Throw down your mouse, pick up your gamepad and grab a spikey ball. Blood Bowl is on the Xbox360.
Developed by Cyanide Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive, Blood Bowl has finally made the cross over to the next-gen consoles. Given my love of the PC version that was released earlier this year, and reviewed here , how does this version measure up? Can I retire to the comfort of the sofa, or will I have to remain in my uncomfortable desk chair?
Before any comparisons are made, lets just go over the basics. Blood Bowl is a fantasy American football game, in which players control and manage a team of creatures with a view to scoring touchdowns and winning a match, or at least survive the match. The game is ultra violent, in a comedic way, and provides the races of the Blood Bowl world with a way of relaxing in between wars.
The player has the option to just play a quick match with one of the pre-made teams, play through a tournament or even work through an entire campaign, which will involve numerous tournaments all the way up to the ultimate accolade of competing in the Blood Bowl itself. In campaign mode, the player will have to manage their team off the pitch as well, and this will include replacing dead or injured players, training, leveling up survivors/players, bribing officials and managing sponsorship contracts.
Most importantly, the player must choose a race and create a team. There are eight races available, and their skills differ dramatically. Your choice of race will have a direct effect on how you play. For example, the wimpy woodelves would be no good in a brawl, but for running and catching, they are unsurpassed. Whereas the powerhouse chaos team are more suited to maiming the opposition and then scoring touchdowns after, if they can be bothered. Building a team, after choosing a race, will mostly consist of choosing between your races cheap players and the more expensive specialists. There are limitations to how many of each type of player you can take, and you need eleven players to field a full team.
Playing the match is where it gets complicated. Any move that can result in failure is determined by dice roll, and based on the players stats. It is possible to purchase re-rolls for your team, but they are expensive and, given the number of dice rolls in a match, are best saved for real emergencies. So, throwing, catching, dodging, picking up a ball, tackling an opponent and even standing up after being knocked down, all need a dice roll and can effectively be messed up. Any sort of failure results in the end of your turn, so save those risky moves until near the end of your turn.
Each match consists of 16 turns for each team, with the pitch being reset at half time. The team with the most touch downs at the end are the winners. Should you win or lose, your team will receive some much needed funds in order to make any “repairs” to your players. The violent nature of the game does mean that players will get hurt during matches, or worse, and injured players may end up with stat adjustments during the campaign. The more matches that you play, the more experienced your surviving players will become, and thus more valuable.
As I mentioned before, I really enjoy the PC version of this game, and my team of Lizardmen are slowly working their way through to the Blood Bowl tournament. However, this console port was just not as impressive. The game is essentially the same, which I think is where the problems lie. Direct ports from console to PC and visa versa, do not generally work well.
The game can be played in two ways, real-time or turn-based. On the PC version, the turn-based mode is sublime, whilst the real-time mode was far too quick and chaotic to enjoy for any length of time. On the Xbox360 version, the turn-based mode just seemed too slow to enjoy, whilst the real-time mode was actually almost fun, but still far too quick and chaotic. I think this is because consoles seem more suited to fast games, or maybe that’s just me.
Blood Bowl can be played in multiplayer both locally and across xbox live. However, given the fact that most fans would already be playing the PC version, the online community on Xbox for Blood Bowl is not that big. This can result in difficulty finding games unless you have a friend with the game. Also, although leaderboards are available on Xbox Live, there are no leagues, which are one of the PC versions biggest assets. As you are not able to use your personalised teams online, you are limited to using the pre-made teams. Where’s the fun in that?
Graphically, the console version seems inferior, with grainy graphics and unimpressive animation. The games main interface also does not translate well to the Xbox360, with things seeming cluttered and less responsive.
The games main failing though, is its complexity. Anyone who has played Blood Bowl before may well find it easy to pick up and play. But newcomers will find themselves lost from the offset. This is no real difference to the PC version, but given the market is much more varied on the console, I would have thought that perhaps Cyanide Studios would have taken this into account. The tutorial does the best it can, but ultimately comes up short.
Fans of Blood Bowl will probably enjoy this, but as they would likely already have the PC version, this version will come across as the PC versions socially awkward, ugly little brother. Those new to the game would do well to do some research first on the net, maybe search for “the Living Rulebook”, to try and understand the game before hand, otherwise they may be wondering why they are constantly losing. Blood Bowl is largely a game of chance, but knowing how to play the original table-top game will certainly help.