Blackguards 2 – Review
Follow Genre: Turn-based RPG
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Platforms: PC, Mac
Tested on: PC

Blackguards 2 – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Cassia's madness forms an interesting story hook, streamlined battle and level mechanics
Bad: Battles tend to be a bit lengthy
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0
(0 votes)
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Last year, Daedalic Entertainment introduced video gamers to Aventuria, which avid role players might know as the continent on which Das Schwarze Auge takes place. Internationally known as The Dark Eye, this pen-and-paper role playing game has grown massively popular over the years, especially so in Germany.

Blackguards brought this world to life with an adventure that had the player investigating a grisly murder with the help of a motley crew that spiced up the traditional questing parties. Whereas the mission of the player’s character ended with the game, the other characters would meet again soon. In Blackguards 2, they each play a vital part in a quest for revenge, power and ultimately, madness.

Cassia_Artwork

Story

Instead of allowing the player a character choice, Blackguards 2 casts them into the role of Cassia, also known as the spider queen. In a rather lengthy introductory chapter, she is held prisoner in seemingly unescapable catacombs, surrounded by poisonous spiders. Every night, as she sleeps, the spiders approach her quietly and bite her, pumping their deadly venom into her veins. “Victims of the venom either die or go mad,” she is told, and after five long years, she is still alive.

The combination of solitude and spider venom proves to be an effective one, as Cassia finds herself both physically and mentally changed. Her face is now disfigured from the poison and her mind has forged a life goal that is simply bonkers in its megalomania: she wants to take the Shark Throne and rule, if even for a day, no matter what the cost.

This is reason enough to finally force an escape and trace valuable companions with whom to go to war. Blackguards veterans will recognise the Dwarf warrior Naurim, the Human mage Zurbaran and the Forest man Takate as her first champions, and soon, Cassia’s ragtag band of followers grows into an army fit to take on anyone who would dare to oppose her.

The story has a very interactive approach, as in between battles, players are encouraged to talk to every one of their champions and even to themselves. Everyone has opinions on each other and on the state of the matter and some battles even grant you prisoners to interrogate. It makes the world feel alive and keeps the player in a permanent state of unease, often unsure whether or not Cassia should be called a heroine.

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Graphics

The game’s hexagonally tiled battlefields are the main reason why anyone should buy this game. Every location has its own carefully planned battleground, rife with details and atmosphere. As players are supposed to interact with their environments, however, the painstakingly manufactured layers of detail can sometimes prove a bit confusing. Luckily, Daedalic has realised this and offers players the option to highlight important objects.

Outside of battles, you’ll be mainly staring at your war map and campsite. Within the campsite, the somewhat smaller budget for graphical prowess becomes a bit more apparent than during the fights, but this is not really a problem thanks to – again – the developer’s attention to detail. Every time you welcome a new member to your party, made a moral story choice during battle of take a hostage, this has an effect on your camp as well. Forbid your religious mercenaries to complete one of their rituals, for example, and you will find them hanged by their community.

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Sound

There is a lot of dialogue in Blackguards 2, and all of it has received decent voice acting. All characters are voiced competently and convincingly. Once in a while, a line may be delivered a bit weakly, but considering the amount of text, this can easily be forgiven.

Cassia herself, though, while also voiced well, did feel as if her speech wasn’t crazy enough for her mental state. When reading the text, it’s easy to image her being a total psycho with a bit of a cracked voice, sometimes laughing hysterically or crying in the middle of a sentence. Her voice stays quite calm, though, which can feel a bit inconsistent with her text sometimes.

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Gameplay

Like Blackguards before it, this sequel’s main gameplay comes in the form of turn based battles on hexagonal tiles, allowing each character to move and attack once per turn. However, the Black Eye-inspired battle system has been improved upon quite a lot, ensuring fresh combat mechanics for veterans of the series. Magic, for example, is now much more reliable. Where spells in the first game were often no more than a waste of mana, mages are now often the strongest and most valuable characters on the field thanks to their long range and massive damage potential.

For better or worse, the levelling system has been streamlined. Cassia can be built into every type of combatant imaginable, as she has the potential to learn every single skill and spell in the book. Other champions are often a bit more limited. Naurim, for instance, cannot learn any magic as he is meant to be an axe slinging warrior. Regardless of a hero’s actions or even presence in a fight, everyone gets the same amount of experience points, which ensures that no-one is left behind on the experience track.

Sadly, in spite of these and more improvements, the game fails to stay interesting for an entire playthrough. After about ten hours, fights tend to become tedious as every single battle takes up at least thirty minutes of your time without even providing a single checkpoint. Boss battles are even worse, as they are clearly designed as puzzles. Every decision is vital in these fights, and discovering after at least twenty minutes that you’ve made a fatal error in the second turn can get old very quickly.

In a needless effort to lengthen the game’s playtime, one of your conquered settlements will be attacked for every three battles you’ve won. This provides a different perspective on previous maps, but after two or three times, it becomes a real chore to defend these settlements. Each time, the story is put on hold, teasing you with the knowledge that you won’t be able to continue it in what could easily be another wasted half hour.

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Conclusion

Blackguards 2 is definitely worth your time if you loved or even liked the first one. With its enormous attention to detail and great battlefield designs, it is sure to tickle that role-playing pickle for a pretty long time. Sadly, though, the interesting story developments frequently grind to a full stop after the first ten hours as the game forces you to defend your settlements versus invasion forces. These battles are far from the hardest ones of the game, so you start out with a near certain victory, yet the time it takes to actually take the win is usually too long to provide any sense of excitement. If you don’t mind spending some extra time on these lengthy battles, though, you’ll find a challenging quest, led by madness itself.

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Tom Cornelis
Tom Cornelis


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