Blackguards 2: Review - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blackguards 2: Review

It would be unkind to say that Blackguards 2 doesn't offer much improvement over its predecessor. Battles are more rewarding, the pen-and-paper RPG elements have been scaled back, and you can unlock advanced combat moves sooner. Other elements, like a uncooperative camera, the tedious pacing of battle and mountainous difficulty spikes, remain unchanged.

To its credit, Blackguards 2 leaps into its story of estranged spouses, imprisonment, mutilation and vengeance with wild abandon. It’s a lot more gripping than the wanted criminal plot line from Blackguards and this time you’re at the head of a conquering horde. Our protagonist, Cassia, is a breath of fresh air as a tyrant’s abused wife who decides she could do a better job. How merciful or brutal she is will be left up to players. This ties into numerous choice and consequence scenarios. You might save some townspeople from being hanged and earn their gratitude, only for a few villains to turn up and harass your troops later on. Defeated enemies can give you information, allowing you to bypass a stronghold’s defences or neutralise a major threat.

Blackguards 2 is focused squarely on its turn-based tactical combat. Towns and cities are not open regions for exploration, but glorified tableaus with clickable icons for merchants, companion chatter and information. Players are expected to upgrade their stats and their equipment, then move on to the next fight. The combat hasn’t really been revised, instead given a few pleasing tweaks here and there. Background dice-rolling is now visible via the Battlelog and, should they not find the abilities wheel to their liking, players can shelve each troop’s abilities on a tailored hotkey bar.

This is all very nice, but other problems have gone unaddressed. The hex-based grid demands a camera that is both rotational and able to zoom in. Cautiously hovering the mouse between enemies, friendly units and interactive objects feels less like tactical RPG warfare and more like brain surgery. And brain surgery takes hours. There’s no way to speed up unit animations once their actions have been selected, nor is there any getting around lengthy waiting times for enemies to move.

Some fights require players to figure out a process, a puzzle of sorts, which inevitably results in much trial, error and frustration. As your army marches over the world, Cassia’s husband will push back every few moves with an attempt to retake an outpost or city. That's when your mercenaries get to play defence. It's a decent change of pace and allows you to wreak vengeance on maps whose obstacles left you seething with rage. Blackguards 2 has a lot to keep turn-based strategy enthusiasts occupied, though it fails to outshine the more complex games in the genre.


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