Do you remember the days when video games were sprawling with complexity and slightly confusing level-up options? Blackguards is a turn-based RPG that seeks to evoke the deep strategy and intricacy of games such as Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age: Origins. Unfortunately, Blackguards is in some ways a study in why video games have moved on.
Blackguards starts with the main character in prison, falsely accused of murder. There are some hints of an interesting antihero story, but the people who put you behind bars are so comically evil that there’s no question you’re simply a standard video game protagonist.
The voice acting is wonderfully overdone – the evil bailiff laughing maniacally, the main character with a confident protagonist voice, and the dwarf companion with the same, vaguely Scottish accent shared by dwarves throughout fantasy video games. The voices do a good job of supporting the story, but they’re so over the top that one wonders if Blackguards is simply poking fun at games that take themselves too seriously.
The combat is clearly where most development time was spent. While towns in Blackguards are essentially menu screens with a pretty picture of a town in the background, every combat encounter takes place in a full 3D environment. The battle-field is a grid of hexes, and characters take turns consisting of a move action then one attack or item use, clearly taking several pointers from Dungeons and Dragons.
Blackguard’s skill system is even more retro – the weapon proficiency for longswords is completely separate from the proficiency for fencing swords. It’s often hard to tell if the skill points you spend are making any difference in gameplay.
Blackguards captures the subtle complexities of many older games, but doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the crowd – the story and setting are clichéd and overused, and the combat isn’t fresh or engaging enough in itself to recommend the game. It’s a solid experience, but what today’s gaming market needs.