I was really excited to play this game – the promise of strapping on a sword and mowing through a million French and English soldiers during the Hundred Year War, a’la Dynasty Warriors (made by the same studio! ) had me foaming at the mouth. Now perhaps I should have played the first Bladestorm before taking this on – it’s not what I expected.
The combat system from Dynasty Warriors is lurking in the background, the game engine hasn’t been changed, or updated all that much. Character models still perform well, running, swinging weapons, mounting a horse and all the rest. The combat is much more measured, a Pokemon-esque ability type is attached to each unit, and of course they are stronger or weaker against other units – an example being horseman can decimate a slow unit such as swordsman, but will die horribly to pikemen/halberdiers and are 50/50 against missile units. Combat is initiated by coming into range of an enemy and enacting one of the units abilities by a button press, which will then cool-down until you can use it again. It is very satisfying destroying an entire phalanx of soldiers with a well timed charge, or a volley of arrows.
Sadly, despite the excellent historical narrative between fights, the game is marred with some glaring issues. The main character, a mercenary who receives his missions in a shady tavern by a horrendously voice acted barkeep, is supposed to become a general of some renown. What happens is a very disjointed tutorial that only explains some of the vital information, but none of how or why your guy is equipped differently to your starting unit. Another aspect not explained is why everyone looks like Sephiroth from the FF series with a different hair colour, despite being European.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this was an XBOX 360 game upon boot up, the graphics are below standard for a next gen console, which is sad really, as there are some lovely backdrops to the battlefields. Towns and Keeps seem like they were added as an after-thought, feeling very two dimensional rather than a physically imposing structure, add to this the hit and miss collision detector, I witnessed clipping through other soldiers, walls, invisible walls and even when stood in the middle of an enemy troop I ordered my squad to attack and it didn’t register at all.
Koei have created a surprisingly deep skill and inventory system. Defeating enemy generals and captains (i.e. Kings from the time, or other mercenary types) drops various pieces of equipment and skill book pages. Utilising these back in the safety of the tavern allows you as a general to become more adept at controlling whichever unit you find yourself attached to. Which is brilliant, as the longer battles have you skipping through each troop type in order to punch your way through the opposing army battle lines. The equipment is scarce, even with a merchant in the bar for you to buy and sell from, so you feel like a quartermaster picking and choosing which of your men and women get better equipment. This is then reflected by how well those troops do when you leave them to the devices of an NPC leader, as it’s very easy to have tunnel vision for your objective as the rest of the region is being challenged for ownership. Poorly equipped troops, or undeveloped warriors will be crushed under the hooves and leather boots of The Black Prince, whereas highly skilled soldiers will be able to survive a lot longer, taking less damage and having more resistance to their diametric opposite (i.e. who they are weakest against).
If they were able to tie both of these elements together well, this would be a richly rewarding – if slightly over the top title that would reward you for getting to the deeper end game. The alternate game mode: Nightmare, is a lot of fun. They introduce mythical creatures such as dragons to the battlefield and it changes the game for the better as these beasts cause tremendous damage whenever they attack meaning you will have to recycle your tactics and troops in order to defeat them.
Overall had the numerous bugs been ironed out, and the graphics been up to standard I would be awarding this a higher mark.