by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
A declaration of love
A dash of Expeditions: Conquistador, a pinch of Dragon Age and a large helping of the wonderful storytelling talent that Daedalic Entertainment normally so generously pours over their point & click adventures. That’s honestly the best way that I am able to describe Blackguards but, at the same time, it doesn’t do the game the justice it deserves. Blackguards is something new, something different and I’m in love with it even in its ‘early access’ state.
An adventurous RPG
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I am sure many of you know – and love – Daedalic for hilarious and engaging adventure games such as The Whispered World and Deponia. With Blackguards, they have ventured off the beaten path, embracing the turn-based-strategy-RPG genre (a mouthful!). Where it gets interesting is that they have not quite turned their backs on their adventure roots but rather have built upon them. Blackguards has all the makings of a solid strategy game but adds a storyline and set of characters that promises to outclass many an action-RPG’s. The resulting game is delightfully refreshing.
You play a convicted murderer. Initially, all you care about is clearing your name but you soon learn that you were used as a scapegoat to cover up a dark plot that needs unraveling. Naturally, you are the only one who cares enough to do just that but you are far from alone. Two fellow escapees prove themselves to be able companions in your adventures, along with others who will join you further down the road. Superb voice acting brings a surprising amount of color to the characters in your party and this is further enhanced by the warm, almost wooly feel that stems from Blackguard’s artwork.
Getting the hands dirty
The merry band finds itself in all kinds of predicaments that usually require combat to get out of. If you are familiar with Expeditions: Conquistador, you will have a fair idea of what to expect from combat. It adds a few twists, though, especially in terms of interaction with the environment. The game boasts over 180 unique battle maps and, after having seen it in action, I do not think that is an idle boast. Every map looks different and many have one or more little surprises in store for the player. If this were an action-RPG, you would not think twice about the level of interaction, but in a turn-based setting it feels downright funky – in a good way.
In contrast to your run off the mill RPG, you don’t ever really level up. Daedalic is experimenting with ‘Adventure Points’ which are gained through combat and then assigned to a wide range of stats, affinities and perks. You can do this at any given time, in any way you want and without the level milestones players are accustomed to. It promises total control over character progression but it also calls for a high level of self restraint if you ever want to see a particular skill maxed out.
A love affair in the making
I opened with declaring my love for Blackguards, and I do. But love does not equate perfection. Even the most harmonious relationships have a couple of rough edges and Blackguards is no different. In the case of Blackguards, some of those rough edges are bound to disappear before the game’s official launch. Commenting on them now would be the same as finding fault with a girl after a fantastic first date, nipping a future love affair in the bud before it has time to blossom. You will have to watch this space for our review early 2014.