It’s not the first time that we’ve seen games take on a hybrid approach to genres. There’s the Borderlands franchise with a fusion of FPS and RPG; and Destiny which takes those two and adds MMO into the mix. For games to do this properly, they need to harness the features and capabilities of the genres in question, and sadly, Blackguards 2 doesn’t utilise them to its advantage.
Blackguards 2 is a strategy role playing game (SRPG) exclusive to PC. Developed by Daedalic Entertainment, it is a sequel to Blackguards which released in 2013.
The story behind Blackguards 2 starts off with the protagonist known as Cassia and lifts off from the ending of Blackguards, where she is thrown into a dungeon by her husband, Marwan. After suffering in the dungeon for four years with bites from poisonous spiders (known as Corapias) that have disfigured her face, Cassia manages to escape with vengeance as her key motive on her mind. For her plan to come to fruition, Cassia must gather allies, conquer cities and progress through the world map in pursuit of Marwan.
The gameplay in Blackguards 2 has the stock-standard features that you would find in an RPG. It has a talent tree for specialising your hero, you can loot gear from objects in the world and you receive rewards from completing quests. The key difference that sets Blackguards 2 from other RPGs is the strategic turn-by-turn element in the game. This is seen through battles with world encounters and the use of the hex system.
The hex system is a set of hexagonal grids that appear on the floor which is used to move your character. It is also used for combat as well as selecting objects. Your character is restricted to how far they can travel on each turn so that party and enemy moves are rotated in a fair manner. Throughout the game, Blackguards 2 is highly critical on the choices you make. This could be during combat where you select your next move or selecting a response during a quest. Make a poor choice and your questing experience could noticeably become more difficult.
Through the duration of the game, you accrue characters to be members of your party, which allow for an interesting twist for the gameplay. Members can be recruited through quests and also further the RPG mantra to the game as you can customise their gear, weapons and skills.
Blackguards 2 does have flaws though, and they’re quite fundamental. The story is tailored for an RPG only and the gameplay fits the genre like a glove, but the story does not suit the turn-by-turn strategy genre. The story can get quite immersive and it just wants to pull you in and find out more on Cassia and her quest for vengeance, only for the turn-by-turn element of the game to hold you back. There were many times I felt like I was being restricted by the slowness of combat, especially if party members were in play or if there were trash mobs to kill. Each party member and enemy takes one turn at a move, and rotates to the next entity until the enemy or enemies are defeated. Understandably, this ends up being a very long and arduous battle for something which should be very simple.
On top of that, the hex system is not well designed and is slightly buggy. If you want to move your character to a position that has loot, a lever or an object, it has to be done in two steps and not in a direct manner. This is because the game does not immediately recognise your character being next to the object you want to select. At times this can get quite frustrating, especially if you’re in combat as every command to move uses up your turn.
Blackguards 2 offers players a story that fits well with the likes of a standard RPG title, but with its fusion with turn-by-turn strategy, the game is let down by poor utilisation of an inappropriate genre.