Daedalic jump into a genre they are not especially familiar with…
Daedalic Entertainment’s Blackguards has been around for a little while now, being that the game was launched on Steam Early Access and allowed the early adopters to gradually progress through the chapters of the game as more chapters were released in the build up to launch. But still, the game recently had an official launch and, although it may not appeal to everyone, it is pretty damn impressive.
Y’see, Daedalic are known for their point and click adventure games. Their games tend to masterfully tell a story and may be throw in the occasional puzzle. Blackguards is a new direction for them to try their hand at, a turn-based strategy adventure with some RPG elements. This is not to say that the guys at Daedalic have completely turned their back on telling a story, and this is where some players will take issue with the game.
Blackguards could easily be seen as a slightly awkward combination of two different game types. The adventure type gameplay will see the player unraveling an interesting, slightly dark, story through conversations and moving from one “scene” to the next with relatively little interaction beyond clicking on traders and such. The other side of the game is the turn-based strategy battles, which make up pretty much the rest of the game. These are brilliantly executed, but limited in their appeal on the whole. The hardcore fans of either genre who are looking for their next memorable experience may well be disappointed by this mish mash of genres.
But for those with an open mind, or who are well acquainted with both the adventure genre and turn-based strategy, will find something quite special.
The player begins by witnessing the death of a Princess, and then be accused of the murder. After some hefty torture, it is time to escape from prison along with a couple of other convicts. These convicts become the first, and most entertaining, members of your party as you begin to travel the realm, piecing together what is actually going on, all the while being hunted and being aware that there is a bigger story here. Gritty is a good word to describe the story, and although it is slow to get moving, once it picks up speed, Daedalic’s story-telling experience really shows through.
Outside of battle, the game is all about the cut-scenes and static scenes designed to give the player options and progress the story. There is no exploration as such, the player moves from one point to the next on a map, with some choices offered in direction, and will find themselves either in another battle or a static scene. These static scenes represent such places as towns and will present the player with various things they can interact with, such as traders for buying or selling, and characters which will prompt the opening of a conversation tree, allowing the player to gather information to further their quest.
It is this side of the gameplay that will rankle the hardcore turn-based strategy fans. The slow nature of point and click adventures may not appeal, and here in Blackguards, things do move very slowly.
But the battles in Blackguards really do shine. Each encounter is played out on a hex grid, something which has been seen many times before, and the player will find themselves moving their team of characters and taking actions in between those of the AI enemies. The encounter areas never fail to look impressive, and what is more, they are quite regularly surprising.
This is down to the environmental hazards and interactive objects in the area. The areas often throw forth different obstacles that the strategically minded player will be able to use to improve their chances of success, or just avoid at the risk of defeat. Even something as simple as a bit of swampy ground can result in both the players character, and an enemy, slipping over and being prone to taking substantial damage. But these little twists to each encounter keep the player on their toes and provide a variety to the battles that would otherwise leave the game feeling very repetitive.
Alongside the adventure and turn-based strategy elements, there is also some lite role-playing. The player has quite a lot of choice when it comes to their character, not only in the original creation (albeit within the constraints of the three classes on offer) but as they progress and gain points for improvement. Spending the points on the various talents, spells or weapon skills offers plenty of choice, but can be somewhat overwhelming with the sheer scale of the choices available.
For a first attempt at this type of game, Daedalic have performed admirably. The point and click roots can still be felt, but the battles are new and bring something a little bit different. Blackguards can be slow and challenging. It can also become repetitive for those who have not invested in the story. It will not appeal to everyone, but it shows what Daedalic can do with this genre and is well worth checking out. Let’s see what Daedalic can do next…