-breaking for me, but I thought it something that one might want to be aware of before purchasing the game.
As far as aesthetics go, the game isn’t too bad. The art direction is amazing, the environments are beautifully done and the character portraits are exquisite. The music isn’t bad, either, although it’s subtle enough that you might not notice it. If I could point out one flaw in the art direction, it would be that the animations are a little boring, but that hardly detracted from the game at all.
All in all, while the game is pretty good, it has some very real flaws that prevent it from being really great. It took me a little more than 20 hours to beat the game, although there’s a lot more content then just that. There are multiple different paths through the game and the each main character has both good and evil routes. At $34.99 at the time of this writing, I’d say it’s worth a purchase if you’re already a fan of the series or genre. If not, I’d say wait until a price drop rolls around before trying this one out.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
Blackguards 2Daedalic EntertainmentRPGstrategy