Blood Bowl II Preview
If you're not much of a PC gamer, you probably aren't familiar with Blood Bowl. The original came to PC back in 2009 and despite its obvious similarities to the likes of Mutant League Football, this was a hardcore turn-based strategy experience that just so happened to place deadly beasts on a football field. Given its intriguing strategic structure, it wasn't really a surprise to see the Warhammer fans flocking to the field, intent on scoring as many touchdowns as possible. Success would be a result of fantastic planning as opposed to dexterous execution, so sports fans looking for a spiritual successor to good ol' MLF will have to keep waiting. Too bad that Kickstarter campaign failed.
Anyway, Blood Bowl II is coming to consoles and PC in September and developer Cyanide is coming strong with a totally revamped and re-imagined pigskin strategy experience. They've got a new engine, an updated art style, and more depth to satisfy the die-hard strategy aficionados. The team took cues from EA Sports' iconic Madden franchise in regards to the visual presentation and interface, so the game should feel more intuitive. For instance, player cards will now deliver instant visual feedback on a unit's stats, so it'll be much easier to compare and contrast strengths and weaknesses. The entire game will be more streamlined and more cinematic, in that it'll simply be more dynamic and pleasing to the eyes.
Cyanide's goal is to make the jump into eSports and to do that, they knew they needed a more graphically appealing game. The camera will now zoom in for brutal hits and there will be a new slo-mo mechanic when kicking and throwing the ball. The idea is to deliver a game that looks like it's being played on television, but with the customization and intricacy necessary in any solid strategy title. Obviously, the game will thrive on multiplayer, which is why Cyanide is including a ton of options, leagues and tournaments, along with a bunch of mode creation options for playing with friends online or locally. Another cool feature is the fact that there's no spectator cap online. This means there's no limit to the number of people who want to check out the action. Better give ‘em a good show!
There will be a solo campaign if you're interested. In the single-player mode, you assume control of the Reikland Reavers, a team decimated by player abandonment. They're in dead last and if they want to reclaim viewers on "Cabalvision" - the fictional TV network that airs the games - they'll have to rebuild. So, you'll have to find a way to recruit talented players and build up the skills of the existing players, which could prove challenging. It'll be interesting to see how balanced the classes are; with orcs, humans, and a half-dozen other species intent on throwing down, knowing the unique abilities of each class will be critical. How you build your team will directly relate to how they perform on the field and you'll be forced to adapt as the game goes on. Sounds like a true strategy experience to me.
Last but not least, Cyanide is looking to make this new entry a bit more accessible. The fans immediately interpret this as "dumbing down" but that's not really the case; the developers are simply planning to make the game clearer. One of the common complaints concerning the original was the lack of direction and tutorials so this time, we'll get a proper lead-in tutorial. You'll go through it when you first start a new campaign, so by the time you want to try out the multiplayer, you should be well-schooled in gridiron monster strategy. Obviously, the campaign will get harder as you go and new gameplay elements will be introduced as you go, so you might want to see it through to the end. If not, just jump in the fire and go for multiplayer action.
In the end, we get a wealth of improvements and additions, a greatly enhanced visual presentation and user interface, better AI, and more accessibility. The result should be a super fun strategy title with a comical twist, and those seeking a unique game might flock to this one. Look for Blood Bowl II on September 22, which is when it will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
7/20/2015 Ben Dutka