A Few Hours With… Blackguards

By Alec Meer on December 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Blackguards is a turn-based fantasy RPG from German outfit Daedalic, based on the Dark Eye roleplaying system. It’s out on Steam Early Access now, and is due for a full release next month. I tried playing it earlier today, for a brief spell. Did it make me want to continue playing? One way to find out. Well, you could kidnap me and ask me by force, but I’d rather you just read this, to be honest.

Only the boring get bored. That must make me a very boring person indeed, because by God I was bored. Not throughout, true, but too often to want to persevere.

In a way, I’m glad that early-2000s-style fantasy RPGs are still kicking about on PC – a game like Blackguards was bread and butter of my reviewing job a decade ago, and I tended to enjoy sitting down with something far too long and involved even if the writing and acting was inevitably terrible. Things are different now though, more so once the glut of Kickstarted ‘old school’ RPGs start to arrive, and we’ve extremely focused fare such as Avernum on one end and mega-glossy Biowarefare on the other, with assorted roguelikes/roguelikelikes lurking somewhere in the far reaches. I really do want a middleground, but not like this.

I know it’s early access, but it’s also just one month from full release. Despite an interesting and uncommonly elaborate combat system, Blackguards feels cheap, stodgy and uncertain of purpose, attempting to make do with one voice actor trying to do a dozen different accents, sloppy translations and a UI about as intuitive as a large hadron collider. It talks and talks and talks and talks and talks, woeful words with hokey, stilted performances, and like a dinner party guest who only has anecdotes about his time selling air compressors in 1974, it thinks if it just keeps talking we’ll somehow become interested. This sort of thing:

I tried streaming it on Twitch earlier, and quite understandably the viewer count dwindled away in tandem with my enthusiasm. It’s a dispiriting enough game to play – to spectate must be oppressively dull. There’s a dwarf with a naff Yorkshire accent, there’s a wizard with a camp accent, there’s endless exposition between characters who are clearly voiced by the same person, there’s a loading screen every two minutes, and once in a while there are more involving but glacially slow and visually awkward turn-based battles that involve combing through an interface made up of all the tiny, infuriatingly similar circles in the world. This speaks to the impressive range of tactical options available, but the presentation does get in the way of both understanding and excitement. It plays a bit like Warhammer Quest on iOS, in that it involves using a small squad of players thoughtfully in order to contain and destroy more numerous opponents, but it doesn’t have the pep, the speed, the sense of purpose – it just wants to talk, talk, talk, talk.

There was one moment whose ingenuity impressed me, though I’d argue it arrived too soon, presenting a stiff challenge before there’d been a chance to get to grips with the unwieldy interface. Doesn’t help that the key to surviving this scene is uttered as one apparently throwaway line among the deluge of comedy-accented bullshit earlier on. I found myself, for what I think was just my fourth battle in the game, in a swamp, facing an enormous Wood Troll, which was essentially a fatter Ent. Its waistline was matched only by its colossal amount of hitpoints, which my trio of weak, poorly-equipped newbie characters had little chance of whittling down before the damned thing clobbered us.

However – and I must admit it took a viewer who’d already played the thing to point this out to me – the swamp was filled with gas, shown as conveniently static bubbles atop certain hexes. Gas + fire = fiery explosion. Fiery explosion + creature made of wood = ow. So, off you pop, fireball-wielding mageguy. The fat Ent was an imposing threat which required thought rather than twitch to defeat, and there was satisfaction in discovering that it could be defeated by carefully kiting it around the map, ‘sploding swamp-farts when it stumbled into them, taking chunks rather than splinters off its health. It was a challenging, stressful fight that I’m amazed I survived. Here’s how it happened:

I felt really, really good when that thing toppled over, and for a while I thought this game would be for me after all. A swift return to gibber-deluge ended that ,alas. The Fat Ent fight would also have been an awful lot more satisfying if a) working it out wasn’t just a matter of spotting a minor graphical difference on a few tiles and b) restoring my mage’s mana wasn’t quite so torturous. In Blackguard, you can only use a potion if you’ve equipped it. You can only equip it outside of battle, so even if you’ve got shedloads of them in your backback, there’s no way to use them in the thick of it. In some ways, that’s a decent conceit – it’s entirely logical that one could only quaff what was immediately to hand, as opposed to something like Skyrim’s ‘eating two dozen green apples in the middle of a sword fight’ absurdity. Alas, I found it went a little bit too far though – you can’t even equip a potion if you don’t own a belt. And if it’s a cheap belt, it’ll only have one potion-holder. Basically, survival in Blackguard’s murderous, monster-filled world depends on wearing the right belt. Beltguards. Blackbelt. Beltbelt. All of these would have been more appropriate names.

