Come one, come all as I regale you with a tale about sorcerers, foul beasts, and unsavory gentlemen who are forced into becoming your heroes. This is a story that starts in the ancient lands of Germany where a clan known as Daedalic decided to turn not so common criminals into the protagonists for a dark roleplaying experience. But wait...there's more! Daedalic has also pulled this tale from Europe's most popular pen and paper RPG series The Dark Eye and stays true to that format by offering challenging turn-based strategy gameplay. I know more than anyone that you can never get enough TBS! Blackguards features a story that is darker than the ones usually told in The Dark Eye universe and the team at Daedalic is committed to it all the way.
I have to admit that Blackguards is my kind of game as I'm a fan of both turn-based games and RPGs and that's what caused my initial excitement when the game was first announced. Being on this side of the pond I actually had not heard of The Dark Eye series and I was curious to get my feet wet. I didn't get exactly what I wanted though. Blackguards isn't a bad game, but it's also not very exciting in the first couple of hours (which is the extent of my play time so far) and that could turn some people off. Blackguards seems to have a lot of promise and I hope it picks up past the beginning from a story standpoint. The story is pretty basic at the beginning in which you are framed for murder.....by a wolf? It doesn't really make a whole lot of sense at the beginning and not even a few hours in. I really want the story to draw me in and it has characters that have the potential to get interesting, so I'm taking a wait and see approach in regards to the story. It's also pretty linear, which I don't mind, but it may turn those off who want a huge branching storyline.
Blackguards does shine in a different area as I really enjoy the combat and the use of environments in a turn-based game. The combat is easy to pick up, but can obviously get very deep depending on the spells you choose and the way you approach the battles. I absolutely love the way you can also use the environment tactically, and not just with something small such as cover. You can completely change the tide of the battle by luring enemies into traps that are scattered through the map, or using certain spells to take down a specific enemy in a specific environment. One of the best examples is an early fight with the wood troll where you can go bows a blazin' but you're going to make the fight way more difficult than it actually is. Instead, if you pick up on some of the clues given to you as you pick up the side quest, you'll know that using fire against the wood troll can lead to explosive results when you're in the swamps. It's a creative, if not original, use of the environment. In fact, a few battles later, you are severely outnumbered but if you pay attention to the environment you can lure the enemies through multiple beehives to even the odds. It's simple, but effective and leads you to a few "aha!" moments when you figure out the tactics of a particular map.
The other area in which Blackguards shines is the ability to completely turn your characters into whatever you want based on the Character Sheet. You can have your characters learn to use any weapon, trait, or spell in the game if that is what you desire and I have only seen the tip of the iceberg. There seems to be a ton of robust options for customizing how your characters play, and how you spend your earned AP points can completely change the tactics you use. This depth is something that strategy and RPG fans can sink their teeth into. However, the developers keep the game approachable enough for those who don't want to dig too deep.
At the end of the day, Blackguards has some good things going for it and features a deep character customization system for you to choose the skills you want and challenging combat that makes it a challenge while not being frustrating. For me, I love being pulled in by a great story and that can be the thing that keeps me playing. Early on, Blackguards just doesn't give that to me. I'll definitely keep playing the game as I find the combat enjoyable but I'm hoping the story really picks up and gives me a change of heart. The game is in Steam Early Access right now, and is pretty close to being finished and should be out in its entirety within the next few months. The developers are taking criticism seriously, but major parts of the game being overhauled doesn't seem likely at this point. For those who want a great RPG story, I would wait until the final product comes out and see how the full story turns out before jumping in. For those who are looking for more turn-based strategy, this is a good pick from what I've experienced so far and would be worth the price of admission ($24.99 on Steam) and could turn into a great pick once we see the final release. It's certainly a game that I will play more of, and you can expect a review once the game is finalized.
This preview was played by Trevor Osz on PC via Steam Early Access with a code provided by the developer, Daedalic Entertainment.
You can check out more of Trevor's stuff by click his name up at the tippy top of this article or you can see his daily musings on Twitter @TrevorOsz and he frequents many of the podcasts here on the Spiderduck Network. You can also comment down below if you feel as though your voice needs heard, which we would certainly appreciate.