A Better Class Of Criminal: Blackguards 2

The original Blackguards was like a wax apple. I saw it sitting there in the fruitbowl of the internet – shiny, red and tempting – but when I plunged my pegs into it and tore off a mouthful I made a face like Stan Laurel chewing a wasp. I love tactical RPGs but the early missions of Daedalic’s villain ’em up felt like puzzles with a single solution rather than reactive scenarios.

Enter the sequel, with a somewhat dynamic strategic map and increased scope for customisation of the main character. I’ve taken a bite.

Given the speed with which Blackguards 2 has been released, I expected the worst. Well, not quite the worst, I suppose, because I did like the idea of battle actually causing changes on the world map. It’s now possible to take territories, hire mercenary defenders and then fight to reclaim them when the mercenaries get killed during a counterattack.

That change aside, the biggest difference appears to be the ability to mould the main player character Cassia into the hero/antihero/bastard of your choice. You can decide just how unpleasant she’ll be once she gets the upper hand on the folks who have wronged her and, more importantly, you can shape her skillset and class as well.

And that, at least partly, is where the old problems persist. Given the right amount of devotion, Blackguards 2 may well be a rewarding game but I don’t find the majority of decisions meaningful enough to keep my interest. Cassia’s free-form development didn’t feel it was planting me at a crossroads and allowing me to choose a direction – it felt like I’d been dropped in the ocean and left to flounder.

The tactical battle maps, attractive and replayable as they are, still retain some of the original game’s sticky points as well. They’re packed with interactive elements but I feel like I’m supposed to find precisely the right moment to use those elements rather than integrating them into a flexible plan. There’s also an element of unwanted surprise when certain objects are activated. They don’t always behave as I’d expect them to and even in the couple of hours I’ve been playing, I’ve ended up clobbering my companions a couple of times, without fully understanding why. It’s as if I’ve selected a toaster expecting to make some toast and my character has inexplicably decided to jam a fork into the workings instead.

Despite all of that, I want to play more of Blackguards 2 and I hope I’ll manage to ignore the wrinkles after a while. It may not be wax but I’d like it to have ripened a little more before harvesting.

11 Comments

  1. Lars Westergren says:

    How is the story and the writing? My possibly prejudiced view of (Eastern) Euro RPGs is that they have a focus on combat and can have deliciously complex mechanics, but the narrative is given very little attention. Poor translation on top of that sometimes makes dialogue (especially if voice acted) somewhere between painful and incomprehensible.

    • TormDK says:

      I’m liking it so far.

      It does not seem over the top “Muhahaah!” evil, but the main character Cassia has clearly suffered mentally from the time she has been alone in that dungeon with her spider buddies, that much is certain. Her wit is Sharp, but her character seems obsessed with the question “Why?”.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      >>> (Eastern) Euro RPGs

      any examples? Surely you don’t mean The Witcher?

      • Tukuturi says:

        I doubt it. The Witcher had terrible mechanics.

        • HopeHubris says:

          So true, the story was solid enough, but I just could not stand the gameplay

  2. JohnH says:

    Sorry, but the first game was so horrible that I’m going to pass on this just on principle.

    • Jalan says:

      I wanted to enjoy it (I really, really did) but when I’m a few battles in and realizing how tedious it is, something is wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

  3. Heretic7 says:

    I really enjoyed the first one and am always surprised when I see people who played it and didn’t like it. The characters and storyline were meh to say the least but the handcrafted encounters with all the dynamic elements and the different objectives were really great. It was not an actual rpg, just a series of great tactical puzzles for the player to solve. In that context it was fantastic. Here is hoping that the second one has at least as much fun combat as the first one

  4. zind says:

    I did not read very much about the first one and did not expect the tactical combat – I was expecting something a bit more bashy, like a KotOR type thing. Still, the combat was okay enough that I could’ve been able to play except I felt let down by the story. I was expecting to be playing a real criminal – when I hear “Blackguard” I (being a tabletop nerd) think fallen paladin, someone with a devotion to evil. I was looking forward to playing a story wherein someone like that was somehow the kingdom’s only hope, and there could be some possible redemption or just a big fat paycheck depending on how I played. Instead, I get “onoes, wrongfully imprisoned, how will I clear my name and regain my honor?”

    I didn’t make it more than a couple hours in, which is probably obvious.

  5. Darkheart says:

    I really, really liked the first one. Don’t really get the mediocre reviews. The game mightn’t been perfect (which one is?) and it comes down to preference, but if the second one is at least as good as the first I’m sure I’ll have a blast.
    Are there any better games in this specific segment?

  6. Darion says:

    I really enjoyed Blackguards 1, that is all the game except the last chapter, the last chapter felt like “we’re out of funds, let’s wrap this up.”.
    So far i’m enjoying Blackguards 2, except several of the bugs, like never ending turn skips, never ending battles due to game freeze after accepting the rewards, and several other bugs that might force me to repeat the whole battle, as far as i am concerned feels like i’am playing it twice in one run, since i had to repeat more than 50% of the battles that i won. None the less i do like the story and how’s working, even if some plot things seem predictable but it could be worst.