I had heard of Blackguards in passing, mainly through seeing it advertised online, and admittedly I overlooked it as 'another PC RPG' to saturate Steam. There are so many PC games being released it's sometimes hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. However, I was given the chance to take a look at a preview build for the game's sequel - Blackguards 2 - and I'm pleasantly surprised with what I played.
Firstly, what is Blackguards? Well, it's a tactical RPG from Daedalic Entertainment, developers of the Deponia games - another series I'm yet to delve into, but will one day. Blackguards is based on the German pen and paper role-playing game The Dark Eye, and thus uses its rule set to fill out the mechanics of the stats system in the game.
Blackguards 2 uses the same Dark Eye RPG rulebook, however this time the game is said to come complete with some "enhancements", along with requested features from fans of the first game. Without playing the first game I can't really speak about what's new, as it's all foreign to me, but the preview build I was able to play certainly had plenty to mess around with in terms of features.
As this was a preview build of the game there were the odd bugs here and there, unfinished content, and balancing issues, however the game is rather robust as it is, so I don't expect it to change much in terms of content, aside from fixing the aforementioned.
So, onto what I played. Being new to the whole Dark Eye universe I naturally felt out of place at first, trying to figure everything out and find my feet. However, the game did well to ease me in, and I quickly began to like what I was experiencing.
The game uses a hex grid in its turn-based combat sections, first allowing you to position your party members within a certain area before the battle begins. Each character's avatar on the grid is laid out along the bottom of the screen, showing who's current turn it is, then moving the next character in the queue once their turn is over, and so on. Fairly standard turn-based stuff, but it all functions well, and most importantly it's clear what is happening.
One part of RPGs I'm not so much a fan of is clutter on the screen. Whilst Blackguards 2 has plenty of stats to tweak, abilities to learn, and HUD features, I never felt overwhelmed - everything was clear, and detailed enough, without looking like a confusing mess.
One of the best parts of my experience with the game would be the story. Playing as Cassia, a woman banished into a dungeon with no hope of escape, you start the game walking through said dungeon trying to find a means of actually getting out. This section serves as something of a tutorial. Unfortunately the dungeon is filled with giant spider-like creatures (I hate giant spider-like creatures) that have a poisonous bite which will either kill you or send you insane. Spending four years down in the depths with the spiders, Cassia becomes disfigured and loses her mind. Eventually escaping the dungeon she has nothing but revenge on the braind. As someone who generally likes to play the 'good guy' in games, and creates them in RPGs, I enjoyed the dark tones of Blackguards 2, and the twisted angle they went for with the main protagonist.
Despite not knowing much about The Dark Eye universe's lore, I still had a blast with Blackguards 2. It's a fun turn-based RPG that I'm looking forward to delving further into, and I can't see any die-hard RPG fans being turned off by it's deep, strategic gameplay and intriguing story.
Blackguards 2 is due to release on 20th January for PC and Mac.