By Adam Reese / March 19th, 2015
|Release Date||March 17, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
In the year 1328, King Charles IV of France died. King Edward III of England, the closest living relative of Charles IV, claimed that he was the rightful king of France. The French aristocracy disagreed and chose Philip VI, the first cousin of Charles IV, to be their king. When King Philip VI wrested control of the region of Aquitaine from the English, it sparked a war that lasted over a century, and has thus been referred to as the Hundred Years’ War.
In the year 2007, Koei released a game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 called Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War. Although it came with several new ideas, there were many setbacks in the game’s design that impeded most critics from giving a favorable opinion of it. However, Koei seemed to be undeterred from this, as evidenced by an appearance of Joan of Arc in Koei’s Warriors Orochi 3, releasing Bladestorm for the PlayStation Network last year, and, this year, releasing a remake of the game entitled Bladestorm: Nightmare.
Loosely based on the infamous war from the 14th and 15th centuries, the game’s story pitted you as a mercenary of your own design, fighting for whichever side gave you the most coin between England and France. Not only did the game let you lead your own unit into battle, you often worked alongside or against the heroes of the war, including England’s Prince Edward, “The Black Prince,” and France’s Joan of Arc, “The Maid of Orléans.”
Not much has changed in the eight years between releases. The main mode of the game, called “The Hundred Years’ War,” is still mostly the same as the first, except with a few added features. You’re given control of up to three other mercenaries, either of your own design or from the other officers you acquire during the story. Not only will this let you feel a little less lonely on the field, but you are allowed to both give orders to them and switch between them, giving you the opportunity to cover more of the map at once. This, along with letting you pick which unit you want to start on the field with, helps you get into the game a little easier than the first time around.
What’s new to this game, however, is a mode called “Nightmare.” Using the same heroes of the first game, the setting shifts to one of fantasy. In it, a dark evil has swept over the land, and only you, along with your fellow mercenaries and heroes of the war, can save it from total destruction. With a change in tone, music and scenery, this mode seems to be the only new true addition to the game. Your character, with the help of a strange sword, is able to control the monsters you now face.
However, right off the bat, I have to tell you that this game won’t do much to improve the opinion of those who played the first game. Not only is the game still buggy, but the AI is still as bad as ever, with the pathing of those not under your control leaving you frustrated. For instance, if you tell one of your mercenaries to go attack an outpost, you might find that when you check up on them, they’ll be running against the geometry or an invisible wall, so all that time you thought you were saving by attacking in two directions would have been for naught.
Not only does the game suffer from some tremendously bad pop-in, but you can clearly see things being drawn in the near-distance. Whenever you switch to another of your mercenaries, it will take a few seconds, and then, suddenly, you’re in the middle of a mass of enemies. If enough of them are on-screen at once, the game starts to slow down. There was even a time when the game froze on me in the middle of battle because it couldn’t keep up with the action on-screen. Adding to that, the loading times in the game are atrocious, which was a common complaint from the original PS3 release and doesn’t seem to have changed.
The sound design, although good in some places, leaves room for improvement. The orchestral soundtrack, while nice the first few times, gets repetitive, since you will often hear the same music many, many times as you grind your way through the game. The sound effects used for weapon strikes are often reused between weapons, overlap or, in some cases, simply aren’t there. This, along with the mediocre English voice acting with questionable accents and pronunciations, will often lead you to switching the vocals to Japanese. This isn’t that big a deal, as most of what you hear is during the heat of battle, and they’re often drowned out by the action.
Of course, the sound design is different in the Nightmare mode, but there are some issues to take with that, as well. Many of the monsters that you control are the same units you use in the main game, just with different appearances. There was even a case when I was using the griffon that I could distinctly hear the sounds of a war elephant, one of the units you could control in the Hundred Years’ War Mode.
As far as the visuals are concerned, the contrast seems to have been increased, and they’ve made the shadows extend further. The models look unchanged from their PS3 counterparts, and the monster design for the Nightmare mode are often simple with added light glyphs. This, along with several other design decisions in the Nightmare mode (slow moving monsters with unfortunate hit detection), leads one to think that Omega Force didn’t try hard enough to bring a fresh experience to Bladestorm when making the game.
While the game does have some replay value, it doesn’t do much to coax you into playing it again, other than seeing things from the other side of the battlefield. Also, it does have online features, but the battles are over so quickly, for the most part, that you won’t find much reason to stick around long enough to take advantage of having a second player.
Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with the game. Even with the almost 50 hours I played of the game, it was mostly just grinding myself and my mercenary friends to the point where I could sweep through the rest of the game. Even though I sometimes switched to other units, I kept going back to my main unit, lance horsemen, so I could more efficiently traverse the battlefield and get everything over with.
I was hoping for a lot more from Koei with this remake, and they just ended up reminding me of all of the things that finally drove me away from the original release. Here’s hoping that Omega Force and Koei don’t give up on the general gameplay ideas of this game, and, instead, put it in a better package next time.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Bladestorm: Nightmare is available on Amazon:
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