With FIFA 16 just released, I decided that I should review a sports game for the first time in my life… just not that one.
So recently I’ve been playing Blood Bowl 2 on the Xbox One, a turn based fantasy take on American football. A game that allows the player to strategise and plan their route of travel and plays, where absolutely EVERYTHING is determined by dice rolls, from smashing faces to simply moving your men, the outcome is decided by the die; which can be a little confusing at times but thankfully doesn’t take long to get the hang of.
Blood Bowl 2 takes place within the GamesWorkshop universe and pits orcs, humans, dwarfs, elves and many more against each other, but this time on the football field. Offering an experience not found by any other NFL game and creativity that goes way past the likes of other turn based games, Blood Bowl 2 will have you smashing faces and show-boating for endless hours of fun.
A typical match consists of 11 vs. 11 teams mixed up of multiple races, with the main goal revolving around who can smash the most heads together before leisurely walking the ball into the end zone. Each round is made up of two halves of eight turns or until one side scores a point. Unlike other American football games, there are no set-plays provided and I personally see that as a real plus as it leaves this up to you and really pushes you to think outside the box. You control each player one at time, planning routes for them to run and trying your hardest to knock out enemy players along the way. My understanding of turn based games OR American football is next to nothing so going into this game I had no idea what to do… and to be honest, I still don’t. I played the campaign for a good few days and really got a decent feel for the game, nether-the-less, it still struck me as quite a confusing sport to pick up for someone not used to this type of game play.
The tutorial at the beginning of the campaign was enough to walk me through the basics, but after that, the game pushed me out of the doors and made me figure the rest out by myself. The game does offer a multiplayer mode which allows you and a friend to go head to head in a “friendly” match – as friendly as caving each other’s skulls in can be – and battle it out to be champ. I tried this with a friend who had also never played the game and still I lost miserably. The online feature is a nice touch to Blood Bowl 2 as it makes a great past time at parties or gatherings allowing more than just the internal two people to play the game, thanks to its table-top like game play. Although I feel it isn’t particularly newbie friendly, I definitely think a lot of my personal problems came from my brain not letting the information sink in due to the fast nature; or perhaps it was more down to the fact I was concentrating too hard on just knocking the big orcs to the floor in order to watch the gory animation!
Which brings me to my next point; the glorious visuals and animations. You should understand that Blood Bowl 2 offers something that other sports games doesn’t – the ability to render enemy team mates unplayable by cracking them over the head, thus allowing you to run the ball to the end zone just the way you want to. To really focus this mechanic the game offers slow motion, and quite gory finishing animations to excite the player. The animations are nothing short of what you’d expect from a Warhammer game and really add that fun twist to plays. The overall graphics have a cartoony/fantasy style to them and they really compliment the game’s whole premise. This art style allows Blood Bowl 2 to provide unrealistic looking characters as well as stupidly over the top armour for Orcs and Ogres. Animations for the players are what you’d expect from turn based games, with regular animations acted out on the spot, making them look as silly as ever, but hilarious at the same time.
I did find that the few short cut scenes between matches featuring two commentators, who explain the very thin story line, seem to have received the short end of the stick with very basic and blocky animations and design. Their voice acting didn’t really help the situation as I found it to be very forced and in a strange way, dubbed. I felt like I was watching cut scenes from a game released on the original Xbox and in the end I dreaded the end of the match due to these two. I did however quickly overlook this feature and happily stormed on with the league as you don’t play the game for the story, you play the game for the unique game mechanics and the amazing feeling you get after finally beating the High Elves.
So let’s talk about some of the things I didn’t enjoy. My main problem with the game was just how hard it is to play as a newbie, with very little to no explanation on how to build plays or strategies and and a very poor job on explaining stats and how they contribute to the dice rolls. My team consisted of low level players for quite a while as I somehow over looked stats and skills, but finally figured it out after noticing something was wrong when I got my skull pushed back through my arse by every enemy team mate. The team builder reminds me a lot of FIFA’s Ultimate Team which again, having no knowledge beforehand, left me building completely wrong teams with little help and no way to know what I was doing.
I definitely think these games are tailored to an already existing Warhammer audience with no room to explain the ins and outs to new players. I had a look for tips and tricks online but sadly was met with nothing. With my last hope being to read the tips that showed during the loading screens… and I had a lot of chances to read those with the massive amounts of unnecessary loading screens that transition cut scenes to gameplay. The loading screens are a major down fall to Blood Bowl 2, leaving me enough time to think of and send some sarcastic Tweets to relieve the boredom. However this problem doesn’t persist during actual game play, where all movements, turns and resets are smooth and fast.
Overall I did really enjoy Blood Bowl 2. It mixed my favourite genre with one of which I’d never previously taken a second glance at and made a game that is just generally a lot of fun. There’s no super HD graphics and perfect lighting. There’s no fancy engine to render hair waving about and cloth physics. It’s just a whole lot of fun and even better as a party game to play with friends.
If you’re a fan of the first game I say definitely pick it up as it feels like a re-vamped barrel of fun similar to the original title. If you’re looking for hours of fun with or without friends or enjoy a good turn based “combat” game, then Blood Bowl 2 may just be the game for you.
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