An Epic Stalemate | Bladestorm: Nightmare Review
A war rages amongst two warring countries (France and England) and their allies over the rightful successor of the French Throne, a war composed of various battles lasting a total of 116 years. Such a monumental battle which gave us figureheads of history such as Joan of Arc and Edward The Black Prince amongst others should be immensely fun and exhilarating to play; but Bladestorm: Nightmare, a remaster of the 2007 game, just doesn’t hit the right notes.
Bladestorm: Nightmare features two separate campaigns (The Hundred Years’ War and Nightmare) which allow you to use unlocks across one another. The Hundred Years’ War portion, unchanged content-wise from the previous title, allows you to command up to four mercenary armies and take sides in the larger battles of the Hundred Years’ War. As a mercenary, you can choose either France or England and their allies. Being able to choose either side on a whim is nice in context, but it minimizes the intensity of each battle, forcing the game to become quite gamey. I first chose which side I wanted to win based upon altering the course of history. But shortly, as more and more scenarios within the Hundred Years’ War unlocked, my strategy changed to just picking whatever gave me the most skill points to upgrade my troops. It is very effective gamewise, but completely minimizes the impact each battle actually had.
The Nightmare Scenario introduces various new fantastical archetypes such as Dragons, goblins and the like appearing during the battles between the English and French. A nice twist they employed was having the oft-named savior of the French side controlling the fantastical creatures. Further separating itself from the main Hundred Years’ campaign is the chapter structure. In The Hundred Years’ War campaign, you choose each quest from a tavern, but the Nightmare scenario features fluid system. Once you capture, defend or escort your objective, you are given another objective. Once you complete a set number of objectives, the chapter ends, and you can go back to the main menu to upgrade your troops or continue onto the next chapter. This structure is far better than that of The Hundred Years’ War side as some of those quests can be finished in mere minutes, where the Nightmare Scenario allots chapter lasting 10-20 minutes each.
Bladestorm: Nightmare lauds itself as a real-time strategy game with intense combat and, for the most part, it succeeds in those two endeavors. Although, the strategy doesn’t really come into play until you unlock the ability to command more than one army. When commanding multiple armies, you can “zap” amongst them to better strategize against the A.I. Zapping also can be used to freshen up the combat as choosing to play as a swordsmen does get tiresome. The ability to zap does liven things up a bit, but if you don’t have access to another commander, you can switch your style with those in the general vicinity. While being able to switch your style relatively on the fly, it doesn’t go far enough to make each battle feel unique. The combat becomes stale rather quickly as the strategy begins to diminish once you rank up your character.
You can rank up your character by using them in battle and by gaining exp/rewards after a battle. You can spend your skill points to rank up your currently equipped book (sword, spears, rapiers, horses and so on) to further increase your advantage on the battlefield.
When conquering larger bases and forts, once you clear all the enemies around the outside of the base, a base commander appears. The base commander has a shield that you must deplete before actually killing him to take the area over. Sounds interesting, but simply outnumbering him makes the task a cake walk. Once you do finish out an objective you get a letter grade and your spoiler from war. It’s relatively easy to get a B or higher, but having said that I haven’t really seen a reason to worry about the letter grade.
The gameplay is, like its presentation, just okay. It doesn’t do anything particularly exciting nor egregious. It is fun commanding up to 200 characters, but the battles are so large it becomes less thought-provoking strategically and more so overwhelming than anything.
For as large as the maps are in Bladestorm: Nightmare, the graphics are just okay. It’s not a show piece for the hardware though, and it would be nice if the image IQ was a bit more crisp. When battles feature hundreds of characters, the framerate does hold steady, but the battles become so chaotic everything kind of gets jumbled together. It’s extremely easy to lose where your actual mercenary is within the fray.
Reviewed on PS4 (also available on Xbox One)