At this point in the game, I owned only the cheapest, single-slotted belt, and thus spent my battle against the Fat Ent Benny Hilling around the map waiting for my mana to recharge, by 1 point every turn, so that I could intermittently cast a fireball that would then miss 50% of the time. What drama. And all because of a belt.

I struggled on for a few more fights, a few more static shopping/quest hubs and far too much inane wittering in dodgy accents, but dammit, life’s too short. The essential turn-based, hex-based combat has something to it, it demands a goodly amount of tactical thinking, and there’s a part of me which wants to master The Skill Tree Of A Thousand Similar-Sounding Options, but there’s too much drag, too much talking, too many loading screens, too little purpose to give satisfying context to the combat. I don’t have the faintest sense what my characters’ ultimate goals are, I just seem to be solemnly trekking to the next point on the map and listening to nonsense just so I’m allowed to then click on another place.

Videogames.

Maybe it dramatically improves later. There’s real promise in the elaborate skill tree and the Fallouty combat, but I’m just not enough of a roleplaying mechanics gonk to want to suffer through so much dreariness around it. I’d definitely be interested to see the Dark Eye system as the basis of something… spunkier though.

Also the whole game looks as though someone smeared golden syrup all over my monitor.

__________________

« | »

, , .

98 Comments »

Top comments

  1. Renevent says:

    I whole-heartily disagree with the sentiments in the review. I found the graphics/presentation really nice especially the town screens and the world map. While I wish the exploration part was more free form, I do think they did a good job with the map/dungeons/towns/etc tying the battles together. And that’s what the game is really about…on that front they’ve really outdone themselves. It’s really one of the best TBS/RPG games released (well…almost release lol) in a long time. The battles have a lot of variety, the rules are solid, and there’s a ton of customization you can do.

    I’d highly recommend Blackgaurds to anyone who enjoys TBS/RPG’s.

  1. Infinitron says:

    Yeah……or you can read the Codex preview, and get an educated opinion: http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=9232

    • InternetBatman says:

      Ah yes. Next we can hear about how ToEE was the greatest game ever made. And writing (which the codex neglected entirely in its review) doesn’t matter.

      • Cerius says:

        Roxor: Blackguards surprised me many times when I played it. In fact, the game was the complete opposite of what I expected – I assumed it would have been at best an RPG-lite, more of an adventure game with stats, with plenty of dialogue, puzzle-solving and a very advanced narrative. Instead, the combat system turned out to be great, but the narrative part disappointed me, or at least the parts of the narrative that I saw. The main plot seems to be an unexciting mess, the way it progresses makes little sense, and the whole “bunch of criminals” aspect is underplayed.

        Doesn’t seem like it

        • InternetBatman says:

          That’s in the conclusion while it’s preceded by 80 bajillion paragraphs on character creation, the battle system, exploration, and graphics. That speaks a lot to a skewed review system.

        • kristy622 says:

          Stаrt wоrĸing at հom℮ with Gооgl℮!. witհоսt а dоսbt its tհ℮ mоst-соmfоrtаbl℮ jоb I հаv℮ ℮v℮r հаd. It has blessed me with a ch℮ck for $6974 this m0nth. I асtսаlly stаrt℮d 7-mоոtհs аgо аոd imm℮diаt℮ly wаs briոgiո հоm℮ miոimսm $75/ հоսr. Useful Reference http://cutt.us/sgEc

      • XhomeB says:

        ToEE might not have been the best game ever made, even the Codex guys admit it had flaws, but it did have the absolute best combat system ever made in any RPG, and that’s indisputable.

      • Emeraude says:

        Writing hardly matters to most if you can skip/ignore it and if the game is good.

        The vast majority of existing games are a testament to that.

        • AngelTear says:

          If that is your opinion (and it’s perfectly legitimate, even if I disagree), then I think RPS may not be the gaming website that suits you best.

          They strongly focus on narrative merits and faults every time the game allows them to (See COD Ghosts), and the few exceptions are clearly marked as such (The last AssCreed: how many times did he repeat that it’s stupid mindless fun; that it was fun, but it was not like him?)

          • Emeraude says:

            Why ? I do think writing can do wonders for a game. If only for mood.

