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Published on March 4th, 2015 | by Ithika

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Blackguards 2 Review

Some women just want to watch the world burn.  At least, Cassia of Tanos, the central protagonist of Blackguards 2 from Daedalic Entertainment, does. Betrayed, imprisoned and abandoned to madness and death by her husband, who killed her cat as well as the rest, Cassia defies all odds and survives to begin a vengeful rampage, which is where we come in.

I should begin this by saying that I have not played Blackguards, though I wanted to – there comes a time when you have to stop buying games on Steam and start playing the ones you have – but the sequel differs from the original in being more plot-driven, starring Cassia, a scripted protagonist, whilst in the original you create your own character and discover a plot less personal to your specific character. (I must also admit that I was delighted to be met with a female central protagonist! A little crazy, a little evil, and I love her.)

Blackguards2_Cutscene

And why not?

The story is promising and entertaining so far – my review copy of the game does not allow for the full adventure, alas – Cassia’s descent into madness and her ongoing struggle with it as her followers look on in varying stages of bemusement has kept me entertained while I work my way through the various conquests the game offers.

Gameplay

Blackguards 2 is a turn-based strategy game, a genre I am always happy to see more of. The naturally slower pace and heavy reliance on strategy can perturb and frustrate some, but I for one have always enjoyed turn-based play. It does take some getting used to, and while you learn the ins and outs of the game you’ll find yourself restarting battle sequences a little too often. Unfortunately, Blackguards 2 doesn’t allow enterprising autocrats to save while in a battle sequence, meaning if you screw up, you have to start over right at the beginning of the battle. Generally, I like to save after every move or so, so this was a little annoying for me.

Blackguards2_Strategy

For the love of spiders, pay attention.

Speaking of learning curves, this game features a classless character customisation. This level of control has ever been a double-edged sword for me, and Blackguards 2 appears to be no different. With no handholding whatsoever as to what kind of party members you’ll be encountering or guidance as to what does what, it is easy to make unfortunate decisions and so far, there’s no way to undo mistakes. I know I’m not the only one to have gotten to the end game in classless systems only to find that my character is physically incapable of taking out the end game quest thanks to her Jack of All Trades, Master of None style, and I’m quite certain you could do this to yourself in Blackguards 2 as well.

Character customisation is hugely complex, and frankly quite daunting at the outset. Things could be made a little more obvious in some areas – it took me a while to realise that your equipped items are in fact compared to items in a shop as you mouse over them, for example – but where things may be unintuitive or difficult to find, at least they are not lacking. Happily, there is a multitude of tutorial tooltips that pop up at the first occurrence of different stages and areas of the game, so you’d do well to pay attention to them.

 Battlefields are complex, and make sure to use the “V” hotkey – which highlights the “Win” tiles as well as operable elements of the map – to make some plans, because things like falling boxes can crush your character if you aren’t aware of which way they’ll fall when operated. The game does tell you this, but I feel it bears repeating. Not being able to save during battles, as I said, will lead to a lot of restarting and repeating, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it that unusual in turn-based games. The only other feature I missed during fights is an ability to speed up npc turns – some of the battles are huge, and so cycling through other turns at times left me a little frustrated, but never enough to stop me from playing.

Plot

I love a villain. Cassia may have been wronged, but her bloody-minded course for revenge is hardly that of a true hero, and her compatriots are unabashedly self-serving in their motivations as befits the game’s title. The story is well written, compelling, and the voice actors are all pleasant – Cassia in particular manages to convey a wide range of emotions and varying degrees of sanity quite convincingly. The game is so large that I haven’t been been able to complete it, but I am curious and motivated to continue working my way through the story, which is always something I look for.

Blackguards2_Characters

Ah, the old enigmatic dialogue option! Choose wisely…

Graphics

Third person isometric view, so common in games of this type,  is one that I personally really enjoy, as it both provides a solid strategic view of the units you need to kill and terrain you need to traverse as well as a healthy dose of nostalgia.  Happily, Blackguards 2 allows you to zoom out quite far, giving you a comfortable and commanding view of the playing field.  A common complaint I have with newer third person isometrics is that you’re often restricted to a relatively close up view, and I’ve always found that restricting.

Blackguards2_Gameplay

Mm, hex tiles.

Graphically, the game is quietly competent. It does not soar to the dizzying heights of modern graphical finesse, but everything that appears works well, hit boxes have not so far been an issue, and the game runs smoothly and presents a stylistically cohesive and charming world. Also, how could you not be enchanted by Cassia’s spider mask? It looks badass.

Additionally to the in-game graphics, the game treats you with lovely cut scenes and loading screens with a sketchbook aesthetic that I very much enjoyed.

 

Good 
Bad

  • Deep, complex roleplaying strategy game will satisfy those looking for a challenge
  • Amusing, enjoyable characters and a compelling plot
  • Attractive graphics that provide a smooth and enjoyable playing experience
  • Lack of user-friendliness will not assist those new to the genre
  • Tutorials are essential but somewhat cumbersome
  • You have to restart battles from the beginning, being unable to save during.

Before you go…

I had (and am having!) a lot of fun with Blackguards 2, but it is an unforgiving game that doesn’t do a lot to show you how to play it. It is worth perseverance, as the game becomes a lot more fun and rewarding once you become comfortable with how to actually play it. Newcomers to the genre may find the game challenging, but save early and save often, and you’ll do just fine in your quest to lay waste all those that would oppose you.

Blackguards 2 is $34.99 on Steam, and runs on both PC and Mac.

Blackguards 2 Review Ithika

Yes, but how many STARS?

Gameplay
Plot
Graphics
Replay value

Summary: I enjoyed Blackguards 2, and I'll be doing more than one play through. I'd recommend it to anyone that enjoys strategy, challenge, and anti-heroes.

3.5

I'd recommend it!


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About the Author

Ithika

Ithika is full of enthusiasm about, frankly, a lot of things. She started gaming at the tender age of 6 on a secondhand Atari Lynx, and it was pretty much all over from there. A Nintendo girl at heart but a Playstation girl in reality, Ithika has a strong preference for adventure and swashbuckling over just about anything else. Amazingly, she managed to stay focused for long enough to finish two degrees, and now she's (almost) an architect. Don't mess with her - she keeps a Charizard in her pocket.



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