REVIEW / Blackguards 2 (PC)

 

The second installment of the Blackguards franchise takes place three years after the events of the first game as a new protagonist takes the stage. Her name is Cassia of Tenos and she was considered one of the most beautiful women in all of Mengbilla. Prominent slave trader and arena master, Marwan (bad guy from Blackguards), ends up marrying her as a sign of his status. Eventually, Cassia’s new hubby leaves her for dead in an underground labyrinth beneath his arena filled with giant poisonous spiders and criminals. She goes missing for years and is believed dead. During this time Marwan wins the favor of Cassia’s friends and family and seizes the Shark Throne.

The story doesn’t end there though. Cassia, armed with only a strong will to survive, discovers a treastise (book) called the “Good Ruler.” This book teaches her how to rule a land and lead people. This treatise starts it all…Cassia eventually masters the labyrinth and escapes it. She comes out stronger, albeit a little crazy and thirsty for revenge. She devises a plan now to overthrow Marwan by any means necessary and claim his Shark Throne for herself. In order to accomplish this, she teams up with the scoundrels from the last game: the Dwarf Naurim, the wizard Zurbaran and the ruthless gladiator Takate. Time was not kind to our “heroes” though. Naurim is retired and out of shape, Zurbaran is not as confident in his abilities as he once was and Takate has grown bored of killing.

 

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This is the new Base Camp area.

 

In terms of gameplay, Blackguards 2 feels very similar to its predecessor. A hexadecimal battle-map, pen-and-paper style character customization and traditional tactical gameplay. Check, check and check. There are some significant upgrades though compared to the last game. For starters, attacks no longer miss 99% of the time. In fact, attacks no longer miss at all! Which is great news because in the previous game you could be positioned right behind your target and STILL miss your attack/spell. Another feature in Blackguards 2 is the Base Camp area (seen above). In Base Camp, Cassia can chat with her allies, buy gear and torture/kill people. It has a little something for everyone! Hiring mercenaries to join you in battle is an awesome new feature too. Cassia has a bunch of influence and can command a small army to take with her into battle. Up to nine Mercenaries may be deployed at once. They are not just generic swordsmen either; mercenary classes include mages and assassins too.

Character customization has also been streamlined. Previously, upgrading your characters was a hassle as there were too many abilities and options to choose from. This time, leveling up your character is more fun than work. Additionally, there is a new type energy resource called “Endurance.” Endurance is to warriors what mana is to mages. Gone are the days of spamming Naurim’s abilities in combat. Players are have to make smart decisions when using skills now. The biggest change in Blackguards 2 however is the “Open Strategy Map.” This map (seen below) shows various points and locations that Cassia and her army can seize. This is how Cassia extends her rule and pursues the Shark Throne. Cities don’t stay conquered forever though. Which brings up the last new feature. For the first time in the Blackguards franchise, you actually defend your own territory. If you fail though, you’ll lose control of the point and it will be even more difficult to capture next time.

 

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The Open Strategy Map. Notice the various points you can take over.

 

The story of Blackguards 2 is one of revenge, and Cassia is vengeance personified. She’s ruthless, disfigured and wears a scary spider mask/helmet thing. You can’t get anymore “evil mastermindy” than that. She has a plan and needs the skills of the three anti-heroes to pull it off. That is what makes Blackguards 2 so interesting. The characters, as ruthless and dangerous as they are, end up teaming-up and work together to take over a country. It gets pretty intense at times. The story doesn’t evolve much more past that though. While Blackguards 2 boasts over 20+ hours of gameplay but most of that is really mindless battling.

 

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Battling in Blackguards 2 is visually a treat. Attacks and spells look and feel so exciting. but the pace of battle is incredibly slow. It takes an inordinate amount to complete even the most basic of battles. This was an issue in Blackguards originally and while the pace is much better this time around it’s still not perfect. The biggest offender in battle, oddly enough, are when the characters physically moving around the map. It takes so long to move from Point A to Point B and most of the time enemies move for no reason at all! That brings up another issue, For a game focused around tactical combat I wish the NPCs had better AI. Fortunately you increase the difficulty a fair amount. Easy does feel easy. Hard feels pretty hard. Regardless, it’s not fun to think that out of the 10 hours I’ve put into Blackguards 2, only a few hours of it was actual plot development. The rest of the time was spent in combat.

 

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Blackguards 2 has an exciting plot and it’s always fun to see “bad guys” work together. But while this sequel is an upgrade to the first game, it is by no means perfect. The story feels a bit padded, stuffed with needlessly long battles and flat plot points. Still fun though! I had a blast playing Blackguards 2 especially since I had played the first game. I truly appreciated all the upgrades and new features it offered. The first game is not necessary to play before this one. You will just get to see Naurim, Zurbaran and Takate in their prime and learn more about the history of the land you are in. Fans of tactical RPGs will definitely enjoy the combat system and most of the gameplay in Blackguards 2. Pick it up today on Steam for $34.99. If you wish to learn more about the first game in the series, Blackguards, then you can check out my early access preview of it here on TVGB.

 

 

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