I didn't play the original Blackguards game, it is on my Steam wish list but I have yet to buy it. So, understandably I was a little worried going in to Blackguards 2 - Would I get lost amid things I should be familiar with? Does the story continue on from the predecessor?
The answer to both questions are no, and so I was safe to begin my journey with Cassia and her odd band of misfits and miscreants. Cassia, once of the ruling class finds herself cast down in to the labyrinth beneath the city where she spends many long years trying to hold on to her sanity through venomous spider bites and the taunts of her gaoler. Disfigured, mad, but undoubtedly alive she eventually finds her way out and begins to plot her revenge.
She was born to rule, it is all that she knows and all that she remembers from before her fall and so her goal is to gather forces and take the country from those that betrayed her. So - good solid, old fashioned revenge on a national scale!
After a lengthy tutorial that, depending on how you play can take upwards of four hours, you finally come to the full game. The meat of the game is hexagon tile based, turn-based combat. You begin by placing your assets - characters and traps - and then take it in turns clobbering the enemy and being clobbered in response. Imagine Fire Emblem
had a baby that is just coming up to its teen years and has turned a bit gothic.
The combat works really well for the most part, although it is easy to get bottlenecked or end up backed into a corner letting the enemy come to you, at which point it can feel more like a chore than fun. The battles can last for long periods of time and when they go wrong they do so spectacularly. Every time I lost and had to start a fight from scratch I would get a horrid sinking feeling in my gut and quit the game in a silent rage, but find myself reloading a few hours later to try again, sure in my rethought methods, to advance across the map.
In between battles you can level up your various characters in a ridiculously varied way. The way I've been tackling things is to upgrade/acquire one major skill or spell each time and spend the rest of my points on upgrading the weapon skills, and this has worked for me so far. It is very easy to end up with weak characters through haphazard point allocation. If during a battle one character always seems to die it is probably because their ability points have been misused. Correct this as early as possible to avoid the kind of rage this type of game seems geared towards producing.
The campaign covers a large landmass that consists of places to conquer and hub towns to buy new gear. In the hubs you can also get additional quests and progress through the engaging story of Cassia's madness and her ruthless will to rule. I haven't finished the game yet, but there appears to be a large area of the map with no hubs to travel to. Whether this is poor planning or a hint of even more places to conquer I am unsure - at the worst this is bad map design, in the middle ground it could mean expansion packs and at the best there is a good 20% of the game in which I have no clue as to what will happen.
If I take nothing else out of my time with Blackguards 2
, I now have a desire to check out the rest of the universe this game takes place in - a series mostly made up of point and click adventures set in The Dark Eye universe. Once I've finished this game I think I will go back to the beginning of the franchise and play through it in order. Most of the Dark Eye games appear regularly in the Steam sales, Humble Bundles or GOG.com sales, so picking them up won't be terribly expensive and I have the distinct feeling that they will be worth it.
All that said, the game does have its issues. I've had numerous crashes to desktop and there are some balance issues with the difficulty of certain maps and the character levels when they reach said map. Each issue is slowly being fixed or lessened with each patch.
If Blackguards 2
is already on your radar I can happily endorse buying it, just know that you're buying a game that will require a lot of hours out of you. But, to the audience this is aimed at that is usually a plus. If you're on the fence
about buying it because of price or the game's few issues, keep in mind that we are due a Steam sale in the next few months and that Daedalic are not adverse to putting their games in them.
+ Gorgeous dark atmosphere
+ Thoughtful turn based combat
+ Cassia is a remarkably self aware anti-hero
+ Deep RPG systems.
- Can be unforgiving
- Combat can seem like a chore if you get cornered
SPOnG Score: 7/10