Last week, I wrote a bit about Blackguards 2. Now that I've spent some more time with the game, I figured that I could expand a bit on what I started last week. See, Blackguards 2 is a flawed game, but it also a very interesting game.
I said that Blackguards is a turn based tactics RPG. Now, after spending some more time with the game, I wish to make a small correction to that statement. See, the game isn't much of an "RPG" in the classical sense, it's a game with "RPG-mechanics". You will level up, choose equipment and add skills. But there isn't much actual "role playing" to be had. The game does give you dilemmas to solve. Things like freeing or killing prisoners. While these moments are marked by the game, it does not (to my knowledge) display any status of your morality. While I have no doubt that this will affect the story down the line, it is a little too little to call this a true "RPG". The game seems to be more interested in strategy and tactics than playing a role. While I do not think that is a bad think, I think it's important to note for those of you who are more interested in role playing than strategy. So with that out of the way, let's go a little deeper in the game. And please note, FROM HERE ON, THERE BE SPOILERS!
Good bad-guys or bad good-guys.
The games main protagonist is a woman who is called Cassia Corapia. She is, at the start of the game, the wife of the current ruler. The game starts with her execution/exile. She is tossed into a labyrinth full of spiders. The reason for her imprisonment in the labyrinth is left ambiguous, and so it the end-game of said imprisonment. See, there's a guard assigned to keeping track of her, and that guard explains to her (and the player) that the spiders in the labyrinth are sacred. These sacred little beasties are said to carry a venom that will drive anyone bitten insane. So, it is left to the spiders. Will they eat Cassia, or drive her crazy with the venom?
Well, since she's the main protagonist and this is the tutorial of the game, it is fair for anyone to assume that she lives. She spends 4 years alone in the labyrinth, trying to find an exit. The only things around to keep her company are the spiders, the nameless guard and a mysterious book she finds. Long story short, she looses her mind, befriends the spiders and find her way out. The one thought keeping her "sane" is her need to rule. So, after escaping and fashioning a neat death-mask, she sets off to find the great warriors who defeated the Nine hordes. Hopefully, with their help, she can start an uprising and claim the throne. For the record, the warriors she looks for are the main protagonists from Blackgaurds.
So, here we have a character with questionable sanity, a death mask and need to usurp the current rule. Does that sound very heroic?
The returning character from the first game are Naruim, Zubaran and Takate. After the events of Blackguards, they have been scattered to the winds and left to their own devices. Naurim, the greedy dwarf has amassed a great fortune selling illicit goods and drugs. Zubaran, the human mage, has gone and got himself turned into a slave and Takate the savage barbarian rules over a tribe of death worshipers. Does any of these characters sound heroic?
After certain events, all three characters join Cassia and she sets out to free Faramud and his "Silent legion". These guys are imprisoned mercenaries with a reputation for being ruthless and blood-thirsty. Does any of these characters sound heroic?
So, as you might be able to tell, the game doesn't pretend to have good heroes, the game is called "Blackguards" after all. The thing is, thought, that no one in Blackguards is good. The current ruler is a monster, the land is in turmoil. Your little band of usurpers are just another drop in the pool. This setting, while a bit silly at times, helps to lend texture to the conflict and help define your heroes. Are you going to be a force of good that looks evil? Or are you going to join in on the fun and truly earn the death-mask?
Knocking over barrels and running from the law
The game is split into two separate parts. Firstly, you will find yourself at whatever camp or settlement your in. Here you can talk to people, learn information, train and barter.
Visiting your camp allows you to prepare for future battles, and it is here where the meat of the story is. There really isn't much to say about this state of the game, since it is so static. The background looks nice, the models are hit and miss. It's just not that interesting.
Don't get me wrong, the story is cool, it's just that the delivery method could have been better. It is also fair to say that the voice-actors are much like the models they play, hit and miss.
The more interesting parts are the battles. They are often played out on uneven terrain, against uneven odds, with some uneven knick-knacks thrown around. The idea is that you have to use your wits and the battlefield to your advantage Just rushing in will usually just get you killed. Exploiting a guard standing under a chandelier is much safer than engaging him and his buddies in melee. Some battles have special bonus objectives and some maps are down right "puzzle like".
Is is "good"?
I said that Blackguards 2 is flawed, and I stand by that statement. It's story and characters are all on the bad side of evil. The voice-acting can leave you wanting. The game can at time feel unfair. As much as all of those things are true, Blackguards 2 is still VERY interesting. It is a game that dares to do its own thing in a landscape filled with "follow the leader"-design. This is not Xcom, this is not Dragon age and this is very much NOT a combination of the two. It is its own thing, and that I can respect.