            In the few cases of game design where it actually matters – where you cannot easily ignore that it is bad -( mostly games focused on the manipulation of narrative elements) then yes, it is an important aspect.

            But if writing and presentation were that important, I suppose most people in their right mind would have never played those games, and they wouldn’t be classics.

          • AngelTear says:

            I don’t see how that is an answer to what I have written, in any way.

          • Emeraude says:

            Actually that’s because it was part of the answer I typed below which I suppressed because I thought I was once again getting too wordy.

            An then I cut and pasted the wrong part from the text editor to your answer post.

            Mea culpa.

            That being said: just because I say writing doesn’t matter to most – and it is the case in my experience, doesn’t mean I am part of most. And even if I don’t share the preferences of some people doesn’t mean I don’t find their opinion and analysis enlightening.

            I read both RPS and the Codex and other places still. And all have something to bring.

        • Lars Westergren says:

          > Writing hardly matters to most if you can skip/ignore it and if the game is good.

          Yeah, if the popularity of The Walking Dead and the massive outrage over the Mass Effect 3 ending has taught us anything, it is that plot doesn’t matter to a lot of people.

          > The vast majority of existing games are a testament to that.

          Are you sure you want to go down the argumentun ad populum path? By volume, the vast majority of games released this year were cheap free-to-play knockoffs of stuff like Candy Crush and Angry Birda, for smart phones and tablets.

          • Emeraude says:

            You’re misunderstanding what I’m saying: I don’t think you can skip or ignore the writing in The Walking Dead, can you ? It is at the core of what the game does.

            The vast majority of games are not designed in such a way that the quality of writing impact the designs of the games.

          • frightlever says:

            ie. nobody is playing Tetris for the story. Did okay.

          • Ragnar says:

            The quality of writing impacts the enjoyment of the game. Maybe you can ignore bad writing and voice acting, but I cannot. I am willing to tolerate bad to mediocre gameplay for story and writing (Mass Effect 1, Witcher 1, To the Moon, The Secret World), but I’m not willing to suffer through terrible story or voice acting for the gameplay (Aquanox, The Whispered World, Tera, the new Yaiba Ninja Gaiden game). It’s just a matter of different priorities and what you look for in a game.

          • The Random One says:

            Yes, but as Lars points out, the vast majority of games by sheer volume are forgettable shovelware.

          • Emeraude says:

            @The Random One:

            Yes, but even if you only take into account games that aren’t shovelware, successful, critically acclaimed games, the vast majority don’t have a design in which writing plays a central role.

            @Ragnar:

            Well, yes if you can’t ignore bad writing, for whatever reason – in your case personal preferences, then it impacts your experience (I have a friend that still hasn’t played Resident Evil 1 because of that intro).
            Doesn’t contradict my point that if you can skip/ignore it, then it doesn’t. to most people, for a majority of game designs.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I disagree with that for several reasons:

          One is that if it’s in a game, it’s important. Using the logic you used, you could say that the quality of combat in a game is not important if there’s an autoresolve button. Expeditions Conquistador has an auto-resolve button, and I’d hardly call the combat trivial.

          Yes many games feature little to no writing, but even those game designers are making a conscious decision about writing. A minimalist approach to writing is just as valid as a PST style text dump, but the writing still heavily informs most games, and the vast majority of games do have some form of writing. Games that have none at all are outliers, like Super Hexagon.

          Also, you commit the classic flaw that “most people” agree with you. I think writing matters to most people.

          • Emeraude says:

            Reread the sequence of my posts, I do not count myself with most people.

            Also, my argument has never been about the quantity, or even the quality of the writing, but about its importance as in relation to the gameplay.

      • derbefrier says:

        I just booted up toee for the first time last night after gotten it for free from GoG some time ago and the combat system is awesome. I also didn’t realiz it used dnd 3.5 rules either which is awesome for turn based combat. I can’t comment much on the story yet but it seems par for the course for an rpg so far. But story is secondary for most people, gameplay always comes first.

    • amateurviking says:

      It seems that by ‘educated opinion’ you mean ‘dry list of all the games systems with little or no synthesis’.

    • Jockie says:

      Indeed, where else but from the Codex would we see such ‘educated’ critiques as this: “I’d much rather see one with a combat system that actually puts some classics to shame while sacrificing the story, than another drop in the ocean of pseudo-choice oriented storyfag LARP simulators.”

