Blackguards: Chapter II Review (PC)
As a huge Final Fantasy Tactics fan this game piqued my interest from the onset. A turn based strategy where the player takes turns in issuing combat commands to a group of adventurers. Thankfully unlike a lot of other turn based tactic games the turn sequence is per character and not per team. This was always a favourite of mine as I felt it lent itself more to strategic play than every character in a team acting together before the enemy could respond and vice versa.
At the core of every good RPG is the story. Much of Blackguards press release has been centred on the story, the hazy morality and difficult player choices. However I felt a little underwhelmed by the games attempts at conveying this. The tone of the story cries out for a minimalist, contemplative approach to the characters interactions. However Blackguard has you in constant talks with your comrades and denizens of the world, which lends itself more to a buddy story. Perhaps this would be okay if it weren’t for the jovial tone of the conversations and acting.
As it stands though I can’t buy into the world. There was a lack of weight behind the events that unfolded. The story and voice acting are all fine and the accompanying musical score set the scenes well enough. However the tone was off and it detracted from unfolding events which is a shame because Blackguards does offer some surprisingly good set pieces.
It is easier to grasp a player’s attention with good solid gameplay and have the story weave itself around their play than attempt to force feed a game world in the hope that the player retains it. After all a player can use their imaginations to fill gaps in story but not in gameplay. Thankfully Blackguard doesn’t ask this of its players. The game mechanics are by far the star of the show. Fighting against the trend of overly dumbed down gameplay Blackguards has many overlapping layers of complexity.
The game progression is of a typical RPG standard. Battles are won and new areas are unlocked on the map. These areas often have several encounters in them and can at times offer the player the choice of where they would like to go next. Winning battles rewards you with items, gold and experience which you can use to craft your characters. The typical RPG attributes are on show: dexterity, strength and constitution as well as more obscure attributes such as cleverness and courage. There are also many combat traits, spells and weapon proficiencies. All these stats allow you to tailor your character the way you want to play.
I do have a minor gripe in that allowing the player such free reign over the customization leaves little to distinguish between the different characters. Although characters are heavily slanted towards particular skills and play styles to fight against that would of course be impractical. I personally would have preferred to see a little more distance between them allowing each of their abilities to be a little more alien to one another.
As well as the gameplay displaying a more complex approach the game world too is largely interactive. Scenery and scripted events make each battle more varied than your standard hit them till they are dead affair. It’s refreshing to see a tactical game go out of its way to create environments that you can use strategically rather than the standard flat arena’s that populate the market. I applaud teh developers for this as it was obvious that each encounter is well thought out and not an afterthought.
Visually Blackguards is fairly impressive. However the soft focus and blooms often get carried away and make what is supposed to be a dark world rather dream like. I appreciate the art though and it is consistent throughout the whole game.
The games interface was a problem for me. Without proper tutorials the UI was fairly cumbersome and item management a chore. Speaking of tutorials, the game was fairly difficult; not overly so but enough to keep me on edge. This in of itself would perhaps be something to congratulate the game over. However with such dense stats and abilities I couldn’t help but feel that I was perhaps levelling my character incorrectly or that I was missing the opportunity to use them to the best of their abilities. This is great for RPG trailblazers who like nothing more than to delve into the game mechanics and wrestle out optimal builds for each play style. However if you are looking to pick up a fun RPG without any pre-planning this may put you off.
Blackguards is a good solid game. It perhaps misses a few of its loftier ambitions and I doubt it will be remembered as a classic in years to come but if you are looking for a good turn based RPG I wholly recommend it.
3.5 5Blackguards: Chapter II Review (PC),