When a company known for creating rich, deep and well-produced point-and-click adventures decides to venture into the market of a turn-based RPG you do one of two things: either worry that it’s going to play absolutely diabolically (after all they don’t have a track record for crafting RPGs), or you sit up and listen to what could quite possibly be an excellent story-driven adventure. The answer you’re looking for is the latter, and don’t you worry about those RPG mechanics, because Daedalic Entertainment are drawing upon the immensely popular German tabletop, The Dark Eye.
This isn’t just any entry into The Dark Eye series though, Blackguards casts you in the role of criminals and murderers who have set out to help rid the world of evil that plagues mankind. It may just sound like a story with no real substance, but Daedalic promise that each character in your party has its own specific traits that will reflect how they do battle, interact with others or handle certain situations. And, because these are criminals you’re playing with, the story and world adapts to your actions – or lack of – as you can leave damsels to be in distress while you keep busy with something else. You’re rarely forced into playing through something that you don’t want to play through.
We weren’t treated too too much of the story and world in our preview presentation, but we did get to take a peek into how towns have become hubs for you to rest in and work from. Here you’ll grab help for hire, extra quests and some main quest objectives, and do trade with a variety of traders. Interestingly, Daedalic decided that it wasn’t worthwhile making these into 3D explorable towns layered with NPCs as feedback from testers showed that it only slowed down the pace of play. It’s a shame too as this is one visually beautiful title.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that, seeing as Memoria is a lavish hand-drawn affair and so is Goodbye Deponia, but as everything here is a 3D modelled world, it seems a shame to only ever utilise that for dungeons and battle. But, I’m not going to argue if it keeps the pace of play up, I know all to well that I get sucked into doing small, menial tasks in towns in RPGs.
So, I guess what you really want to know about is the combat and customisation options that Blackguards has on offer – after all, poor combat is the real killer for an RPG. You’ll be relieved to hear that Blackguards has all the individual character stat tweaking you could wish for. There are, of course, pre-defined characters you can take out straight from the off if you’re not familiar with The Dark Eye series, but for the veterans out there who know what they want, then you’ve got the full raft of customisation that you deserve.
Battles are also a rather enjoyable affair of trading blows and deceiving your foe. Using a hex-based movement and battle grid, numbers jump from heads as you slay your foes, letting you relish the damage you’re inflicting on your opponent as dice throws are made in the back end of the engine. You also won’t get tired of battle thanks to the 190 battle maps in the game, each with multiple interaction objects that can be used as weapons, cover, to create traps, or just to make life easier by placing some distance between you and your opponent.
But how do these objects work? After all, you don’t want to just pick up another sword off the ground or cause a little landslide in a rocky cavern. Here in Blackguards you’ll be able to see what’s interactive by simply tapping the spacebar – a feature prevalent in all Daedalic titles. Once you’ve identified your point of interaction it’s time to have some fun. One example we saw was cutting the rope to a chandelier hung above the room, allowing us to crush all those below when it fell. Another saw us in a cavern, avoiding stalactites as they worked loose and fell down below due to our combat. It’s genius use of the environment, and really seems to change the pace and feel of battle, but we’ll have to see if it eventually becomes tiresome or not on repeat visits.
While still a little way off it’s November release, with placeholder art and sounds still in the works, Blackguards certainly looks promising. It’s also interesting to hear that, while it’s certainly coming to PC and Mac, they are in talks about bringing it to console too – somewhere it’s surely bound to grab a far larger audience than it currently might. Still, even if it doesn’t make it beyond the PC and Mac market, this is shaping up to be yet another excellent entry from Daedalic Entertainment.