by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Little more is known about the main story of Blackguards except that the search for the killer takes the party to all corners of the Empire and that it is told in five acts. The developers have also said that the story is more linear than it is branching, as they have a specific story that they want to tell and branching storylines would apparently only take away from this tale. The developers seem to have their roots set in the adventure genre in this regard and the player choice in the game is relatively minimal. Still, this is very typical of computer RPGs, so the developers cannot really be blamed for this choice. It is said that the player will encounter key moments in which they can choose their allegiances and acts towards their friends and enemies and therefore influence attitudes towards them and the outcome of the game. And, naturally, there will be side quests to take the protagonist’s mind off from his main goal every now and then.
Although turn-based combat is what computer RPGs have classically been about, Blackguards focuses on this area perhaps a little bit more than the computer RPGs of the 80’s and 90’s used to. There are around 190 unique battle maps on which all the encounters in the game are played out. Instead of simply offering different kinds of environments for the fighting to take place, the maps usually have some sort of a unique interactive gimmick to them: such as having to close holes on the ground through which more and more enemies keep pouring. Other maps will have opportunities for tactical maneuvers such as flanking and the good old burning of bridges.
Movement on each map is confined to a traditional hexagonal grid that is projected onto the scenery. The options for interaction with the scenery are supposedly also clearly indicated, so you will not have to wrack your brains too much to find the gimmick on each map.
Nothing in the information we have seen thus far has indicated that Blackguards will offer anything truly unique. We have seen anti-heroes before and we have seen tactical turn-based combat in RPGs before (although the latter is not common nowadays). Blackguards does not seem to make any great effort in enhancing computer RPGs with features that have always belonged to traditional RPGs, nor does it seem to aim to be the best computer RPG ever. But it does look like a good, balanced package that may turn out to be a real treat to us genre fans. We will keep our eye on this!