Blackguards

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Blackguards on Steam

MSRP: $39.99

Platforms: Win, Mac

Release: 1/22/14


I feel like there’s no way for me to talk about Blackguards without starting out with a story of stupidity.  Shockingly, I bought this on a sale, thinking it was a strategy game instead of an RPG. It was a really good sale, I promise, normally I actually READ the whole game description.  When I realized my mistake, I hadn’t yet discovered the joy that is the tactical combat RPG, and forgot all about it.

While looking around for games that play somewhat like Wasteland 2, I realized not only was Blackguards a tactical RPG, but I already had it in my library.  And then I started reading reviews. The people that hate this game really really hate this game.

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It took me awhile, but I finally screwed up my nerves, and gave it a go. Much to my delight, it’s not awful. It’s not a $40 game, don’t get me wrong.  I expect a hell of a lot more out of a $40 game.  But since it’s put out by Daedalic Entertainment (more commonly known among PC gamers as “It’s Always on Sale Somewhere” Entertainment), the likelihood of finding it at some digital distribution site for under $10 is high.  I picked it up, along with the DLC and the sequel during last year’s Summer sale for about $8.

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Playing Blackguards on the easier setting really only prevents you from mucking up your chosen character before your start the game, but you have the option to allocate your own skill points.  There are only three professions to choose from (warrior, mage, and hunter), and I decided to go for arrows.  I don’t know that it really matters too much what you choose, you will have the opportunity to expand your party pretty much right off the bat, and you control all party members.

This is an RPG on rails – you have a few opportunities to wander, but never far. Between battles (and believe me, there are a lot of battles), you usually get some story or some limited interaction between party members, and sometimes the chance to buy and sell equipment, visit a healer, and train new skills.

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The biggest problem with Blackguards is it feels like it’s trying to rely on the mechanics of combat as its raison d’être, but the combat is just okay.  At times, it feels more like a puzzle than an exercise in strategy, and you can get mightily screwed by the RNG of even the tiniest of miss chances (and I’ve never seen 100% chance to hit). If there’s a way to turn your camera around the battlefield, I haven’t figured it out, and that’s led to me walking to the exact place I should have avoided walking more than once because a trap or other hazard was obscured by scenery.

About 90 minutes in, I found myself in a battle that I’m not sure is winnable. If it’s supposed to be a boss fight, there’s certainly nothing to indicate such. I doubt it is, because it’s a large group of enemies instead of just one very powerful one. I might have misspent some experience points.  I definitely wasted some money buying sub-optimal equipment early on. I have no idea what I have to do to my mage to get him to regenerate magic points at anything resembling a useful speed, but I feel like I’m up against a very strong brick wall.

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While I’m completely willing to admit that I might be the problem here (my tactical combat skills are still pretty sparse), I also think that Blackguards has a feel of artificial difficulty about it. I’m not madly in love with it, but I don’t hate it either. It’s something I might revisit, because I am invested just enough in the story to want to know how it all turns out.  But knowing there’s another 35+ hours of the same ahead of me is a little bit daunting.

Despite a lengthy campaign, I don’t think most gamers will get $40 worth of enjoyment from this title.  I think it would be worth it on sale for people who crave the challenge of a good strategy who also have a high frustration threshold, however, I would hazard a guess that that is a pretty small subset of the gaming populous.

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