BladeStorm: Nightmare review

Cast you minds back to 2007 and you may recall a Koei game that wasn’t a part of its famed Warriors series; instead they brought us a more tactical battlefield romp focused on The Hundred Year War between England and France. Well eight years later and this title has re-emerged on Xbox One, complete with dozens of enhancements and a new fantasy based campaign. So, how has Bladestorm aged?

Remarkably well it turns out. Bladestorm’s unique squad based battlefield combat and command is still as intriguing and enjoyable today as it was back when it was originally released. It’s undergone a slight name change too – Bladestorm: Nightmare.

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The game certainly looks like another Warriors game but with a European setting. The initial cutscene is classic, over the top Koei, with two huge armies clashing on a battlefield, with stand-out heroes facing off against one another. However, once you’re in-game you’ll quickly come across significant differences with its combat. You alone can’t make much headway, the opposition is too strong and numerous for a lone wolf. This isn’t Dynasty Warriors, you can’t sashay across the battlefield felling hundreds of foes with leisurely swipes of your weapon, you need a squad of soldiers to fight alongside you, and allies nearby to reinforce you. Indeed then that’s what you search out: squads of soldiers that will follow you into battle. Walk up to a group of soldiers, press A and they’ll join you – the amount depends on your level. You then lead these soldiers against enemy squads, holding a shoulder button to initiate standard combat and using the face buttons to activate special attacks and defensive moves. It’s then a matter of following your objective, whether that’s capturing key points or killing enemy heroes.

It certainly follows a similar concept to the Warrior titles but how you engage the enemy is wonderfully different and the sheer amount of variety is brilliant. You can command sword and shield troops, great sword troops, archers, cavalry, etc. whatever you’ve researched for you character to command – and are deployed on the battlefield – you can control. And there’s a tactical consideration to it rather than just what you prefer, certain types of troops are more effective against other types, encouraging you to experiment and switch types often to avoid unnecessary hardship. Additionally each type have different abilities in combat, meanwhile troops such as archers have a very different perspective and approach to combat, learning and understanding these differences and how best to use them envelopes you in strategy.

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Equipping new armour and weapons, learning about troops and levelling up your command of each, are done at the tavern. You are a mercenary taking advantage of this war, fighting for whichever side takes your fancy as new contracts come in. You can even recruit your own troops and summon them on the battlefield, buy temporary buffs, and chat with NPCs. Once you’re ready for a new contract it’s back to the battlefield, as history continues to unfold, bringing historical characters such as The Black Prince and Joan of Arc into play and giving you the opportunity to shape history if your renown is great enough and you skill in battle mighty enough. It’s a short but entertaining campaign.

Fortunately on top of The Hundred Years War campaign is another, this one with a fantasy setting. An evil Joan of Arc leads an army of wizards and dragons and you must battle against them with your own demonic forces. Once again it’s an entertaining, short narrative with enough changes to drag you in thanks to the implementation of the fantasy element. And there’s plenty more additions that enhance this version over its original.

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Many of the changes are tweaks to gameplay that only fans will really notice, such as being able to assign secondary support skills to troops, or the implementation of multiple save files which can lead to other player created heroes appearing in the campaign which gather loot for you. However, the biggest implementation beyond the second campaign is multiplayer support.

You can now play through the campaigns cooperatively or have players join your story as enemy commanders. It’s a terrific edition, baffling why it wasn’t present originally but it’s certainly a case of ‘rather late than never’. The tactical play is very much like an RTS title and multiplayer is a superb fit. Furthermore, a new mode allows cooperative players to undergo specific objectives in one-off missions, such as capturing a commander, or felling a monster.  With the enhancements and new modes Bladestorm: Nightmare feels far more complete and polished.

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Unfortunately the enhancements didn’t go so far as to improve the visual much. A resolution bump, an impressive draw distance and steady frame rate gives way to ugly, basic textures, terrible looking character faces and overwhelming lighting effects. Environments fare better and particle effects with dust being kicked up helps immerse you, but it’s far from what we now expect on the Xbox One. The voice acting, script, and accents are also just as horrendous as they were back in 2007 and are truly off-putting.

Bladestorm: Nightmare is unique, fun, and better than ever, and despite the poor visuals it still comes highly recommended if you’re in the mood for a more tactical version of the Warriors experience. It can get a bit confusing trying to switch squads or even pinpoint where you and your soldiers are in larger skirmishes, but overall these are only odd nitpicks to complain about on an otherwise exceptional game. If you didn’t pick up the original title, then pick this one up immediately.

Thanks to Koei for supplying TiX with a download code

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