Daedelic Entertainment is one busy company. They are releasing games frequently and we finally get the final game announced at E3 2013. For those of you that do not know, Daedelic Entertainment announced three titles at E3 2013. They were Goodbye Deponia, Memoria, and Blackguards. Goodbye Deponia was brilliant like the previous two games. Memoria was beautifully drawn and orchestrated. And now for late January, we get the release of Blackguards, a grid based RPG. Taking place in “The Dark Eye” mythos, this game has a lot of similarities to the previous Dark Eye RPG games.
“What happens when the only hope of a threatened world lies not with heroes in shining armor, but in the hands of a band of misfits and criminals?” This is what is used to describe Blackguards. You play as a character that is framed for the death of someone dear to him. It leads to a much bigger conspiracy that draws a random group of criminals and shady characters to stop a madman from unleashing a powerful force from destroying the land. This is a world that is riddled with magic and mythical creatures so stopping this cult is kind of a bug deal.
Something that I always admire about stories like this is that it contains a nice level of mystery. Sure you know your character didn't kill his friend, but you do not know who actually did. Not to mention you do not know who is behind the cult-like actions being taken upon a variety of people you meet. Your party is quickly filled with people that would never be seen in the same room together, like a rich mage with a stubborn dwarf. Each character has their own story, and their own personality. Not to mention play styles. The story of Blackguards is an interesting one riddled with mystery and lore that The Dark Eye series is very well known for.
The combat is very traditional character turn based RPG. Every character takes their own turn moving and taking actions. The higher the speed etc, the earlier you get to take your turn. Character progression is both a positive and a negative aspect. For new players, this is most likely a negative aspect, while veteran RPG/tabletop players will find this to be familiar and refreshing in today's RPG market. After every battle, you earn AP. You use these points to increase every stat of your characters. This goes from their stats like strength to modifiers like charisma or perception. You use AP for EVERYTHING. If you want to learn a new skill, you have to find a teacher and use a large amount of AP to obtain it. If you want to level up that skill you have to use AP to increase its level, and it quickly becomes so expensive it looks like there is no end and that your characters will forever be stunted because the game gives you limited freedom and is seldom with side quests.
These are issues for new players because this has Blackguards progressing slowly and it will easily turn players off after a few hours. Players such as myself who played plenty of D&D find this to be a nice modern take on the RPG genre and it adds a level of strategy to games that is severely lacking. It makes the game more challenging because it gives you some room to explore, but if you spec your character wrong, you have to live with that choice.
The combat itself is also challenging because early in the game, your perception is rather low, and levels are filled with traps that you can step on without paying attention. Most of the time these traps will hinder your character’s values so it makes it harder to hit enemies or you take more damage. Despite being on a Hex-Grid, the environment is something to take into consideration when playing Blackguards. You can kill enemies with falling rocks, or stop them from moving around with well placed bear traps. This is not a game for the weak, this is a game for the patient gamer who thinks about every little move.
Blackguards does suffer from that translation barrier that many games from Daedelic have. The dialogue has many moments of sounding like it is poorly translated. The dialogue and interactions between characters sounds a bit too direct and rigid and it can sometimes take away from the story. Luckily we have that great art style to set the mood right where it needs to be. Seriously, if I was to boast anything about this game, it is the brilliant art design. Blackguards is a great looking game and no two cities/levels look alike.
I want to mention a specific downside to the gameplay because I feel as though it is important for these kinds of games. While Blackguards offers a quicksave feature, you cannot save in battle. If you play games like Fire Emblem they let you save in the middle of battle so you can pick it up later. This feature would be very handy in Blackguards because the battles can progress slowly to the point where you want to do something else and come back to play it later.
Blackguards is a game for the tabletop RPG lover. IT may not be the kind of RPG for people who play JRPGs for RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series. This is a game geared towards a very specific kind of gamer and it really shows in the gameplay. Surely games cannot be made for everyone, but it can hurt a game when it plays like it was designed with a specific group of people in mind. New players will find Blackguards very hard to get into due to the amount of lore already established in The Dark Eye series as well as the bare bones RPG character progression.
Visually the game is gorgeous, gameplay wise, it is well thought out and nicely put together. The story is coherent and it is something to get interested in. However, the lack on an “Interm Save” makes this game hard to keep playing along with the slow progression of combat. It will also take numerous hours to get any real form of freedom and better equipment that makes the game feel unnecessarily challenging. I give Blackguards for the PC a 7/10. You can get it on Steam now.