Posted: July 7, 2014
Alright....Blackguards is definitely a game with no lack for content. In fact, there was enough for me to put in a solid 60 hours. Some of that time was redoing battles and such, but there were plenty of quests and plenty to do in general.
The game itself is a curious blend of your prototypical Daedalic adventure/point and click game (when you are in towns, albeit with the hidden object stuff removed of course) mixed with turn based hex battles that use random number generators ala XCOM and other luminous titles. The RNG aspect can make things interesting as occasionally, you will inexplicably miss when you show a 95% chance to hit (actually, it isn't inexplicable..you fell victim to that other 5% lol), but at other times, when your percentage is really low and you go for a desperation power move, and it connects, you totally feel excited and stoked for having taken that risk.
Graphically, it wont blow you away. It is reminiscent of other Daedalic games when in cities/towns/etc..., but when in battle, it's more of an isometric approach with movable cameras that can be adjusted to the cardinal directions as well as going from top down to more straight ahead angles. This definitely comes into play during battles as you get different vantage points to make decisions and set actions. Definitely pulls off that middle ages with mysticism look well. The cutscenes are more of the same. Nothing too spectacular, but still effective and definitely in line with the overall game presentation.
The story itself is interesting enough. You are framed for the murder of the princess, whom you and a few of your friends grew up with while under the care and apprenticeship of a powerful wizard. You are arrested, and escape with the help of two other prisoners, who become your stalwart companions. From there, you are at first trying to solve the murder and clear your name, but as things progress, you uncover a plot that can destroy the world. At that point, your goals become far more lofty. The story was engaging enough to keep me interested throughout. Which was necessary, as the pace of the game was not very fast. In fact, it took a while for me to get to the point where my characters were able to resolve the more difficult battles without copious retries.
The battle system itself was pretty stellar in my opinion. If you have played XCOM or other turn based hex battle system games, you will have a good grasp for this game fairly quickly as far as the combat is concerned. What they don't do is churn out the same basic layout over and over. Each battle gets it's own unique battle map, which was stellar in my opinion. You never get bored from seeing the same map over and over, which even XCOM as guilty of (I keep going back o XCOM as a reference due to its accessibility as a point of reference for this games combat systems). The geography of the battle is often as important as your positioning relative to your enemies. Often, there will be traps, mires/bogs, and other obstacles that will hinder or help you and your enemies. Cover is provided on many maps. Interactive objects also make there way into the battlefield. For example, there might be a stack of barrels that you can knock over to crush enemies underneath or simply block their path (and they might use those same stacks), a stand filled with rocks that can be knocked over, bookcases, oil filled barrels that explode, pools of oil, vats of poison, simple chairs and tables, etc....The battle maps were supremely well thought out in my opinion and kept things pretty fresh. In addition to all that, there might be goals other than simply destroying your enemy, such as trying to fight your way to a specific part of the map, free prisoners to help you fight, defend citizens as they try to flee the battle zone, escort missions, and so on. There was even two instances where complete stealth was necessary and one where you are fighting your way through a cavern while also trying to stay ahead of a poison cloud that creeps slowly forward behind you. So much variety. It was really quite impressive.
The quests were pretty standard fare for the most part. Go find this missing person, please retrieve this item and possibly take it to somebody else, find out what this person or that person is hiding, intercept shipments, and so on. They were fun, and if you play RPG's, they are par for the course. However, they were much easier to finish and never dragged out. Short and to the point as it were. I had a lot of fun with them, and finished every quest the game had to offer.The main quest itself was pretty interesting, as I mentioned before, and kept you moving forward.
The pacing itself was pretty slow. In fact, the first few hours of gameplay might dissuade some people from continuing on. It takes a while for the game to start really sending you places, and it also takes a while for you to be able to upgrade your equipment and abilities. However, once you get past that initial stage, the game never stops moving forward, even if it is at a slower tan normal RPG pace. I wouldn't get discouraged by this. Once it really got going, I never looked back, although I did break up the gameplay by taking a day off in between sessions to play other types of games. I think that approach benefited the gameplay here, as it helped me to stay interested. The reason I mention this is because, on top of all that, this game is absolutely combat focused and is quite grind-ey. In fact, you will pretty much need to grind out every battle to level up enough to have a reasonable experience later in the game. Fortunately, even if you wrap up all te quests, there is the option to do gladiator fights whenever you want (after you become the champions of the gladiator ring), which will fill out any necessary experience and give you extra cash to spend on potions and such, which you will definitely need to do.
Healing and mana potions (they don't call it mana, but same thing) are an absolute necessity, and especially towards the end of the game, you will want to have as many as possible. You cant have too many, and they don't carry any inventory weight with them, so there is no reason not to keep yourself well stocked. The only other things I ever really spent my coins on were arrows and the occasional armor upgrade. You will find plenty of weapons, poisons, etc...throughout the game and shouldn't need to buy any after maybe your first couple upgrades. At a certain point, those all become more than plentiful via combat spoils. You do have party encumbrance, but I never really found it to be an issue, and went over several times, lol. As far as the inventory system goes, it's pretty simple...you have your various clothing slots (which equate to pants, shoes, gloves, shirt, and hat). You have three weapon loadout slots (during battle, you can switch between the three, but each switch counts as a turn). Each loadout has two hands available, so one loadout might be sword and shield, another might be bow and arrows, another might be a greatsword, etc...You also wear a belt which can have as many as 4 slots available (depending on the belt itself). Each slot will hold one disposable item (potion, poison, grenade (equivalent), or throwing weapon).
The RPG system is fairly deep in my opinion. There are several categories that all pull from the same pool of experience points you earn, so you need to be judicious in how you spend those points. There are plenty of guides on the topic although I just used what I thought would work well with a touch of common sense and an idea of how to build a party mixed in, lol. The breakdown is abilities (strength, courage, dexterity, charisma, etc...), talents (such as survival, warfare, traps, healing, willpower, and so on), weapon skills (specific weapon categories....bows, axes and maces, two handed swords, two handed axes and maces, staffs, ec...) *continued in comment section*