Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bladestorm: Nightmare (PS4) Review

Bladestorm was released several years ago on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and it was Koei Tecmo offering their take on the Hundred Years War between England and France.  Now, the new and improved version, Bladestorm: Nightmare, is available on the PS4.

While you might initially think that since Koei Tecmo made the game, it would be like Dynasty Warriors, but set in a different place.  Well, it's not.  However, I would totally play that game.  Anyway, the game is a much more tactical game.  It's like a midway point between Dynasty Warriors and Nobunaga's Ambition.  You will run around with your troops and attack enemies yourself, but you have some ability to give commands to people in your group.

You play as a mercenary, and can gain control of any troop type you come across and have the book for.  The book basically allows you to gain experience for that group, and hence, use them.  Each troop type is strong or weak against other types.  These can be changed mid-battle, as long as you go near another type.  Plus, if you have comrades near you, you can have them join your army and travel as a stronger brigade and lay waste to the opposition.  Of course, the trade off for that is you won't have them available to send elsewhere.  This larger group can be broken up if you do need that luxury though.

If it sounds a bit messy and complicated, that's because it kind of is.  The functions are simple enough to understand, but remembering what combination of buttons does what can be a chore in and of itself.  The controls are not like any other game I have played, and took a lot of getting used to.  They work well enough, but it's not very intuitive and I had some trouble remembering what button did what and how to do certain things.  And, no, I'm not that old.

Battles themselves take place on a large field that houses many troops, leaders, towns and castles that you have to either defend or take.  There's also no loading that I noticed while running around the large areas.  That's cool.  The uncool part is that it shows a lot of what's going on around you, even if it isn't things that are important to your mission.  It felt like they showed everything, even you didn't need to see it for the task at hand.

Admittedly, I frequently had no idea if I was doing the right thing or not.  There are lines telling me where to go, so I usually followed them and took over bases they pointed to.  Nearby were other bases that I sometimes took over and sometimes didn't... it didn't seem to matter.  Other bases were gained or lost, and I didn't know which ones or if it was important.  I felt lost most of the time, just following the lines and killing troops.  Although I would win, I didn't feel as though I was helping much, just trotting along and trying stuff, which I guess worked?  I can only infer that from me not losing.  There seemed to be a lot going on and I wasn't sure if I was helping or just showing up.  If that was the feeling they were going for, just being a cog in the machine, then mission accomplished.  If I was meant to feel more important, like I do in Dynasty and Samurai Warriors battles, then one of us was doing something wrong.

The Nightmare side of the title is the new mode added for the new gen versions.  It is an original story set around the same period, but involves monsters and other mythological creatures in with the normal British and French troops.  While it isn't realistic, I think it is a neat alternate timeline idea to have things like skeletons and trolls attacking both sides so they band together to combat a higher menace.  Some enemy leaders are large monsters that require special ways to take them out.  You can command these new troops types as well.  Battles in this mode seem much longer than their earlier story mode counterparts, with even the first one taking me an hour.  While the normal story stages seem more piecemeal, these are much larger struggles.  However, it was still difficult for me to know if I was doing well until the stage was almost won.

There are a lot of stages to complete, and the story mode itself has two main campaigns, depending on which side you help.  The Nightmare scenario is a third campaign, which will add more playtime.  If you like the style of game, you should get a lot of playtime out of the game.  With battles lasting up to an hour or more, just going through once is likely around 30-40 hours.  If you want to try for all the trophies, it's another one of the long haul games that will set you back over 100 hours easy.

I will admit I like the premise of Bladestorm: Nightmare.  It's not a bad game, and there are some fun parts.  I just didn't feel like it clicked with me or that I was "getting" it.  Since I would win the battles, I guess I did what I was supposed to, but it usually felt accidental or that my portion wasn't doing much.  Again, this could easily be on my end and not the game's fault.  It's a title I may go back to more in the future, as I do like the Nightmare campaign.  If you are going in looking for more of a Koei Tecmo Warriors experience, you are going to be disappointed.  As an action/strategy game, it does alright.

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