A dwarf with clear anger management issues, a mage who is easily aroused by the smallest thing and a hunter with an obvious memory complex. This is the trio who are left to solve a mystery and travel the world. These three people were going to be the persistent characters I used to get through this game, and I’m so glad for it. It’s nice, in fact it was refreshing in this new age of gaming for a title not to fill everything with seriousness and take away the most vital part of playing – fun. This game is entertaining and humorous, yet challenging and serious in its storytelling. It’s such an understated skill, for me anyway, to make likable characters whom the player feels attached to without some depressing sob story. Blackguards does what a lot of games in its genre have failed to do recently: namely to create humorous, likable characters and place them into a very serious game world. For Blackguards, it’s a blend that works very well.
Enough about the characters! They’re great and all but games like this need good gameplay. A turn based, RPG which is very tactic heavy. The difficult things for developers in creating a game of this kind is that the fan base are very particular about what they want. One flaw in the system, one glitch out on that battlefield and the game would be a dud. Blackguards is excellent. Versatile game worlds allowing interactions with the levels, really make the player think carefully between each move. Turn limited challenges gives the player difficult choices in thinning out his team in order to complete tasks within a turn limit. It’s never easy to do. It’s actually very difficult throughout the game, regardless of difficulty level. Which is not a bad thing I must add. I’ve always found a lot of problems in tactical RPG’s is that there’s no fine line between easy and hard. You either hack and slash or burn and crash, instantly killing the fun in a lot of these games. Blackguards hits the difficulty problem right on the head. The easiest setting, although not extremely difficult, will essentially force the player into thinking about his attacks and his defense while also plotting moves further ahead of time. The more the player cranks up the difficulty, the more they have to use the brain. In fact, the hardest setting would have me drawing out the battlefield by hand, plotting all the various approaches to the epic battle that was about to be had.
Having tested the waters on the best tactical approach in Blackguards, I decided slow and patient would be the better option. Now usually this is where I (and a lot of people) can lose interest with a game of this genre. Thankfully, Blackguards has a very fluid moving and attack motion, meaning the fights always seem fresh and quick, regardless of how long you spend planning your attacks. The accomplishment you feel having won a battle combined with the speed in which they play out makes the game so much more accessible than a normal tactic driven RPG game. Due to its fast pace movements, I found myself wanting to explore just about anything I could find and the biggest thing I found was that I was addicted. Over a period of three days, I’d apparently notched up some twenty-something hours by the time I had completed the game. I found that the intriguing characters mixed with interesting, fast paced gameplay set to the back drop of a beautiful world left me wanting to explore more, especially the numerous alternative endings. There was just one large problem putting me off.
You see Blackguards has a lot going for it. It’s a gorgeous game, and it plays really well but the character progression just seems so disorganized and sloppy that it really takes away from what should be an excellent game. With skill points spread across five pages and over all these pages the cost of certain upgrades, at times, seem completely random. There is nothing to justify character progression, you’re almost forced into molding your party’s skills to match what the game wants, which completely defeats the point of a role playing game. If you’re playing with a mage, hunter and a dwarf, ideally you would like to develop their skills to match such characteristics, but it dawns pretty quickly that you developing three generic warriors as opposed to chiseling out the characters you want.
Blackguard does a marvelous job. It keeps to its low-fantasy style well, it tells an excellent story and the battles (sometimes wars) are so incredibly joyous. It’s just let down greatly by its convoluted character progression stats, which in itself will put you off enough to only ever enjoy this game once or to not play it at all.
Great characters/ story
Good difficulty curve
Poor character progression
Main character never fells like your own
Several technical hiccups