      You might respect their opinions and knowledge of RPG’s, but the content is steeped in the puerile language of their horrendous community and for that reason, I’d rather not thanks.

      • Infinitron says:

        Sounds like you already have. ;)

        I’m the first one to admit the Codex has its biases, but at least we covered the issues and appraised the game as what it is instead of going “boring, boring, boring”.

        • Bull0 says:

          Do you always post links to your site in the form of derogatory comments on other peoples’ sites?

        • Granath says:

          The Codex has issues? You’re right!. It’s written by Comic Book guys who like to praise outdated mechanics for a group of other Comic Book guys who have a contest to see who can be the most vile, racist and disgusting of the bunch. Great group of peeps you have there.

          It’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy…and stupidity.

          • XhomeB says:

            Oh noes, something doesn’t play like your precious ADHD-friendly whack-a-mole shooter, that means it’s automatically “OUTDATED”!
            People who claim such things are usually much more close-minded than those they accuse of being “stuck in the past”.

          • Nick says:

            Apparently “good” is outdated now.

          • Tacroy says:

            …. you’re the one coming here and saying that RPS likes “ADHD-friendly whack-a-mole shooter[s]“, which means we’re closeminded? That’s pretty impressive. On a lot of levels.

          • Nick says:

            Uh, he was talking to that guy, not the magical entity of RPS which includes everyone who reads the site? Or.. what? I’m not sure how you are defining “we”?

          • Granath says:

            As someone who has been playing RPG games for longer than half the staff of RPG Codex has been alive, I have a pretty good understanding of what works and what doesn’t in RPG games. Old school isn’t automatically good, nor is modern automatically bad. But on Codex that’s the standard. Of course, Codex is the same place that thinks Grimoire is the greatest thing since sliced bread…

            Oh, and I don’t play shooters. Motion sickness and all that.

      • frightlever says:

        There hasn’t been an RPG published in the last ten years that I haven’t skipped or speed-read the dialogue. It’s uniformly awful. If game dialogue is your only source of literature I’ll allow that you might be fine with it, but it pains me to read most of it. There’s probably been some exceptions but I’m struggling to think of one.

        Now, dialogue is different from World design and combat. Get those two wrong and I’ll just skip the game, not just the dialogue. Bad story, interesting world and good combat is fine by me. Oh, unskippable cut-scenes or dialogue, also a no-no.

    • AngelTear says:

      Bearing in mind that theirs is a full review and this is just an “Impressions”, it seems to me that they say similar things, only they consider different things of primary importance.

      The Codex review is mostly about “combat is good”; They say the story sucks, but it doesn’t matter. They can enjoy the game anyway. Alec says that the rhythm and the story (and the UI) are bad. The combat could be interesting but the game as a whole doesn’t let him enjoy it.

      They agree, they just have different reactions because they are different people that are captivated and/or put off by some things more than others.

      (I’m not going to go into the ethics of Codex, or how appropriate it is to advertise your website on another website’s comment section…)

    • Samuel Erikson says:

      Is that Neo-Nazi JarlFrank still an active member of the Codex?

    • InnerPartisan says:

      or you can read the Codex preview, and get an educated opinion

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FopyRHHlt3M

      RPGCodex – It’s like Stormfront, but for Nerds!

  2. AngelTear says:

    The loading screens look pretty! ^_^

    • tumbleworld says:

      Yeah, they do.

      Sadly though, nothing else seems even slightly interesting. I lasted 8 minutes into Alec’s first video before lurching boredom and despair drove me away — and hell, I enjoy Atlus RPGs. It looks like a god-awful mess of cookie-cutter crap. Despite the Codex guys swarming here to cross-promote their site and whine at (troll at?) Alec, this game is hereby dead to me.

  3. klmx says:

    Should’ve shown the many kittens of Drôl, no one wants to miss that

  4. Cerius says:

    In all respect of your ability Mister Meer. This may be the worst piece I have ever read on RPS. And I think this site usually has a high quality standard.

    But, what I’m reading here is not above your standard forum rant. Did you dislike this game THAT much?

    Personally enjoyed my time with Blackguards. Thought the combat was great though I agree the narrative parts are pretty bad.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Here is a fact:

      It is extremely common to find someone claiming that an article they don’t agree with the conclusions of is “the worst piece I have ever read on RPS” or similarly melodramatic variations thereupon. These people believe this to be a cutting comment. It is not.

      • Cerius says:

        I don’t disagree with the article except for the combat part. I fully agree with the narrative one. It was bad.

