BLADESTORM: The Hundred Years' War - PS3 - Review

KOEI is back again delivering Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War on the PlayStation 3 (also on the Xbox 360), which is reminiscent of their Kessen series. Assuming the role a rogue commander within a group of mercenaries, players have the choice to choose between the two sides of the war and ultimately sway victory to one side or the other.

What exactly is the “The Hundred Years’ War”? For a quick history lesson, it began in 1337 (who knew that Internet jargon was popular prior to the ‘90’s?) and ended somewhere around 1453. Based around England attempting to take the French throne for their own, it’s a storied conflict that even includes the legendary heroine, Joan of Arc (or for those in France, Jeanne d’Arc). So it’s safe to assume that all of this turmoil between England and France would make a good backdrop for a video game, right? Actually, that’s wrong; Omega Force, the developer of Bladestorm, created a strategy game that falls below expectations.

 

That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of enjoyment that come out of Bladestorm, because there were moments of triumph that were euphoric. Let’s start off with the fact that players are able to align themselves with either the French or the English – this alone made it worthy to see both perspectives of the war - though, this feature is becoming a regular in many strategy video games (Kingdom Under Fire on the Xbox allowing players to be good or evil). The other enjoyable portion came in overrunning the opposition without too much exertion of force.

The game begins in a tavern where I assumed control of creating my character. The character creation is the average ho-hum affair with the choice of gender, voice, and an ugly mug to wear. The faces are all preset, so don’t expect a level of customization to the point where you could recreate your favorite celebrity. Anyways, the heart the game is through the tavern where players are able to change the settings, follow the storyline through a journal, find new mercenaries, buy equipment, talk to NPCs and level up. When I was finally ready to go hunting for a mission, I checked out the contracts that I could accept and chose the path of Joan of Arc due that I just didn’t feel right joining “The Black Prince,” otherwise known as Prince Edward of England.

 

Missions usually ask for players to seize control of fortresses and capture towns with your ragtag group of mercenaries. This was particularly easy, especially with the wide range of units to use on the battlefield. From elephant troops to the usual swordsmen, I was in command of a powerful set of characters that wiped out anything and everything that stood in my way. But, alas, my overall experience with Bladestorm wasn’t as epic as I had once imagined it would be. The combat just isn’t up to par with personal standards for action-strategy games.

If you look at the game case, you might get the impression that this is another Dynasty Warriors hack-n-slash title, but that’s where you’d be wrong; it’s not even as exciting as that somewhat-stagnant series. Through pressing only a few buttons, players will sit back and watch their mercenary attack on the screen only to wait for their attack meter to slowly fill back up again. Even worse, the magic involved in the game (wait, France used magic to expel England out of their land?) isn’t anywhere as fun as I had hoped it would be. The magic had no oomph to it and lacked any sense of vigor.

 

Bladestorm features no co-op whatsoever; not even online co-op. With Bladestorm featuring computer A.I. that aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer (both enemy A.I. and your mercenaries), more of a challenge was needed when on the battlefield. Another problem with Bladestorm is Omega Force only allowing the player to control one troop at a time rather than all the troops on the battlefield. While I didn’t run into any difficulty problems, I am betting many will since they can’t coordinate their attacks in succession to rid themselves of pesky enemies.

On the visual side of the game, Bladestorm is aesthetic pleasing on the eyes in only one area. If you have played any other KOEI game in the past, you can expect a high amount of characters on the screen at one time. If you are on that boat though, then you should also be ready for many of the same generic units to pop up all over the battlefield as you slaughter them. On top of that, the environments are dull with barely any detail, and the draw distance is minimal. So overall, Bladestorm’s best feature is the high amount of units placed on the screen at one time, but fails to be visually pleasing anywhere else in the graphics department.

Gameplay: 6.0
It’s not terribly exciting to play; the strategy elements could be beefed up to include more control over the units and co-op is a must if there’s to be a sequel to help remove the game's dullness.

Graphics: 6.1
While it may be impressive to see a lot of units on the screen at one time, it’s the rest of the game the fails to provide a next-gen experience.

Sound: 6.5
The soundtrack is decent but what’s up with the shoddy voice-acting?

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Som will have trouble getting a handle with the controls and tactics, but veteran players will find it easy.

Concept: 7.4
KOEI moved their base of the storyline from Japan/China (Samurai Warriors / Dynasty Warriors) to Europe, but Omega Force failed miserably with the execution of Bladestorm.

Overall: 6.2
At one time, I was overly excited for Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War due to the strategy elements, but in the end it’s the strategy portions that bothered me most.

Above Average

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