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Blackguards Early Impressions: You Can't Sleepwalk Through Combat
[Disclosure: A PR review code was provided for the contents of this article]
I've managed to get in some extra time with Blackguards, the recently released medieval-fantasy turn-based strategy game for PC from Daedalic Entertainment. Slowly and surely I'm making my way to the heart of the game's content, and it's not so bad... not bad at all.
The game's turn-based setup and gameplay progression is just about identical to Final Fantasy Tactics or Incubation. The game lets you travel between nodes in between battles, where you can outfit your crew, change up equipment and modify skills.
Now I'm no new kid on the block when it comes to turn-based strategy games. I've been in synch with the genre since the old days when I was clinging to alleyways and warehouse corners, looking for an advantage wherever I could find it in the early days of the X-Com franchise. Waiting in dark spots or hiding in backstreets... boy that was what it was all about.
I say all that to say that Blackguards is one of those games where every single turn could spell success or disaster for the player. The tension can go from a simple mistake by placing one of your party members in the wrong area, to feeling the heat of 98 degrees of impending failure.
After transferring over my save game from the demo to the full thing, I kept trudging on. Following the story lightly but not really caring too much. I played through some of the battle sequences and just went through the motions... until I got to one mission where I started getting my butt kicked. I was being lackadaisical about the required strategy like many Stateside cities are lackadaisical about addressing the unemployment disease in America.... and it cost me, it cost me big.
I ended up in one of those situations where I was basically out of healing supplies, I had no decent weapons, no decent armor and I was far off from a town node. What do you do? What do you do?
I still had three battle nodes left from the main map, meaning that no matter what I would have to battle multiple foes once I clicked on the node.
After failing and dying a few times, I realized I was in a real pickle and getting out of it would require nothing short of me actually having to reload the game, properly equip my crew with what little supplies I had, and actually start thinking strategically about the battle scenarios. In this regard, Blackguards shines.
With victory at stake and the possibility of having to restart the entire game because I was lethargically dolling through the game like most so-called game reviewers do, I realized it was time to actually start paying attention.
In this regard, starting formations became key. Forcing the NPC to react to position when I was outnumbered or lacked certain resources meant I had to play it patiently and play it smart. I only had eight arrows left in a short bow, a few rounds of magic flames and mostly torches and daggers. Charging in was not an option.
Here's where I think Blackguards shine in the strategic department: had I better prepared myself I wouldn't have been struggling, but there were still options to surmount and overcome the odds. I had to lure enemies through the weave of obstacles on the battlefield to double or triple team them; I had to stay out of the line of sight of their archers or bowman lest I become a victim of long-range sniping; I had to conserve MP while using it frequently to dispose of multiple foes. Blackguards had turned into a real strategy game.
I'm still early on in the game but I can't complain about anything too much. The wake-up call to actually start playing correctly instead of hurriedly trying to get from one segment to the next adds some spice to the game. However, how well it'll be able to maintain its appeal remains to be seen.
Blackguards is available right now $35.99. You can learn more by visiting the official website.
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