        I’m just saying the article came across as a forum rant. This is not meant to be a critism about the opinions expressen, but about the quality of the article. Structure as well as language is off. And its double surprising because RPS is a high quality site usually.

        And I actually understand too. If you disliked the game its perfectly normal to let emotions run wild. Just that it should have been checked and overlooked more calmly before going out into the public.

      • SillyWizard says:

        Worst comment on the internet!

      • Blackseraph says:

        However there are certain articles that really rise for the occasion, certain infamous new vegas wit comes to mind.

        Now I do agree that this game is not best ever, but you aren’t really being that fair to it either.

  5. Bone says:

    inf you can spot the mistake, you can keep it!

  6. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I don’t doubt the game has problems, but I get the impression Alec seems a tad jaded perhaps.

    There are plenty who love slow turn-based stuff like this and like having to bury themselves in game systems.

    I get the feeling (not just from here but elsewhere) those who like this kind of game will get on with it fine and those who need games to be snazzy won’t do.

    • XhomeB says:

      I wish Alec had been so critical of Skyrim, or anything made by Bethesda for that matter. Those games are boring, poorly written and pathetically put together as all hell, but hey, “the map is big and pretty, so you can walk around for hundreds of hours” seems to be more than enough to make up for everything else being flat out laughably bad.
      It seems certain companies can get away with everything, the rest is screwed. Game Journalism!

      • Lars Westergren says:

        > It seems certain companies can get away with everything, the rest is screwed. Game Journalism!

        People not liking and disliking exactly the same things you do, at exactly the same amount? Down with that!

      • AngelTear says:

        If you had just read the reviews in full, you’d know that he acknowledged all those faults, but he had fun despite of them because he was allowed to stray away and just mock around. I don’t enjoy aimlessly wandering around the map, so I knew that game wasn’t for me.

        But I’m sure it’s easier to think that Bethesda pays them for their reviews, rather than realize that fun is highly subjective and, even for the same person, a game can be fun for the same reasons/despite the same reasons why another game isn’t.

  7. Emeraude says:

    Also the whole game looks as though someone smeared golden syrup all over my monitor.

    Have you checked if your eyes weren’t replaced by a first generation cyber thingy while you were asleep ?

  8. mukuste says:

    Ahh, The Dark Eye. I remember playing the third part of some PC trilogy or other, it was this one (in its original German version):

    http://www.mobygames.com/game/realms-of-arkania-iii-shadows-over-riva

    I loved the atmosphere at the time. And visiting a brothel for recreational services seemed, to my young teenage self, one of the most daring and bold acts a game had ever given me the possibility to do.

  9. Reapy says:

    I enjoy turn based but from watching the clips here, it lacks something. Models and environments look good. The dialog seems the usual rpg mod level writing, which I understand certain people like ( not myself). Seems a shame the company has some ideas and artistic talent, but is failing to stimulate emotion in his writing, plot, and combat mechanics.

    Seems like it is saveable though, maybe save themselves time and cut the voice acting, do another effects pass, and look to cut down on the number of no decision auto attacks that seem to be happening in combat.

    • ulix says:

      I know that Daedalic’s writing is almost always smeared on RPS. They have many fans in Germany though, and most of them love them exactly BECAUSE of their writing.

      Maybe it’s a translation/localization thing?

      I also read here that Deponia was mysogonist. Somehow Deadalic has a ton of female fans in Germany. If you check the comments on their Facebook site, many if not most of their most vocal and dedicated fans seem to be women.

  10. Turkey says:

    “I’m so short you can see my feet on my driver’s license.”

    -Laugh
    -Don’t laugh

  11. Astro Flea says:

    Thanks for the review. I look at RPS now and then, and I was starting to think you guys said nice things about all games you reviewed. Oops! But I’m surprised at how negative this one is. It sound as though your rating of the game would have gone up quite a bit if there had just been no voice acting at all (just read the quest text), and I can definitely sort of understand that.

    • Ragnar says:

      Bad voice acting is far worse than no voice acting.

      I couldn’t play The Whispered World, Aquanox, or Majin and the Forgotten Kingdom because of the voice acting.

