I’m going to be perfectly honest here: I went into Daedalic Entertainment’s new game Blackguards completely blind. While I’m quite familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, the sheltered American in me has never been turned on to the pen and paper game. The Dark Eye. Blackguards does an excellent job of introducing you to the world of The Dark Eye and the mechanics of this turn-based RPG game. By the end of the tutorial, I felt like I had a general understanding of the system.
I’ve always been one to love it when games, books, lessons, whatever, tells the story from the less common angle. In Blackguards, you aren’t playing as the noble hero setting out the save the world from evil. You’re playing as a bunch of outcasts, misfits, and criminals. Your main character is a convicted killer on the run from his/her would be pursuers. This character is one you craft in a fairly open ended character creation process. Will you wield magic, swing a giant hammer around, take up a more tanky role, or backstab all the things?
The game features both a world map and dungeon maps that control where the battles will happen. Still, the majority of the gameplay takes place on the battlefield. You’ll never move your characters individually out of a battle. Towns are just one screen to two screens with fixed locations to click on to receive services. Here you can rest up at the inn, heal wounds, shop, pick up side quests, and train.
The open ended progression system doesn’t bog you down with classic tropes like “levels.” Blackguards uses a point buy system to upgrade your character along the way. You want to get stronger? Save up a few hundred AP to upgrade your strength. Want to be better at spears? Drop AP in spears to have a better hit percentage. With this system, you can make your characters do nearly anything you want them to. Sure, there are paths that are logical and make sense with each character, but where's the fun in that? Spec out your characters to make the game experience exactly what you want it to be.
The combat in this game reminds of the Heroes of Might and Magic games, but on a far more specialized, smaller scale with better map design. The battlefield is on hexes with different types of terrain and objects you can interact with; from pushing a tower of boxes over, to opening jail cells, to dropping a chandelier on the heads of opponents. The turn based system breaks up all your characters and enemies into an order when they can take action. When a character’s turn comes around, you can move, double move, move and act, act, or skip. As expected, tactics are key; make a wall of melee fighters or magic, put spear wielders behind tanks, make sure your mage is somewhere safe, etc.
During some fights, there will be optional objectives the player can attempt to muscle through. One I remember in particular was being given three moves to get across a bridge to stop an execution. This was tough. If you played it safe, it look too long, and the execution would occur. If you ran one character through it, that character would get mobbed and slaughtered. Even if you save the character, you STILL need to defeat all the enemies, if that one character is out of position it gets pretty rough. Though tough, I really enjoyed these missions. I assume this leads to branched stories and improves/hurts relationships with other characters.
Currently Blackguards is in early access and able to be purchased on Steam for $25. Since it is early access, you’ll come across a fair share of broken scripts and some slight glitches – nothing game breaking though. You’ll initially only have access to the first part of the game, but the other parts are being released as they are completed. If you’re just getting into it now, the next section is scheduled to be released later this month. As someone who knew nothing about this game or The Dark Eye, I honestly enjoyed the crap out of this game and all of its customization. I was sad to reach the end of the first section. I look forward to playing the second part soon and continuing my tale of misfits and the misguided on the run from the law.
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