Bladestorm was first released back in 2007 on the Xbox 360, so let’s take a look at Bladestorm : Nightmare the next-gen upgrade.
Koei Tecmo are well known for their Dynasty Warriors series, and while the promise of a much more strategic affair will appeal to a new audience there’s still plenty of the Dynasty Warriors style in Nightmare.
Firstly, in true remake fashion, you’ll have the original battle of the hundred years war between France and England, but those looking for something new will be pleased to find the Nightmare campaign which adds fantasy elements into the fray.
You begin life as a Mercenary, and after creating your character in Edit mode, you can station them to gain a few extra currency for a pre-allocated time-frame while you’re not playing. Alternatively, you head straight into one of the above campaigns to fight whichever variation of the 100 years war that takes your fancy.
You’ll begin with two mercenaries which you switch between using the D-pad, and take the charge to the locations marked on the map. Capturing a stronghold rewards you with a few items, from books to upgrading your army or additional items to equip onto your mercenary.
You can approach any group of allies and take control using the ‘A’ button. These cover a range of combatants from archers and swordsmen to horse groups which have a far greater mobility but lower ranged defence.
The Nightmare campaign adds a few more into the mix; most noticeably the ‘Ghosts’, a group of Scythe wielding demons that have some strong special attacks.
It’s recommended you try to level up various groups to give you greater choice when attacking set areas, but you’ll often favour one or two as I did with the swords and ghosts.
You can also allocate armys onto one of the left shoulder buttons, and place them down to support you, or change to at any time.
When I first got my hands on Bladestorm, the instructions of pressing RB to attack or RT to select a special attack seemed pretty straight forward, but I soon got confused when my group of warriors stood motionless while waiting for my Specials to recharge.That’s because sadly you have to constantly hold RB for them to attack, which all feels a little pointless as I’d rather them attack by default when within range of an enemy.
But when you get to grips with the controls, you’ll soon be racking up combos in the hundreds.
I found it much more enjoyable to use the swords, archers and ghosts compared to those on horseback as movement and attacks seemed limited to the direction you are facing, meaning constantly tweaking of your character and the camera when taking on larger groups of enemies. Some of the special attacks are quite narrow meaning you’ve got to ensure you’re aiming in the right direction.
Sadly Bladestorm never quite reaches the tactical promise we expected, when you look back at Kessen a few generations ago, and how well tactical battle could be, adding a dynasty warriors fighting mechanic sounds like a great game, but Bladestorm never reaches the heights of either title.
Tactics are usually as simple as selecting which group you want to control, and combat normally consists of running up to a group of enemies, and holding RB while periodically selecting a special attack, (RT), before returning to RB and watching your combo count hit the hundreds.
There’s very little skill or technique to the battle apart from which group you attack first, and while you’ll clearly want to take down a few strongholds on your way to the main target, much of this feels all too familiar.
Being able to place groups and switch to them does help, and as you gain more progress through the campaigns, it does help to break up the boring running between locations if you switch to the faster horseback swordsmen.
Graphically, it’s fair to say this is a 7-year-old game. There are often large groups of enemies on-screen and I didn’t encounter any major slow-down, but there’s very little to wow you and while Nightmare is new to the next-gen version, it’s also built on the foundations of the old campaign and no more impressive for doing so.
Characters are sharp, the screen is often packed with people, to the point you can’t always see what you’re doing, and it all looks quite good… but never more than that.
Much of the voice acting is quite good, with the character each carrying an English or French accent, but there’s little in the way of free-flowing conversation, but it does more than enough to explain the story.
With two full campaigns to play through, and one further mission taking the best part of an hour to go through, there’s plenty of game to play, and using free-mode you can retread your footsteps with any previously unlocked mission.
Sadly though they do start to feel quite repetitive. While that’s not always a bad thing with Dynasty Warriors due to the constant action, with Bladestorm’s less than gripping combat it feels like even more of an issue and I was left thinking… do I really want to run for another 5 minutes to hold RB for a minute before doing it all again.