EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Back again already?
If Blackguards 2 feels like it will be released hot on the heels of its original, it must be because its story was so magnificently told. It has been a year since I last played the game, but fellow adventurers such as Naurim and Zurbaran are still very fresh in mind. Not resting on their laurels, Daedalic jumped right back in to start work on the sequel, which is due out this January and which I was fortunate to dally with for the purpose of writing you this preview.
Like its predecessor, Blackguards 2 is all about blending turn-based strategy with a tale worthy of a good adventure game. But while the premise stands firm as ever, Daedalic is looking to up the ante in pretty much all areas. For starters, the background story is part of the actual game this time. You're not rescuing a princess, you are the princess, well, sort off. You play the imprisoned former ruler Cassia of Tenos. You'll spend some time in the very dungeons that you used to throw your enemies in, where you will learn to navigate and control the game. It is time well spent, as you will also be getting the lowdown on the protagonist and her motivations as she plots her revenge. When you finally escape, you will meet up with the old cast and, with them, work your way back to the throne to depose the usurper.
The campaign map has gotten a bit of a makeover and now doubles as a map and a way to see your progress towards conquering back your lands. Cities, mines, and other locations are owned either by you or by your lovely ex husband Marwan. Once conquered, towns can give combat bonuses to your men or provide income with which you can buy weapons, armor, and other combat paraphernalia. And when I say men, I'm not referring to companions Naurim or Zuburan but to the scores of nameless soldiers that will flock to your cause as you gain power.
While the introduction of the background story only affects the initial stages of the game, the changes to combat are noticeable throughout. Dynamic as ever, the combat maps are now far larger than before and include differences in height, doors that lead to other sections, and more. All that extra space is put to good use too. Enemies are more numerous than before and your merry band of characters isn't going to be able to deal with all of them. The nameless soldiers step in carrying bows, pikes or swords, which is where the location bonuses really come in handy. Some locations require more than one battle to conquer and in these cases the heroes are split between the battles, adding even more value to those who make up the army.
Besides being more numerous, enemies are also more varied. In the original, epic beasts were something of a rarity but now they pop up more often. When they do, figuring out how they attack takes a little more time too. It was quite a shock when one particularly ugly bugger on the other side of the map stuck tentacles into the ground, only to have them emerge right underneath my troops. So much for dealing with it later. One battle later, some monstrous doglike things jumped all the way across the map, surrounding my forces and leaving me unable to regroup. Blackguards 2 is hard!
There are a number of other changes, most of them geared towards cleaning up where the game did a little too much but some also taking away small frustrations. On the cleanup side, the skills and abilities make a little more sense, though there's still an awful lot to choose from. On the frustration side, performing magic of any kind will always be successful.
Blackguards 2 is shaping up to be a great game. If you loved the original, I have no doubt that you will be enamoured with the sequel too. Just make sure to bring some patience, you're guaranteed to be using that "try again" button much more often this time around.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.