Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Genre: RPG, Strategy RPG
“Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?”
Those words, spoken by Vaas in Far Cry 3 kept ringing around in my head during my time in ‘Blackguards 2’, as it feels like Daedalic took that definition of madness (doing the same thing over and over expecting stuff to change) and made it their design philosophy. Playing combat scenarios which are at once fun and monotonous, means you’ll be going over to the next combat area expecting something new to come out at you; but when held up to it’s predecessor, it becomes obvious that changes between the fights and the games themselves are either minute or non-existent. Thankfully there’s plenty of other stuff here to love, and the combat itself is fun in that “slow game of DnD sense”.
Blackguards 2 starts just like any other fantasy RPG, with the player stuck at the bottom of a dungeon filled with spiders, skeletons, vagabonds, and various other new game XP fodder enemies. The person in question is Cassia, who has been wrongfully dethroned, placed in a dungeon and left to rot. The first few hours of the game are really where it shoots itself in the foot, as you are only able to bounce around between combat areas with nothing to break them up but cutscenes and expositional dialogue. Playing through (what felt like) a labyrinth of monotony really hampered my experience.
Thankfully the game decides to give the player (and Cassia) a breath of fresh air after you’ve escaped the confines of the dungeon and recruited your followers, by introducing the world map. This very nice looking map shows all the towns, villages, outposts, mines etc. that Cassia and her band of vagabonds must pillage and plunder their way through on Cassias mad quest to rule. I say “Mad” quest because this is one of the most interesting things about the game. Years spent in the dungeon, and being poisoned by spiders as left it’s mark on the once innocent Cassia. Her mind is now as disfigured as her face, which means the player is now the villain. In between missions you’ll be returned to a base camp where you’ll have to make ruthless decisions, like hanging all your prisoners because you lack the resources to feed and transport them. The sense of being the villain also comes into play when interacting with your compatriots. You can manipulate them through your conversations to gain their loyalty to your cause, even if they didn’t initially agree with it.
To facilitate the feeling of growing in power, there’s skill tree system that takes some getting used to, but be prepared to spec into a lot of things you regret later on as the game doesn’t do a good job of telling what points to put where for maximum effect. Which is especially painful in the games hex-tile, turn-based combat, where if you make a few wrong moves at the beginning of an area, it can punish everyone in your party severely; As the game also doesn’t do a good job at explaining what you should be doing in these areas, so (again) be prepared to restart some scenarios more than once as you figure out the actual objective of the mission. An example of this would be where I was supposed to break some prisoners out of a dungeon to fill the ranks of my mercenaries. Now because the game had conditioned me into just murdering all the enemies on that come onto map, as a way of completing the mission, I tried doing just that.
But the guards kept on coming, and I was immediately neck deep in halberds. On the next try I decided to just open up the cells of the prisoners, but soon realized I had no idea where to go, thus again being swamped by guards. It took a few more tries before I realized that there was an exit that was somewhat hidden around a corner. Even then I had to try the mission a few more times before I managed to get everyone out of there. After all that bother the game goes back to it’s usual “Just murder everyone” combat areas, so it ends up feeling like a token effort to change things up.
Which is a shame because there’s a lot of interesting concepts here, playing an insane, power hungry, manipulative villain conquering your way to victory; genuinely interesting interesting combat, engaging characters all in a world that begs for more in depth exploration coupled with an interesting art style. All of that is offset by the rinse and repeat gameplay that avoids change throughout, and some pretty sloppy presentation.
- Being evil is good fun.
- Characters with depth
- Evocative Art Style
- Engaging combat.
- “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting things to change”
- Never quite clear and what you’re doing and why
- Tutorials are not helpful
- The first 2 hours
Games like these are frustrating, because there’s so much that could have been great, but is instead not willing to go just a few steps further. The lack of player agency while not in combat is really disappointing, and how it teaches players to interact with the game definitely needs work. As it stands this game is only really enjoyable in short bursts, or at least until you’ve done enough of the same thing for one day.