‘Blackguards 2′ Preview

Last January saw the release of Daedalic Entertainment’s strategy RPG Blackguards, so it is only fitting that the second installment, entitled simply Blackguards 2, is set for release on the twentieth of this month. The first installment is based on the German pen and paper roleplaying game The Dark Eye and though Blackguards 2 follows the same pattern, it includes adjustments based on fan requests. As a newcomer to the series, I am unfamiliar with the differences between the two games, but I did get the privilege of approaching the preview build of the game with a fresh perspective.

The world of Blackguards 2 is gritty and harsh, a fact which is evident from the very first cutscene in which peril befalls a defenseless and rather adorable kitten. You begin the game as Cassia of Tenos, a woman imprisoned for reasons that are unclear. She is trapped in a dungeon with only poisonous spiders for company, and her attempts to escape function as the tutorial for the rest of the game. After what the game tells us is four years, Cassia, disfigured and mad, finally makes her way out of her prison with only one desire: to rule, even if only for a day. She collects three of the heroes from the first game and sets out to claim her throne.

Combat, which is the primary focus of the game, is turn-based and played out on hex-grid maps. Each map offers different obstacles and useful chokepoints, creating challenges in the very layout of the game. Character customization offers plenty in the way of attacks and abilities, which allows the player to tailor their experience to their preferred playstyle. Despite the wide array of abilities and attacks for each character, combat can become a bit repetitive at some points. In one fight I found myself flanked by far too many enemies and though I eventually fought my way through, the time spent waiting for the computer to take its many turns left me disconnected from the story.

This disconnect is certainly a shame, as the story evolves based on the choices of the player. For example, when Cassia goes to recruit the gladiator Takate, the player is forced into combat until the right dialogue choice is chosen. I played through this part twice just to be certain, and the second time around, my dialogue choices allowed me to skip part of a particularly draining altercation with a jungle cat. This dynamic system offers players a chance to feel the immediate impact of their choices in a way that even some of the most popular RPGs do not offer.

The mix of dynamic storytelling and engaging combat bring the harsh world of Blackguards 2 to life. Even the visual style ties in nicely to the darker theme with maps full of dark corners and (for Cassia in particular) character designs that are a little unsettling. Blackguards 2 is definitely worth a look, especially if you are a big fan of games that reward tactical minds.