    • tumbleworld says:

      RPS are always unashamedly honest — with all the subjectivity that implies. It’s one of the best things about the site. I know that if John Walker likes it, for example, chances are I will too. They’re not trying to make friends with PR people (or easily-outraged enthusiasts); they’re just telling it exactly the way they see it. Also, no utterly arbitrary scores out of 10. Which is why this is the only gaming site I actively follow :)

  12. Renevent says:

    I whole-heartily disagree with the sentiments in the review. I found the graphics/presentation really nice especially the town screens and the world map. While I wish the exploration part was more free form, I do think they did a good job with the map/dungeons/towns/etc tying the battles together. And that’s what the game is really about…on that front they’ve really outdone themselves. It’s really one of the best TBS/RPG games released (well…almost release lol) in a long time. The battles have a lot of variety, the rules are solid, and there’s a ton of customization you can do.

    I’d highly recommend Blackgaurds to anyone who enjoys TBS/RPG’s.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Thanks, Revenent. This is exactly the kind of comment I’d love to see more of when people disagree with a piece. It’s genuinely great – and useful – to hear what other players think and why they disagree, rather than simply see a demonstration of their anger.

      • Renevent says:

        I have to admit when I first read the preview all sorts of nerd rage started boiling inside of me…then I remembered we were discussing entertainment products so I figured a simple disagreement would suffice :P

        Sorry you didn’t enjoy the game though!

    • Krull says:

      Thank you, sir. Will surely look upon this game when it goes live..

    • killias2 says:

      +1

      If you focus on this game as a strategy RPG, it’s surprisingly good. I’m eager to see how the full version is.

      • ulix says:

        The game IS a Strategy RPG. I know that is a term most PC-players aren’t familiar with, because it’s in essence a Japanese genre.

        This game is more similar to Japanese games like Fire Emblem than to any western games in that regard. The meat of the game is turn-based battles, interrupted by party-management and a (badly written/badly translated) mostly linear story.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Hey, out of curiosity, what do you think of Disciples 3?

      • Renevent says:

        I loved Disciples 2 and had always intended to pick the 3rd up, I never ended up doing so for whatever reason. As a point of reference though my favorite recent-ish games are things like the new King’s Bounty series.

      • Philomelle says:

        You might enjoy Disciples 3 if you always hated how fast-paced Disciples 2 is and wanted its combat to be more like Heroes of Might & Magic. To me, that was a problem because Disciples has always been a very speedy game all around while Disciples 3 has slow tactical combat while speedy everything else.

        You might enjoy it even more if you like 5-minute long loading screens and crashes to the desktop every 20-50 minutes.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      The combat is intriguing. Meer’s less-than-enthusiastic video actually sold me on the game’s premise (although the UI looks hard on the eyes and those barrels only tumbling in one direction is… silly).

      Ragging on unnecessary exposition is totally understandable though. I’m guessing everybody on RPGCodex has at some point suffered under a dm so much in love with their setting and characters that they forget the player.

    • Fuz says:

      I agree.
      I hated it at the beginning, because of the random chance hit even on spells (which I still find somewhat annoying), because sometimes it’s pretty dark and messy and it’s hard to understand who’s who and what’s happening and because of the enormous quantity (and duration) of loading screens.
      Changed my mind altogether. It’s fun, the combat system is good, the use of objects in maps is great, I like the character development, I like the setting… it’s not extremely deep, but I find it very enjoyable.
      Also, I really like how the cities are done and I *LOVE* the world map, it’s beautiful.

      For me, it’s a pretty good game, totally worth its money.

  13. S Jay says:

    Daedelic has more misses and near misses than hits, so nothing unexpected.

  14. thesisko says:

    I can see how this game might appear too complicated for someone who claimed the quests in Skyrim required “lateral thinking” to complete.

  15. Wulfram says:

    Is the title pronounced Black Guards or Blaggards?

  16. DuneTiger says:

    “Large hardron”

    Can’t tell if Freudian slip or typo…

    • TWChristine says:

      I was listening to a lecture by Richard Dawkins where he mentioned that in a book he was writing he had accidentally typo-ed “Large hardon” and noticed it but decided not to change it. His editor then caught it, and from what he said, he pleaded with her to leave it in but she refused..

  17. dugong says:

    I registered to say, this is an awful set of ‘impressions’. I often read RPS and enjoy its nonchalant nature, but nonchalant is not the same as irresponsible. And sure, I will qualify this without RARG YOU SUCK RPS etc.

    I’ve been reading up on the game in various places without making the plunge yet, and all this review does is to make me wonder what is wrong with the reviewer rather than what is wrong with the game. This is of course because there is no coherent set of criticisms that give me a picture of a bad game. In fact, the only concretely explained episode is a good, exciting one!

