Blackguards 2: Daedalic gains experience, levels up

January 19, 2015

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The original Blackguards had some problems, but the combat system wasn’t one of them. Blackguards 2 retains the same deep, satisfying hex-based combat as its predecessor, and layered on top of that combat is the story of Cassia of Tenos, a noblewoman betrayed by her husband and wrongfully imprisoned. She needs to escape, raise an army and reclaim her kingdom.

Instead of slowly uncovering the map, everything is available at the conclusion of the intro chapter, and the world map is full of places to conquer that grant bonuses to your party. Each landmark offers a different bonus and is a different level of difficulty. The smart strategy here is to always attack the easiest thing, getting strong along the way. I tried to do that, but knowing that I could probably tackle a harder location and grab an upgrade to my mercenaries early making everything substantially easier is hard to turn down. Blackguards 2 understands and accommodates that desire; go where you want.

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The story and the mercenary system do one thing, propel you from one fight to the next, and the combat is fantastic. Starting from the prologue — which also serves as a tutorial — you’ll learn the basics of movement, melee attacks and how things are more interactive than you’d get from an XCOM or a Final Fantasy Tactics. Blackguards 2 is less a game that uses the Dark Eye system and more a Dark Eye campaign come to life on your PC. I can see miniatures on a table and a friend acting as dungeon master when I play Blackguards 2.

In addition to hitting things with clubs and casting fireballs, I found myself using the objects in the terrain. The hexes are always visible, so it’s not terribly difficult to position troops to defend a natural choke point instead of sitting in the open waiting to be surrounded and beaten by six thugs simultaneously. You’ll have to deal with ranged enemies at the same time, but making half of the enemy force wait their turn feels great. I know these aren’t exactly the tactics of Sun Tzu, but using my head in conjunction with my sword is rewarding.

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The difficulty ramp feels better here than in the original. The mercenary system allows me to bring a spearman along on a fight, even if I don’t have one in my main party, and the tutorial chapter does a phenomenal job of slowly rolling out character attributes and abilities. By the end of it, I had a great idea of what Cassia was good at and how I could most effectively use her in combat. Teaching a pen-and-paper role-playing system is difficult. Teaching a dense one with a ton of character customization is even more so. And that’s what Daedalic managed to do. I typically play a game’s tutorial, learn what I can and then immediately play it again to learn more. Here, I didn’t feel I needed to do that. Instead, I felt well-equipped to continue to the story and see what Blackguards 2 really had to offer.

I don’t have a regular role-playing group, and even if I did, it’s hard to make schedules mesh. Blackguards 2 makes me feel like I’m playing a physical game with the arguments cut out and no need to keep my character sheet handy.

Pros: Characters are customizable, tactical play is rewarded, mercenary system lets you round out your party
Cons: Seemingly random slowdown, battles can get crowded and take a long time to complete

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.