|Dev: Daedalic Entertainment|
|Pub: Daedalic Entertainment|
|Release: January 20, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
Early last year, German developer Daedalic Entertainment strayed from their usual fare of point-and-click adventures and released the tactical turn-based RPG, Blackguards. Set in the universe of the popular European pen-and-paper series The Dark Eye, Daedalic strived to maintain the tabletop rule set while presenting a motley crew of characters that were anything but your typical gallant heroes. It was a valiant first effort, but not without its share of design and technical flaws. Blackguards 2 promised a simpler, more streamlined approach to the rules, and added features that broke the linear progression in the first game. Some of the tweaks do mange to make character management more accessible and the combat system more fluid, however other changes have hampered the pace of the game, with an interface that is still grossly convoluted.
One of my criticisms from the first game was that despite their attempts to create an unsavory protagonist laced with foul intents, the journey of the fugitive involved clearing his or her name of a murder accusation and uncovering the true villains and their motives. There were a few questionable plot choices, but the overall demeanor of the party lacked a sinister quality. Things are different in Blackguards 2. As Cassia of Tenos, your adventure begins in a trap laden labyrinthine dungeon filled with giant spiders who's bite will either kill you or drive you insane. As the wife of the ruler of the capital city of Mengbilla, the only question she is left with is, "Why?". However, after four years of incarceration, all her thoughts are replaced with the singular goal to exact revenge and rule over Mengbilla.
After a fortuitous escape from the prison, Cassia enlists the services of the colorful trio of companions of the first game: the silver-tongued mage Zurburan, a gold obsessed dwarven fighter named Naurim, and a wild natured tribal gladiator named Takate. After freeing a handful of mercenaries of questionable character from prison, Blackguards 2 reveals one of its new features that provides a welcome departure from the linear narrative. There are many branching paths that lead to your target destination of Mengbilla, with each location presenting a different challenge and different rewards. By liberating (or conquering) each area of enemy troops or a few foul creatures, upgrades to your mercenaries are your reward. Some spots are town centers where new equipment is available to purchase. As you proceed you will build a rather formidable army. However, your "husband" will attempt to retake his lost land, in which case you are the defenders, with the ability to set various traps against the assailants.
The game provides a much more strategic overlay, both in how you handle combat and how you manage your expanding party as you progress. The hex filled combat maps are stretched themselves. As in the first game, there are many interactive objects strewn about which can hinder and hurt your enemies if used at the opportune time. Many of the maps cover large areas and provide optional objectives for increased rewards. This gives each mission extra girth, but the technical side disrupts the flow just as much. Movement and animations are lethargic, and the set scroll speed for panning the camera to survey the layout is sluggish. The limited camera mobility often blocks your target. Interactive objects can be highlighted, but not the field of their impact, making your decision to trigger them somewhat of a guessing game. The camera doesn't always center on the active NPC when taking their turn. All this paired with an overall increase of characters during most encounters severely hinders the pace of the game.
The interface is also a mix of improvements and hindrances from the first game. Not having to assign points to base attribute scores anymore simplifies the leveling up process. Also, assigning skill points to talents and spells has been replaced with a four tier system. This relieves you of having to scan statistics as your spend you Adventure Points, yet between the spells, talents, weapon talents, and special abilities, there are still plenty of ways to customize each character. Some bugs and design flaws still litter the screens though. The spell list could use a better organization system, your available gold vanishes when comparing a character's gear in the merchant screen, and a few times bugged up icons prevented me from clicking them.