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Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War - 360 - Review

The Hundred Years’ War was a quarrel between France and England that lasted 116 years (1337 A.D. to 1453 A.D.). The long, agonizing battle resulted from English kings believing they had the right to succession to the French throne. This war created a dependence upon mercenaries; warriors who did not care what side they fought on as long as they received payment. Koei, the developers of famous franchises such as Dynasty Warriors and Kessen, have used this conflict as the background for their latest game, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War.

Players begin the game by being introduced to a barkeeper in a local tavern and immediately following, they will get to customize their appearance in the game. The creation system is decent but the lack of options is very disappointing. For instance, players can only modify these options: gender, face and which irritating voice they will get to hear throughout the entire game. Once players complete the creation of their character, they will be immersed in a bountiful bowl of information about the 'never-ending' war. The tavern will then serve as the “central hub” for the entire game, as this is where players will change various settings, learn more about the story, buy/sell items, level up their mercenary, and accept missions.

The actual meat of this game occurs once a mission is accepted and players are thrown into the battlefield. Before players can start annihilating their enemies, they will first have to prepare for battle. It is impertinent to make sure they are wearing the necessary defensive and combative armor, which amounts to being the most powerful equipment the player owns. It is also imperative to utilize all the skill points acquired to become the most effective killing machine.


The calvary takes charge

Being allowed to prepare for battle is a great advantage. Players receive the assurance they are using all of the newest equipment to its fullest capacity. Even though players can do all of these tasks in the tavern, it is great that the developers added this section in because it can be easy to forget about spending  new skill points and changing out to the latest equipment. After players are sure they have every thing setup perfectly, they can then deploy into battle.

Once players get on the battlefield they will realize that the game plays very similar to both Kessen and Dynasty Warriors. Players will have direct control over their main character, but if they see an open squad, they can press the “A button” and gain control over that particular squad. If there are multiple squads in the area players can cycle between the squads by continuing to press the A button. Once in control, the squad will follow the player anywhere they go. Once an enemy is located, pressing the “RB button” will put every squad member in the player's control in attack mode, and the characters will perform a basic attack move. There are also three other attacks that the squad can perform by pressing the X, Y, or B buttons. Players can only use these moves in limited fashion because they require a “cool down” between uses.

Not only does this game allow players to get close in the action, it also requires strategic thinking in order to succeed. Players have the option of attacking alone or choosing a squad to take command of, which provides them with a better chance of defeating the enemy. Also, each squad has its strengths and weaknesses. For instance; archers are good at taking down enemies from afar, but if the enemy locates their position and charges towards them, they will get taken out quickly due to poor melee fighting skills. It is a game of balance and knowing which unit to use for any given situation.


Which ones pays more?

In addition to knowing which squad to use in any given situation, there are more options that give this game even more depth. To become even more successful on the battlefield, players will want to level up various abilities, which will not only increase the player’s performance but also the troop’s combat effectiveness. In the options screen, players will find a book for each type of combat - such as Swords, Spears, Horses, Bows, and so on - and in each of these books there are various statistics that can increase a player’s abilities. This makes the game extremely substantial because the higher the level the players are the more effective players will be on the field, which gives them more points to spend and in turn means more money to earn.

One major frustration in this game is the inability to restart a mission during the game. Instead players must quit the stage and restart the contract manually. This is a bother; not to mention an unnecessary obligation. Many times players will find themselves going strong until they come across an enemy squad that will decimate them in a flash, since they are using the wrong units at that time. Another complaint is the lack of mission variety. Many of the missions have you capturing the same base numerous times. This monotony makes the game feel incredibly redundant and ultimately boring.


Lots of onscreen action

The graphics for this game are a mixed bag. First off, the developers did a great job of populating the battlefield with both enemy and allied soldiers but everything else in the game is lacking. The various battlefield environments are particularly devoid of details. During the game players will see the occasional town, forest, and castle, but they are all very dull and plain looking. In addition, all of the character models are gravely lacking any distinguishing characteristics. Basically, it seems as if there are only a handful of enemies that have been cloned numerous times for players to defeat. This is very disappointing as the Xbox 360 is graphically capable of much more than this.

One thing that players will really enjoy is the soundtrack. It is breathtaking. The melodic interlude holds players' attention while emitting blissful sounds that smoothly appeal to the ears. The music will guide players through the game as they attack various “lower-level” enemies and even overcome tougher adversaries in their path to victory. The voice acting will have players reaching immediately for the mute button as the voices distract from the seriousness of the gameplay. The dialog feels forced and the voices simply do not fit the setting.

Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War is rated Teen, and contains alcohol references, mild language, and violence.

Review Scoring Details for Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War

Gameplay: 6.1
This game succeeds at blending both action and strategy to create a title that is enjoyable. However, the AI is predictable and players will be able to exploit its weaknesses easily.

Graphics: 6.2
The developers did great by having large amounts of enemies on the screen at once time. The problem is the lack of details from the character models to the environments.

Sound: 7.1
The soundtrack for Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War is marvelous. On the flipside of things, the voice acting needs serious work as it is simply awful.

Difficulty: Medium
The learning curve for this game is not that steep. The first few missions will introduce exactly what needs to be done in order to become successful. Later on the game does ramp up in difficulty but it is nothing that cannot be overcome with patience and strategy. 

Concept: 7.2
Players will enjoy this nice mix of both the Dynasty Warriors and Kessen franchises.

Overall: 6.6
Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War has a lot going for it, including as the utime frame it is set in. Unfortunately, this game has several shortcomings that prevent it from truly breaking out of the crowd this holiday season. Hopefully the developers will fix these issues and come back next year with a much stronger product.

Above Average

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