Blood Bowl 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Nikola Suprak 10.09.2016

Review for Blood Bowl 2 on PlayStation 4

There's been a time in all our lives when, while watching an American football game, we realise it would be much more entertaining if it was being played by orcs and dark elves… Luckily, for the whole three people out there that actually have had similar thoughts, Blood Bowl 2 is here to satiate this really weird and really specific craving. For those unfamiliar with the Blood Bowl franchise, at first glance it looks like a reimagining of the Mega Drive classic, Mutant League Football. However, the two titles actually couldn't be further apart. This is a videogame adaptation of a board game and is more about turn-based strategy than actual American football. The formula is several different kinds of weird, but it is a fun weird that comes close to working. After checking out the PC version last year, Cubed3 now tackles the PlayStation 4 release.

Things aren't going well for the only human team in the Blood Bowl 2 league. Its best players are either dead or hiding (probably on account of their cowardly fear of also dying), leaving the team in shambles. This isn't the typical American football league, and gone are concerns like "deflategate," replaced instead by concerns of "actually being deflated when that enormous orc sits on you." It is a wildly vicious, brutal league, where rosters are populated by a variety of fictional races and action takes place in a turn-based setting. It is possible to either play in the aforementioned single-player story mode or in a variety of multiplayer matches, but it is advisable to tackle the single-player first. The mechanics here are so dense and so initially unintuitive that it basically requires a PhD in orc management before risking tackling what is waiting online.

Screenshot for Blood Bowl 2 on PlayStation 4

The biggest and most frustrating issue is just how much luck influences the probability of winning and losing. In board games like this, there is always a luck-based element to things, which is assumed when the game starts. In this format, however, relying so much on random chance makes things significantly less fun, especially when individual matches can take up to almost an hour to complete. Almost every single action requires a roll of the die, from scoring to blocking, to trying to injure and maim every single person that dares to cross the big bruiser on the field. This draws the action to an absolute plodding pace, which is fine on its own but will likely cause the game to appeal to only the more methodical of players. In spite of its veneer of brutality and football, this is far more about statistics, probability, and careful planning. It might look like an orc but it plays more like an accountant.

The slower place actually works in the title's favour, though, and there is a fair amount of fun to be had in meticulously planning each and every action on the field. From the best routes to what players you will try to exploit and when, each play requires careful consideration. It actually works very well, and as far as turning American football into a turn-based strategy game, it would be hard to imagine a more effective way to pull the combination off. There is a lot of depth to the actions here, and different strategies need to be adapted for different opponents. Analysing the teams, finding ways to minimise risk while maximising reward, leads to some great, cerebral fun and this does more to make the player feel like a tactician than most war simulators out there. This is why those pesky rolls of the dice makes things even more frustrating, because even the best laid plans can come crumbling down with one little errant roll. There are ways to reduce these risks, of course, and part of the fun comes from just that. Unfortunately, success often feels more dependent on luck than actual skill, and with the matches as long as they are, it can make the entire enterprise feel like a tremendous waste of time.

Screenshot for Blood Bowl 2 on PlayStation 4

Those that manage to work their way through some unlucky dice rolls, however, are going to find a tasty amount of depth waiting for them. The single-player mode is extremely basic and, at best, feels like a glorified tutorial. Working within the confines of this mode and going against a somewhat incompetent AI isn't particularly fun and most people are going to have to force their way through this mode if they want to see the end. Where the game really shines is in the online multiplayer, where it is not only possible to customise the race of the team but the minutiae of the roster, as well. The matchmaking isn't always great and even with the single-player mode there is a steep learning curve to really become competitive against the best online players. When things finally click though they really click, and it is easy to get lost in a couple of matches and forget what time it is.

The real fun comes from creating your own team, studying its strengths and weaknesses, and then deploying them against what the very best online players have to offer. There are plenty of different races to choose from, each with their own benefits, and multiple ways to modify and customise the team so even teams of the same race can wind up playing vastly different. Some are built for skill and finesse, others from strength, and others with the specific goal of injuring as many players on the other team as possible. There is a lot of strategy here, and the level of customisation involved is truly impressive. The target audience for this might be small, but will likely be rabidly devoted to what is here because so few games offer depth like this. Things like costs of the players, specific skills they have in game, and how to level up specific stats, can make a tremendous difference when the game actually starts. This, of course, makes it even more devastating when some goon comes along and disables your best player because finding ways to replace them can be unfeasible in-game, or very expensive out of it. It all comes down to risk management and careful preparation, and there is a lot of fun to be had building a team from the ground up.

Screenshot for Blood Bowl 2 on PlayStation 4

Still, the appeal for Blood Bowl 2 is likely to be very limited to a subset of a subset of gamers. The action is deliberately slow, the dice rolls have too much influence over the final actions, and it takes a significant chunk of time and planning to be even remotely competent at basic actions. Fans of board games (particularly ones in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons) might find themselves getting lost in all the careful customisation of the teams, but others might just feel lost and quit before the action really starts. There is an undeniably deep level of strategy here, but most of the fun will be had in preparing to play the games and not in the actual matches themselves. A bit more finesse in the American football part was definitely needed, because while picking out a team and customising them is a lot of fun, using them tends to be significantly less so. The novelty here wears off quickly, probably right around the first time a bad string of luck causes you to lose the first match.

Screenshot for Blood Bowl 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

With some deep mechanics and a level of micromanagement that would make even the most compulsive of table top gaming aficionados blush, it is quite easy to see how well Blood Bowl 2 would work as a board game. It is for some of these very same reasons, however, that Blood Bowl 2 is somewhat less satisfying as a videogame. The random nature of the dice rolls can lead to some serious frustration and the action is so slow and plodding that it is definitely not the kind of game someone can just jump in and play. There is certainly going to be a target audience that appreciates what this offers, and what Blood Bowl 2 does well it does really well. Grab a six-sided die, then, and some extensive spreadsheets to keep track of stats, because everyone knows it isn't a real American football game without either of those two items…

Developer

Cyanide

Publisher

Focus Home Interactive

Genre

Sport

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
K-Pop Korner - The Best of Korean Music
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie, Renan

There are 2 members online at the moment.