TVGB’s preview of Blackguards – available via Steam Early Access

A tactical, turn-based RPG, with sweet graphics and an in-depth character customization system???
By golly I’ll take 4!

Is what I said after reading about Blackguards, Daedalic Entertainment’s first turn-based RPGit is currently available through Early Access on Steam for $22.49 (10% off!). After getting my hands on it however, I’m singing a different tune.

Before diving headfirst into my preview, let me provide a small disclaimer: I LOVE role playing games and really wanted to like Blackguards, and to be fair, I didn’t dislike it. It just looked better on paper (and trailers) than it did when I finally started playing it.

I’ve logged about eight hours in the first, and only, chapter of Blackguards that has been released thus far. Chapters Two through Four will be released periodically during the next couple of months, with the final addition, Chapter Five, coming at the end of January 2014.

Upon starting the game, the first thing you do is create your character. You’re almost immediately brought to the character creation screen, where you can choose from three different classes and several different looks:

  • The Warrior is the first class listed. Warriors, from a personal standpoint, seem like the harder class to go with. They’re good at using melee weapons and tanking but aren’t able to use ranged weapons and have very little knowledge in other skills.
  • The second class is the Mage. Mages are masters of arcane power, with the ability to protect allies, smite enemies with vast elemental magics and heal the wounded in battle. But without their magic…they got nothing.
  • Hunters are the final class available in the first chapter of Blackguards. Hunters seem to be a good all-around class. Proficient in both range and melee weapons, experienced in the wilderness and skilled in many things but a master of none.

Once you choose your class, you can pick your gender, unique look and declare a name. Then, after that strong opening, the game takes a small dive.

The story of Blackguards is a confusing one that progresses too fast for its own good. At the very beginning of the game you’re thrown in prison in one scene, and then broken out during the next. A cool aspect of the story is that at times, you choose what to say or do, which changes the outcome of your character’s current situation. The choices you make aren’t always easy ones either. Often, they are not even black and white, but rather black and blacker. But this shouldn’t surprise you, as your character isn’t the most upstanding citizen around (he’s a murder suspect) and neither is the company he keeps.

The two party members you get in Chapter One of Blackguards aren’t exactly what you would call “heroes.” The first to enter your group is named Naurim. He’s a hot headed, battle hardened Dwarf who thinks a golden dragon is plotting to destroy us all. Needless to say, he was thrown in jail for being delusional. Delusional or not, Naurim is rather crafty, breaks out of his prison cell, decides you shouldn’t be there either and frees you. How nice of him. For a loony.

Dwarf in hand, the two of you fight your way through the prison and cross paths with the silver tongued, flamboyant mage, Zurbaran. Zurbaran is wealthy, privileged, and used to the finer things in life. Being from another country however, he was branded a spy, thrown in prison and had his magic sealed off.  You free him as well; as you’re going to need all the help you can get fighting your way out of prison.

The combat system is a weak point in Blackguards. It is sort of boring, needlessly complicated and half the spells and abilities you try to use always seem to miss, despite what the accuracy percentage says before the attack. It’s just not very tactical for a tactics game.

The ring of options you use in battle is also overly complex. You don’t just have spells; you have four different spell categories which then expand, showing the spells you can use. You also have far too many physical attack options. There are single weapon attacks, double weapon attacks, and special ability attacks. While this vast number of combat options may be great in other games, they just don’t feel very intuitive in Blackguards.

Don’t get me wrong, Blackguards isn’t all bad. It boasts a phenomenal, pen and paper style character customization sheet, which helps keep your party unique and progressing as you play through the game. The visuals are also something worth mentioning. Blackguards offers players amazing graphics and battles are kept fresh due to the assortment of different maps to fight on and put your party’s various skills to use.

Despite everything I find subpar in the game, something about Blackguards keeps drawing me in. Do I think it’s the best game ever? Of course not. I still believe the game reads better than it actually plays. But I am looking forward to (and am interested in) the direction Daedalic Entertainment is taking with the game. Love it or hate it, Blackguards is definitely a game worth keeping an eye on. Try it for yourself and download it through Steam’s Early Access for only $22.49. If it’s your kind of game, expect to see Blackguards, Chapter Two, at the end of this month. To learn more, check out the game’s official website located here.