With Blackguards, Daedalic Entertainment have created a game that is not easy to get into but unlocks tons of fun and satisfying gameplay for hardcore role playing game fans who are able to master its control set and user interface. If those don’t scare you off, then you’re in for a treat. Blackguards rewards players with a decent story, great battles, and an easy on the eyes experience that easily stands out in its genre.
Blackguards is a tactical role playing game that takes place on a grid with each square representing a slot for the player-controlled characters as well as enemies to move onto and perform actions on. Items on the grid are also able to be interacted with such as boxes to set on fire and on at least one occasion rope to be cut causing a chandelier to fall on opponents. Sometimes players have to close up nests of enemies while other times for an additional example. Enemies range greatly as the story progresses and vary in strengths and weaknesses causing players to rethink their strategy at all times. It’s easy to try the battle again if you fail, and sometimes this game will make you feel dumb – but persevere and it will all be worth it in the end.
This is a game that requires real tactics, and real thinking. Everything in the battles that are presented is based on what’s practical. Characters with ranged abilities need to be kept back while higher defense and physically-oriented characters run up on enemies for up-close action. Sometimes enemies can knock you down, use items on the battlefield, or prompt other unexpected events that keep the player feeling a sense of anticipation breaking any sort of monotony from forming.
Players must set up equipment before in between battles and can’t use the inventory screen during battles. Taking a rest between scenes is possible provided they have enough of the necessary provisions remaining. this will restore all characters to full health and restore their vitality. Switching between weapon sets mid-battle will take up a turn, but means that players have a diverse set of options to use while reacting to the sometimes rapidly thinking, highly tactical artificial intelligence. On the belt, players bring a few items such as bandages to have characters heal each other as well as Astral Potions for regaining energy to cast spells with.
Commands are given to each character using a wheel of options brought up by right clicking the mouse button on a grid and then selecting a section as well as sub-selection within it. Hot keys can also be set for the most common and favored attacks. Using the controls and interface can be a little challenging at first but once players get the hang of things they’ll be glad they did. This title has a lot to offer for true role playing game fans of the turn-based variety.
The main narrative of the game, which I described briefly in our Hands-On Preview of Blackguards back in december, is appended by optional side-quests, dialogue choices based on which character in your party you’d like to participate in the discussion at hand, towns with equipment, gambling, tall tales, and often more.
Speaking again on the few negative points of the title, and where the developers need to focus on improving if they ever attempt another Tactical RPG (or Strategy RPG depending which term you prefer), a few times it became difficult to select the right tile that I wanted to interact with. The user interface needs work in a few ways and that is one of them. While the camera angles presented are definitely interesting and beautiful to look at, the inability to rotate the view seemed odd since the 3D visuals seem to be fully fleshed out suggesting that the feature could have been there. Although the characters are not voice acted extremely well, the overall writing of the game’s story-line has many moments that feel sparse in excitement and pretty typical.
The plot has potential, and it could have been done worse, but while it doesn’t come off as particularly “bad” – some players will be unable to find immersion with Blackguards. The storytelling pace is good and all efforts to give each battle plenty of pre-text and context are successful, but the voice acting certainly could have been a lot more gripping and would have provided a better experience for the player if it were.
That being said, the gameplay is exciting and fun enough to propel this title passed its faults. I found myself getting lost in the accumulation of equipment, side-questing for money to buy better weapons / armor / items, and mastering different types of battle scenarios using a wide range of tactics and strategies that began to feel like a Madden playbook for the turn-based, grid-centered RPG universe.
The upgrade system in Blackguards adds a lot of replay value as well and extends gameplay hours significantly. The type of player that gets into RPG systems won’t be let down here as there are several different categories to level up and players can even expedite learning from teachers found along the journey. Skill base values, Weapon Talents, Talent Levels, Spells, and Special Abilities can be gained and customized for each character in the game. This combined with the mid-battle swapping of equipment setups and the hot-key behaviors eventually allows the player to clear their mind of micro-management and focus on being the ultimate strategist under pressure.
Blackguards is one of the few shining examples of how modern turn-based gaming should be in a tactical role playing game. Though once I had gotten used to it I can’t imagine the user interface being any different, it took some effort to really flow quickly and intuitively within the control system presented. Perhaps a better approach could have been taken with that. The voice acting does little to convince and the story can be mediocre at times, but overall it gets the player where they need to go and provides a decent backdrop for the real meat of the sandwich, which is of course the tactical battles therein.
Visually the game has moments that are stunning, animations that are very professionally crafted and polished, and never manages to look bad. The audio quality feels polished as well, with no bugs experienced from the game engine and load times in the final build zooming incredibly fast. Blackguards is what Tactical RPG fans want from life, and is well worth the asking cost. This is a high quality product that has come a long way since its early build showing the dedication, work ethic, and skill level of Daedalic Entertainment. Blackguards gets an 8.75 out of 10 from RealGamerNewz earning it the RGN Silver Game Rating.
Official Score: 8.75/10
RGN Rating: Silver Game
Developer / Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Available On: PC | Mac OS X
Played On: Windows PC
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of the game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Editor’s Note: RealGamerNewZ has moved web servers, some older posts can no longer be commented on and have been preserved without their images. Thank you for your understanding in this matter. This article was written by Jon Ireson on 20140217 and was last modified on 20140217 .