Blackguards is a dense RPG, perhaps too much for it's own good. I love turn-based strategy games such as the Fire Emblems of the world, but I feel that these games work because your characters are already well defined and most of the time each character represents an archetype that can be used in a very limited number of ways on the battlefield. Quite the contrary here with a game that goes all over the place with too much mechanics and little that is done in order for the player to know what he should do.

Like I said, it doesn't help that you have five sheets of character information in which you can spend points. One sheet is about your base stats, another for weapon affinities, then talents, which you learn at trainers, spells and special abilities. It's way too much, cut down on the number of menus, funnel where the player can place it's points, add some kind of level system, anything to help choose between placing points into stats, spells, or weapon abilities. I would have rather liked it if my character got one stat point at level 2, one weapon ability point at level 3, etc. As-is, I was hoarding my points, waiting for some clear reason to spend them, then I decided to use them all because they were useless otherwise and it didn't feel like I had improved my character in any way.

The battle system is hex-based and turn-based, it's mostly fine although you have to think about line of sight for spells and fumble chances and things like that. Some of the map design could have been improved a bit, like this map where you have prisoners to help you against a stream of guards, I got boxed in with the prisoners blocking the way and none of my characters being able to attack, I just had to mash the NEXT TURN key, waiting for my allies to die so I could attack, also, no quicksave during battles, why is that? Fear that I'm going to cheese battles by figuring out where the traps are, perhaps?

Whether you're a fighter, archer or mage, you have a few battle options between power attacks, various spells, ranged weaponry, traps and the vast array of environmental items you can interact with, such as the rope of a chandelier or slabs of rock blocking tunnels where monsters spawn out of. There are plenty of equipment options as well with small set bonuses if you wear the whole of some specific material. Outside of battles, you walk around a world map, get quests, have small discussions with certain choices here and there and advance the various plot lines.

Otherwise, Blackguards would have been fine were the mechanics simplified a little. There is a lot of depth and a lot of systems that you might not expect - like the need for a belt to be equipped before you can use potions - and the story, characters and settings are very interesting. Just that the tedium of trying to figure out what's good and what's not in terms of player choice regarding his hard earned experience shouldn't have been such an important part of my experience.

AuthorJérémie Tessier
Categories3/5, RPG