Blackguards (PC) Review

By Javier Jimenez 04.02.2014

Review for Blackguards on PC

Hex fields. Inventories. Equipment. Skill trees. Floating damage numbers. Yes, it's an RPG, dear readers. This one is named Blackguards and it's based on colossal German RPG "Das Schwarze Auge". In English that translates to "Bigger than Dungeons and Dragons (in Germany)". Sorry, apparently, it actually means "The Dark Eye". English speakers may be more familiar with the world as "Realms of Arkania". Old-timers will remember these RPGs as some of the more complex, challenging PC RPGs of the mid 1990s.

Shocker: Blackguards is every bit as dense and challenging as those classics. For instance, when starting the game the player is warned that expert mode, which allows skill selection, is only for the truly core RPG gamer. Players should not take that advice lightly.

There is no leveling up in Blackguards; only AP - a resource used to buy stats, skills, talents, and special abilities. There are also no take backs. It is very easy to make a character with a couple of useless points in everything, a master of nothing. The problem is Blackguards does not reward multi-functionality. Combat is difficult to the point that characters must be built optimally, as even a maxed out warrior with max stats will find him or herself fumbling attacks regularly, and that means putting all points into a primary weapon and skills and abilities that utilize that weapon.

It sounds easy, but when presented with four screens, each consisting of dozens of choices, and each choice holding multiple ranks, it can get overwhelming.

Screenshot for Blackguards on PC

Overwhelming is a good way to describe a lot of the combat scenarios, as well. "Get to the end of this hallway" is a simple goal. "Get to the end of this hallway, and there are a bunch of spiders between the party and the goal" is a simple challenge. "Get to the end of this branching hallway, and there are a bunch of spiders between the party and the goal, and the spiders respawn infinitely in twos and threes, and the hallway is only two squares wide, so don't let multiple spiders get in the way, else be stuck forever" is Blackguards.

Frustrating would be another good word to describe many of Blackguard's scenarios. "Cheap and unfair and ********" would be words that might also be appropriate.

The Banner Saga is a game that's very similar to Blackguards; also a turn-based, grid-based tactical RPG. The Banner Saga had a single fight that many users felt was poorly balanced, overly difficult, and unfair, for which Stoic's game was docked points by many reviewers. Blackguards has many more scenarios that are similar to that fight. The Banner Saga is less than 10 hours. Blackguards is 25.

Screenshot for Blackguards on PC

Blackguards is often difficult and often rewarding because of that difficulty. However, it is sometimes irritating, frustrating, and even maddening. As an example, in one particularly difficult encounter, the big, bad enemy will, at the start of the fight, instantly cast a "frenzy" spell (which causes the characters to lose control, randomly attacking anything within range). Sometimes two of the party will be afflicted, and if it's the best two then the fight is a lost cause. Reload the scenario and perhaps one or none of the party will be afflicted.

Ignoring the terror of the frenzy spell, the map has infinitely spawning monsters, and the big, bad enemy will continually pound the party with spells. Plus, the ground is covered in toxic poison that, with every step, will damage the players (and only the players) walking over it. The big, bad enemy is also covered in an anti-ranged damage shield. To win, one must destroy not just the big, bad enemy, but also all of the infinitely respawning enemies that respawn at different parts of the map (which is covered in the aforementioned poison goo).

Screenshot for Blackguards on PC

This is without having spoken of numerous bugs, AI issues, poorly-translated text, slow enemy animations that bring the pace of certain battles to a long, boring crawl, the near universal constant of poison in almost all mid to late game scenarios (the party will never not be poisoned), or other design imbalances. However, the point has definitely been made, so before this review is over, it would only be fair to talk about some of the nicer features of Blackguards.

Notably, the art style is a plus. The overworld in particular is a thing of beauty, represented by an old fashioned hand drawn map with stylised clouds and and stylised borders. Very nice stuff. Player models are nicely detailed. Music is decent fantasy stuff, though never throwing out any truly memorable tunes.

As far as the gameplay, after 10 hours when the player finally shapes a character into a real fighting force, able to pound out massive hits to the enemy, cast battlefield-wide damage spells, and other impressive abilities, and finally figures out the best combinations of stats, skills and abilities, that's a good moment. Thankfully, the story is interesting and compelling enough to carry the player to that point and beyond.

Screenshot for Blackguards on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Blackguards is not not being recommended. In fact, it is being recommended. However, it is only being recommended to the right people. Those people are the true hardcore RPG fanatics - people who will put up with sadistic combat scenarios that will cause most other gamers to quit and load up something a little less painful.






Turn Based RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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