    As far as I understand, Blackguard is a combat oriented game. So if there’s one episode of exciting combat, then some scattered complaints about belts and whatnot which are not sufficiently explained, and then lots of half-coherent ‘talky talky talky’, how are we meant to know?

    This review does not tell us enough for us to make our own informed decision. Our only choice is to take it on its word, which is difficult because, well, I suppose I’d have to go away thinking “Blackguards? Oh, talky talky talky!”, or remain mystified.

    Alec: Sure, constructive criticism is always better than anger. But while Internet Anger seems without reason a lot of the time, sometimes, one needs to look back at oneself and think: is there a *reason* people are so angry? It is simply irresponsible to give any game – and Blackguard could well be a piss poor one – such treatment in an influential publication that does have a say on sales.

    • Bull0 says:

      It isn’t a review, though

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        Disingenuous. He played the game for a few hours and wrote down his thoughts on an influential website. How is it not a review? These ‘hands on for a few hours’ pieces seem like an excuse to do a poor job of a reviewing a game while disavowing any consequences.

        Maybe these early reviews are justified if 1) it’s a highly anticipated game and people are waiting for impressions, and 2) the writer intends to do a full review later. If either of those criteria are not relevant, an unconsidered early review seems unjustified and unfair on the developers whose incomes are to some extent in the hands of reviewers.

        • SgtStens says:

          I don’t know if that’s entirely fair. If you’ve read RPS for any significant length of time, you’d know that there’s a significant difference between an ‘Impressions’ piece and a WIT or a proper review. The latter involve much less playtime and more of a gut-feel of the first few hours of a game, while an actual review is much more in-depth. I think there’s a place for both. Comparing the lack of depth with that of a full review like the one on Codex is an apple-orange comparison, IMO.

          Alec is upfront about what he liked and didn’t like and what he hopes the rest of the game has to offer. He hasn’t yet found out whether the rest of the game delivers or not. Why the hate?

          • jseph1234 says:

            The hate is because he played a 50+ hour Fantasy RPG and after getting bored and due to falling viewership on Twitch (and perhaps) inability to understand the mechanics of the gameplay, trashed it

  18. ulix says:

    I guess Alec hated XCOM as well. I mean “once in a while there are more involving but glacially slow and visually awkward turn-based battles”, that sure sounds a lot like XCOM. If you disagree: I don’t see how the battles in this game are in any way slower.

    And regarding the interface: obviously the rules of this battle system are considerably more complex than XCOM’s, as are the tactical possibilities. So the UI has to be more “awkward”, or as I would call it: complex.

  19. ffordesoon says:

    This is why not every game should have full voice acting. I mean, the writing’s not very good either, but I can see it being moderately charming in a Ye Olde Phantasie kind of way if the game wasn’t constantly shouting at you. It slows everything down, and for what? It’s not like it’s a back-of-the-box feature anymore.

    Not to mention that ninety percent of all voice acting in games is awful, this one included. If you’re consciously aping movies, full VO is a must for sure, but is anybody really going to enjoy reading tiny static text boxes read aloud?

    Good voice acting is a godsend, admittedly, but the game needs to be written and designed around the VO. And, you know, even in games with good VO that’s integrated well, you still have that bizarre lack of real background noise.

    In Mass Effect, for instance, you don’t hear your armor shifting around as you move, you don’t hear Shepard hefting a gun, elevator sounds just kind of start and stop… If the aim is to be cinematic, why does it always feel like a rough cut from before most of the effects were added to the mix?

    It sounds like a small thing, but the disconnect can be profound. If I don’t buy that my Shepard is holding a heavy piece of metal that kills things, the dramatic impact of a scene where he’s threatening to waste a dude is blunted. This is to say nothing of the bizarrely muted fistfights, and the fact that every voice sounds disconnected from its environment.

    It’s the same problem here; every line is a sound file recorded in a booth, with a bit of generic bed noise underneath. It ends up sounding one level up from those bits on the Daily Show where they mix a bunch of words from various speeches together to form a new sentence.

  20. Beefeater1980 says:

    The top comment made me curious enough to try this game, and so far I love it. The voice acting and writing are very much in the mold of other German RPGs made from the same ruleset (Der Schwarze Auge), but the actual gameplay – which constitutes the vast bulk of the time you spend in the game – is superb. It just feels right; whatever ‘it’ is, this game has it.

    I would not have expected that based on the impressions. I think based on just the impressions, I would probably have passed on it.

