Blackguards First Impressions

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Just recently I was making my daily rounds reading and responding to work emails here at Geeked Out Nation, I know it’s quite the laborious task, when I came across an invite by the wonderful people behind the upcoming PC game Blackguards. I jumped at the chance to take a look and report back for all you wonderful readers.

What exactly is Blackguards? Well, lets hear it straight from the developers, Daedalic Entertainment:

“What if the only remaining hope of a world is not a company of virtuous heroes, but instead a bunch of outcasts and criminals? Blackguards will answer this very question. The player takes on the role of a convicted murderer, accompanied by a group of no less dubious characters.

They may spare the world its grim fate, but their good deeds are neither acts of kindness nor heroism, but according to their roguish nature rather a result of their attempts to save their own hides.

Staying alive is a feat of its own, since not only the long arm of the law wants their heads, but there are also other, mysterious powers with much more sinister intentions on their trail. As if all this wasn’t enough, Aventuria’s south is crawling with dangerous beasts and monsters…

Blackguards is a turn-based RPG with strategic combat and combines the studio’s high standards of storytelling and unique characters with thrilling action and an elaborate 3D environment. Challenging quests lead the player through a dark story of doubt, treachery and loss.”

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Blackguards is a game that has, so far, thoroughly surprised me from my few short hours with it. It has the stylings of the great turn-based strategy games of old, while retaining a modern look with a genuinely interesting and compelling storyline. If there is a game out currently that I could point you to for an idea of how Blackguards plays, I would have to say the most recent XCOM game of this past year comes close.

The core game mechanic here is hex-based combat. Between every encounter you are treated to some impressively voiced characters, in a mysteriously world of sword and sorcery. Each town hub, and there are many, serves as a base for your party from which they can go out adventuring in varied locals across the land. Like I mentioned before combat in Blackguards is turned-based. For many of our readers this may be something strange, but for someone like me, who grew up on the PC and was exposed to some great classic strategy titles, Panzer General still holds a warm place in my heart, Blackguards is a real treat.

Each encounter differs not only on location, but also size. You are presented with a stage populated with your party and an opposing enemy party. Each character has a certain range that they can travel on the hex based grid that is shown on the playfield. You are completely in control of your entire party and must move them and use each’s special talents and abilities to defeat whatever challenge is set before you. Each turn allows you two movements that are highlighted for each character. A white outline refers to a Dash Range, which is the farthest you player can move and an Action Range, which is the proximity in which your character can attack. Each class has different ranges and you can chose what class your main character is, Warrior, Archer or Mage before the game begins. On top of just movement you can also interact with various objects within the environment. You can move chairs and boxes around to better fortify a position from enemy archers, you can set fire to tables to block enemy movement paths, and some encounters even require you to seal tunnels to stop the flow on enemies into the battlefield. All of this means that you can play the same encounter in dozens of different ways leading to a great deal of replay value. You are also able to spend skill points into a large amount of skills and talents.

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In one early instance I had no weapons or armor, equipped with only a torch and a friend. I laid out a plan to bottleneck the enemies with some strategic movement of furniture. When I had the enemies flowing where I wanted I set a table on fire and in the process eliminated most of the enemy threat. Sure, I could have just run straight in and clobbered the guards like some hairy Neanderthal, but when I am given the freedom that Blackguards affords to tailor my play, I tend to choose the more strategic and cunning play style. This gives the player a real sense of achievement when they are victorious in battle. Too many games in today’s marketplace are less like games and more interactive movies. When a games asks you to get from Point A to Point B and gives you an onscreen waypoint, you stop actually playing and begin watching with no real effect to the characters or world.

I am really glad to see that there are games, and developers, out there that still treat gamers like adults with functioning frontal lobes. When I suffer a death in Blackguards I don’t blame the game in a fit, but rather I ask myself what I did wrong and how next time I can better handle the situation. This gives players a real sense of achievement and dare I say, makes them better at life in general at applying problem solving logic and thinking before the end their turn.

Blackguards is still Beta right now with a release window of late January on Steam for both PC and MAC. This is great because there are still a number of bugs for the developers to work out such as player targeting not always registering and various sound and voice over miscues. The great thing about Steam is that with early access you can watch and be a part of the final product. I am really looking forward to Blackguards and we will keep you posted on more information as it comes in here at Geeked Out Nation.

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