The Average Gamer

Blackguards 2 Review (PC): There Is No Why

Blackguards 2 - Camp

Full disclosure, I have not played Daedalic Entertainment’s original Blackguards. That, however, is going to change once I can put down Blackguards 2.

Wait, that isn’t enough of a review?

Blackguards 2 starts with a rather depressing image; the silhouette of a cat that is being slain, flung out of a nearby window. Splat. The poor feline’s blood drips onto the face of the main protagonist, if you can call Cassia that. The game quickly reveals us that Cassia isn’t in her cosy suite. She has been cast out by her husband, Marwan, a trophy that is no longer required. Cue the grumpy jail keeper, your guiding light during your imprisonment.

Cassia, like myself, does not like spiders. Who can blame her? The ones that inhabit the labyrinth, surrounding her tomb, have a nasty bite. No comic book super powers here, you’ll either go insane or die. Cassia doesn’t want either, and this is where the game begins.

Venturing off into the labyrinth for the first time, I was taken aback by how the game changed with a loading screen, which itself is another form of narrative. Remember, I had not played the first Blackguards, so I had little-to-no idea what to expect. My, wasn’t I pleasantly surprised?

Blackguards 2 - Hex Combat QueueThe game shifted from the side-view, narrative camera angle, to a tactical camera that overlooks a hexagon battlefield. You can pitch the camera up and down, to gain different vantages points on the battlefield, discovery secrets; such as chests, traps and environment hazards to use to your advantage. This alone showed me that I wasn’t going to be playing an RPG that would hold my hand. This was going to be taxing: remembering to never judge an arena by what I could see, but instead by what I couldn’t see, and what my enemies could.

After roaming the labyrinth for several years, after being bitten and consumed by the venom of her arachnid tormentors, Cassia goes all Selina Kyle on the player. She adopts a pet spider, which I decided to name Eight Legs. She is no longer tormented by the spiders. They are now her sisters, her family, and her guardians against whatever else lays in wait within the Labyrinth. Yet, she lacks purpose, which is where the first real story anchor comes into play; a book that Cassia discovered during her first trip into the labyrinth, titled The Good Ruler.

This book will be her guiding light for much of the game. As you can expect, it won’t be working as intended whilst it is in the hands of a once beautiful, adored and influential women who has become scared, twisted and power mad. It’s time to escape.

Blackguards 2 - World MapBlackguards 2 offers a lot of lore, yet a lot of it isn’t handed to players to devour. You must use the branching communication trees, read the compendiums, and interact with everything that can be clicked. If you do not, then you can blitz through the non-combat aspects of Blackguards 2 with the ease of a knife through butter. However, combat cannot be cheesed. Thank goodness.

As you set out to recruit your companions – the Forest Man, the Son of No-one, and Slave-mage – you will start to see how deep the combat is within Blackguards 2. There are multiple ways to tackle each situation; your talents, etc. can alter the battlefield in infinite ways. You will fail, you will see your heroes die, but do not be disheartened. Battlefields can offer different win conditions, be it having set characters reach an end zone, or defeating all enemies. These, along with the very deep character development system, will provide you with different experiences to your friends, and will still be rewarding when you replay Blackguards 2.

It can take 2 to 3 hours for the game to open up. After rustling up some bare bones mercenaries, who you can then develop into an army, you are released onto the world map. This, was unexpected. After the depth that I had encountered so far, I wasn’t expecting the freedom to now go on as I wish. Now, do not get me wrong, there are goal posts you must go through, yet, in what order you do most of them… well that is up to you. Do you gain new troops for your army? Do you free cities, so you can equip new items, get more information from your spy, Riz, to make your prisoners talk? Or, do you go defeat the key NPCs so you can gain control of some incredibly powerful monsters?

Blackguards 2 - World MapWhatever you decide to do, visit your camp often. You can manipulate, entice, seduce and forge your surrounding champions. This will have huge implications down the road, ones that are a pleasure to see, and others which are heartbreakingly cruel and twisted.

Not everything is rosy with Blackguards 2.

In both builds of the game I played, preview and final release, I encountered issues. Items that would require me to walk around them, like I was playing musical chairs, until I could pick them up. The animations are inconsistent, too. You can push over a stack of boxes seamlessly, then you pull a lever and your hands are feet away from the object. I also had some path problems, though these seem to have been resolved with the day 2 patch.

My 2 biggest gripes with Blackguards 2 are these: No ability to rebind keys. You have a great hotkey bar, but are unable to alter anything. Period. The quality of the battlefields, and the characters within them, are really good. Polished. Then you go to your camp, a city or some place for a story scene, and it looks very rough. Characters do not match their portraits, they are facing all different ways. It feels like it is all rendered at a quality below what we pick during the options menu.

Blackguards 2 is a cRPG that hits a lot of the right notes, but sadly is let down in areas such as presentation in the non-combat areas. Thankfully, the game is combat-heavy and it provides many, many hours of hexagon Chess meets Risk. Bring some tissues, a punching bag, and have your mother on speed dial… You’re going to need all three of them by the time you have finished with Blackguards 2.

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