Bladestorm: Nightmare Review

By Shawn Collier on May 19, 2015

Koei Tecmo's original version of Bladestorm back during the PS3's early years was a bit of a departure from the normal strategy games the publisher released back during that time. Most known for their Dynasty Warriors franchise, which favors going all-out with your character's physical prowess, Bladestorm was different in that it favored using brawn to conquer the battlefield. Taking place during the Hundred Years War between England and France, it provided a different take apart from the Eastern-influenced setting the Dynasty Warriors franchise was known for.

Now in 2015, Koei Tecmo is creating a revamped and somewhat of a sequel-ish take on the original PS3 version with the subtitle Nightmare, where supernatural elements such as goblins and magicians provide a different take on the original historical storyline. Is that enough to warrant a return down memory lane for veterans of the original or newcomers who missed out on the original release? That depends on what you're looking to get out of it.

After starting up the game, you'll be faced with the choice of creating a mercenary utilizing a pretty deeply involved character creation system that is in charge of leading a group of specialized troops. Similar to the Warriors franchise, your goal is to travel from one enemy base to another and defeat enough enemies to reveal the base's commander. After defeating said commander your side will take over the base, giving your side more reinforcements as you make your way to complete the map's objective and clear the stage.

The twist here compared to the Warriors franchise is that you control a squad instead of a sole fighter. Like in the Warriors franchise, you have access to special moves which are attached to a cool down timer, so you need to execute them at the right time. New to Nightmare is the pair-up mechanic which lets you pair up with a fellow mercenary either in single-player or with a fellow person in the online multiplayer mode.

This sounds like a great strategic advancement over the Warriors franchise, but how the developers implemented it feels lacking. There's a strength/weakness system in place where certain weapons are better against others (and vice-versa), but generally after levelling a little bit you can easily go into battle with a "weaker" weapon and come out relatively unscathed. And even if you did end up nearing defeat you can easily retreat from the battle and return with another more suitable squad, so there's no real consequence for not thinking ahead.

This also plays into issues with the AI, which if you've played any of the Warriors games you know is relatively dumb and opens itself up to attack regularly. This works to some degree in that franchise since you're an overpowered sole fighter who can deal large flashy combos that do a lot to hide this, but the squad-based mechanics of Bladestorm makes for a much slower battle, especially with the much larger battlefields compared to Dynasty Warriors. The game also has different upgrades to apply to your squad, but you can easily just level up your offensive and defensive skills and leave the others alone and still have a relatively easy time of things.

The Hundred Years War story makes mention of all of the proper highlights one would expect, but these historical touches mesh badly with the mercenary angle mentioned earlier. Since you can choose which side you fight for, one would think this would let you determine the outcome of the battles. But often times the narrative will overwrite your victories in favor of the actual historical outcome. This makes sense from a historical perspective, but it makes the player feel like their accomplishments mean nothing. I wouldn't say one approach is better than the other, but finding some sort of middle ground would have worked better here than having the two options clash with each other.

As for the new Nightmare scenario, it does change up the mechanics a fair bit. Instead of the medieval atmosphere from the Hundred Years War mode, this mode features fantasy elements including monsters such as dragons and goblins. Eschewing the 10-minute skirmish restriction, battles now shift their objectives as the battle progresses, as well as some maps even expanding as more enemies flood into the field. That said, the gameplay mechanic issues present in the Hundred Years War mode are still present here, so those who expect major modifications will be disappointed. The mode does allow importing your characters from the Hundred Years War mode as well as the original PS3 version if you still have that save, so it's a nice touch that your progress elsewhere isn't forgotten here.

Final Thoughts

Bladestorm: Nightmare feels like a game that is trying to both branch out into new ideas but still keeping itself tied down with its old mechanics, even when said mechanics detract from what works well. If you're a fan of the original, the new ideas in the new Nightmare mode will entertain you, but those who disliked the original or prefer the one-person killing machine feeling of the Dynasty Warriors franchise won't care for this newest iteration of the Bladestorm franchise.

The new Nightmare mode adds some interesting tweaks to the battle progression not found in the original game's mode.
Can import your original Bladestorm PS3 save or carry over your save from Nightmare's original game's mode.
The new pair-up mechanic is a nice touch.
If you disliked the original, it's more of the same in this iteration of the game.
Feels like your mercenary actions are discarded by the overarching narrative.
AI is still lacking.
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