Review: Bladestorm: Nightmare – Joan of Ugh
I’m not what you call a history buff but I’m pretty sure that Joan of Arc did not lead an army of demons during the Hundred Years’ War.
Bladestorm: Nightmare spices up one of the longest and most devastating conflicts in human history by adding dragons.
If you come to Bladestorm looking for a medieval Dynasty Warriors game then you’ll be sorely disappointed. This also isn’t a sequel to 2007’s Bladestorm The Hundred Years’ War but more of a port that game with an odd fantasy expansion pack attached to it.
While I’m going to be talking mostly about the new content in Nightmare, a lot of the gameplay hangups I have can be applied to both campaigns since the fundamental game mechanics are roughly the same.
I do recommend playing through Hundred Years’ War to get properly acclimated with the many game systems that go on in the course of a battle.
The quick set up for Hundred Years’ War is that England and France aren’t playing nice and decided to use mercenaries to bolster their forces. This is where you come in — as a hot shot merc with something to prove.
You do missions for both sides since you really have no loyalties outside who is paying you at that very moment. The war is purely profit for you. The battles and characters are somewhat historically accurate with heroes like Edward, the Black Prince or Joan of Arc.
In Nightmare, Joan of Arc has fallen to dark side and summons an army of demons and mythical beast to lay waste to the world. You play a mercenary who comes into possession of a magic sword that can control these monsters.
So now you need to use said sword in order to stand a snowball’s chance in hell of stopping Evil Joan and uniting France and England in the process. It’s a weird premise that I can totally get behind and it only gets weirder as you start unraveling the mystery.
What I found most strange is that the title doesn’t even feel like a proper port, which is odd since Omega Force had an opportunity to really take advantage of the current hardware. What really hurts is that it seems like only the lighting effect and character models have improved from last generation.
The battlefields are on these very desolate stretches of unimpressive land with some occasional shrubbery. The original Bladestorm was not a great looking game in 2007 and time clearly time has not improved it.
That being said, the sense of scale of most battles is pretty impressive with hundreds of units on screen killing each other.
Most of your missions consist of you taking over base X or kill boss Y. Approach a base and you’ll need to confront the base commander by eliminating the units around the base to have them reveal themselves.
Just make sure you get accustomed to this because it’s what you’ll be doing over and over and over again. There’s very little in terms of mission variety and every mission ends up feeling like a drag.
The actual combat takes a rock, paper, scissors’ approach; for instance, Horsemen are good for attacking from the rear but weak against Archers and Spear dudes. You can purchase additional units to switch from in order to adapt to each combat scenario and it’s a good idea to make sure you have a decent variety.
Each unit type can be leveled to increase damage or the actual number of soldiers in that unit. Smart money is to max out one of cavalry units like Sword or Horsemen since there is no better feeling than charging a group of goblins at full speed and wiping most of them out.
Playing anything other than a horsemen highlights Bladestorm’s weakest feature: the combat. Since Horsemen attack by simply charging in, every one else has to hold the RB/R1 button in order to have the unit engage in combat in a series of what looks like synchronized swings — your character included.
You need be able to position in a way so by the time you strike again, the enemy is lined up with your weapons. It’s an incredibly cumbersome way to fight, especially if you decide to use a ranged unit like an archer.
It’s the only unit that can effectively take out monsters like the griffons, who can easily wipe out an entire unit with a few good swipes. Bladestorm ends up becoming a game of cooldown management of the worst kind.
On a lighter note, my favorite new feature is the ability to create numerous squad leaders which you can order around in the battle map. As long as the leaders’ level match your own, they can pretty much take care of themselves unless they run into a pack of griffons and giant trolls.
Finding creatures like dragons or giant trolls needs to be able to actively avoided, as the leader AI just can’t contend with their big sweeping attacks. The easy thing to do is just have every one follow you as you conquer whatever base or settlement you come across.
I also enjoyed being able to send out other leaders on contracts in real-time for gold and other goodies. By the end of the campaign I was raking in some serious dough after sending out my buddies for a day.
The online co-op really doesn’t add anything to the overall experience, since you’re doing all the same mediocre activities, just with human companionship.
Bladestorm simply isn’t a good game and feels incredible dated in both visuals and gameplay to boot. The fantasy elements in Nightmare is the only redeeming bit of the whole package and even that is tragically underwhelming.
The game doesn’t even fulfill the bare minimum requirements to be considered a decent port. If you want to spend on your money a game with large scale combat during some obscure historical warring era then stick with Dynasty Warriors instead.