After being out for a couple years on PC, Daedalic Entertainment's latest turn-based strategy RPG is finally available for consoles. Blackguards 2 features epic battles in an undeniably old-school world but is it adapted well from the PC version?
Blackguards 2 is the sequel to The Dark Eye: Blackguards. Unfortunately, console-only gamers haven't had the opportunity to enjoy the first game yet although Blackguards: Definitive Edition is on its way to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime down the road. It's strange when the sequel arrives first but after playing Blackguards 2, I can easily say that I'm impressed and looking forward to trying out the original. Hopefully, it arrives soon.
If you've ever played a turn-based strategy RPG then Blackguards 2 will be a very familiar experience. One of its most unique elements is that you move your party members through the battlefields via hexagons as opposed to squares. I found that this opened up the movement options and made it feel more like Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits as opposed to more classic games in the genre such as Vandal Hearts. Anyway, the battles have various win and lose conditions so you'll sometimes need to run for your life while other times, you'll have to defeat every single foe. Unleashing a variety of magic spells and attacks in order to thin out the horde of enemies is super-satisfying as the gameplay is tight, intuitive, and gets very challenging.
After playing so many RPGs, it takes a lot for a story to get my attention. Therefore, the fact that the plot of Blackguards 2 had me engaged from start to finish is a substantial achievement. Basically, you play as a woman named Cassia who is thrown into an underground dungeon. There, she's greeted by plenty of spiders that she's initially scared of but after one continuously bites her in her sleep, she begins to go insane and befriends the spider as its poison slowly alters both her appearance and mental stability. Eventually, she escapes and the main portion of the campaign begins. At this point, Cassia ruthlessly conquers areas of the world map while meeting a few allies and making decisions that often result in dastardly consequences. Her rage reminded me of Velvet from Tales of Berseria but the story here is far more twisted and dark. In the end, it's engaging stuff that'll keep you wondering what'll happen next.
Blackguards 2 certainly crafts a gorgeous world complete with detailed hub areas and intricately rendered battle maps. However, one aspect of the visuals that could have been handled better is the character portraits. I may be spoiled from playing so many JRPGs which usually feature memorable artwork but there's no denying that the characters here are all far too static and expressionless to create a lasting impression. That being said, the audio is fantastic with stirring orchestral music, visceral sound effects, and a talented voice cast that almost make up for the subpar character art. Overall, it's a great looking and sounding SRPG that's hauntingly immersive.
One aspect of SRPGs that has to be adequately multifaceted is party setup and progression. Thankfully, you can spend a decent chunk of time optimizing your party in Blackguards 2. Each character can have multiple weapon loadouts that you can switch between which allows you to take advantage of a variety of situations presented in each battle. As you progress, you'll acquire plenty of money and AP that you can spend on making your party more capable. Money is redeemed for weapons and items while AP can be used to enhance weapon proficiency, unlock passive boosts known as Talents, increase base stats, and learn a variety of spells and attacks. Distributing these points as best as you can is so involving and rewarding that it's easy to forget that you don't actually level up.
On the other hand, setting up your party can be clunky and it takes a while to get used to. This is primarily due to the fact that the interface hasn't been fully optimized for console. As you tinker around in the menus, it's hard not to wish that you had a mouse as that would make it much easier. Even after you get accustomed to navigating the interface, there are still plenty of annoyances while setting up your party. For example, equipping a weapon involves flipping through multiple pages and comparing stats requires far too much manual effort. Trust me, if there was a button to optimize equipment, I would have used it regularly.
Blackguards 2 presents a dark and engaging tale that's sure to haunt you even after you put it down. When you factor in the rewarding and challenging SRPG gameplay, you're left with a must-have game for those looking to put their tactical abilities to the test.
- + Tight turn-based strategy RPG gameplay with plenty of challenging battles
- + Dark, twisted, and engaging story
- + Fantastic music, effects, and voice acting
- - Interface isn't fully optimized for consoles
- - Character art lacks personality
- - Party setup is a bit too clunky