    Postscript: for what it’s worth, I quite like the VA so far. The actors have nice voices, the issue is that the writing’s a bit weak.

  21. Lestibournes says:

    From what I’ve seen in the videos here it seems to me that it’s just meant to be a slow-paced atmospheric game and that you don’t have the attention span to appreciate it. The dialog sounds amusing, and I don’t get what you’re complaining about in the voice-acting. The evidence you brought to support your case against the game seems to me to instead do the opposite. I have no familiarity with the game beyond this article.

    • jseph1234 says:

      Great comment Lestibournes. The game is a slow pace, classic D&D turn-based RPG. It has a few graphic presentation, but overall it deserves a place among games like Neverwinter night and others turn-based RPG… I look forward to playing more :-)

  22. Cyphran says:

    I’ll never understand why games that can’t afford to hire decent voice actors, directors, and a good recording studio (which are allnquite expensive) don’t just do text based dialogue. I don’t mind reading at all, but bad voice acting can ruin a game in an instant.

  23. tucsonbandit says:

    Its truly amazing (and a bit frightening) how absolutely stupid the human race has become over the last 20 years.

    Who knew that my friends and I were amazing geniuses to be able to figure out and play complex role playing games and war games when we were 10-12 years old..plus we even managed to enjoy them! We thought they were games, for kids. We even purposefully set out to find MORE complex and detailed games to entertain us.

    Now we have adults who are so stupid they can not be asked to make a character for AD&D w/o spazing out over having to read or understand something slightly abstract, no matter that a computer with tool tips holds their hand. Adults have the attention span of literally retarded kids we made fun of in grade school. What has happened to the human race, and why is everybody so freakin dumb and incapable all of a sudden?

    • Zeriel says:

      Post I’m replying to is probably going to get deleted for hurting someone’s fee-fee’s, but couldn’t agree more. I guess there’s a movement to demonize intelligence in our current culture? Not sure how else to explain it. Probably didn’t help that a small niche hobby was taken over by hundreds of millions of people who don’t have time to take games seriously, and hence had the entire medium catered to them. It only makes sense that such people (like Alec Meer) then think their opinion is shared by everyone, and write absurd ‘impressions’ like this one.

      That’s why the Codex is a hellhole of bile and venom, by the way: these are people who used to be peaceful and content playing nerdy games who then gradually turned into bitter vessels of hatred because the entire industry moved on and abandoned them in favor of making games that have to be beaten by everyone who plays them, must be playable in 30 minute bursts for “people with lives”, and probably shouldn’t even be longer than 10 hours to complete, anyway.

      Remember that Total War: Rome 2 steam screenshot that showed that 90% of reviewers didn’t even play the game they were supposedly reviewing?

  24. Gvaz says:

    I could only make it through like, 20 minutes of the demo before I lost all interest, and I highly enjoy rpgs and want to play actual dungeons and dragons for the first time. Everything about this was a slog:
    Menus detailing minutia of stats that were meaningless to me. What the fuck is “able bodied”? What does that even mean in context of this game? Why should I care?
    Why are basic actions hidden in menus?
    Why does teh game look like shit? Also run like shit?
    Why is there millions of loading screens for the most simple shit imaginable?
    Why are the characters so uninteresting and boring?
    Why do I have a mage who can’t cast a simple spell until i spend points into him later on?
    Why did this main path close up when I took this side room, only to open up another bubble on the main path immediately after it? What changed? Who knows! the game doesn’t tell you
    Why do cutscenes just arbitrarily end and follow into a loading screen? It’s like watching someone record something, fumble with the camera while it points at the grass and suddenly you’re somewhere else doing something else entirely.
    I killed this wolf attacking the princess, not one person, not even the main character goes “I was trying to defend her from the wolf!” WHAT THE FUCK?

    God damn this game is making me mad as hell.

  25. jseph1234 says:

    Yeah I am pissed about this “A Few Hours with..Blackguards” review. You didn’t give the game anywhere NEAR enough time and it is irresponsible on your part Since it is a turn based indie, an not AAA, the developers didn’t have all of the AAA polish but I KNOW that did a great job presenting a true Fantasy RPG game that grews and develops the plot over time and has all of the classic elements of Pen & Paper D& D that I grew up with and love.

    I put down my money for it and I am glad I did! With a new DLC update in March I am looking forward to more Blackguard from Daedalic. Peace,

    PISSED AT PISS POOR REVIEW READER

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>