Published on October 23rd, 2015 | by Tony Odett0
Blood Bowl 2 Review
Summary: An interesting premise held back by repetitive visuals and too deep-seated a connection to luck
In a perfect world, Blood Bowl 2 would be my perfect game. As Critically Sane’s foremost Madden and turn-based strategy aficionado, a game that blended both football and deep strategy would be right up my alley. I would enjoy throwing myself into matches that tested both my football acumen and my turn-based smarts. Unfortunately for Blood Bowl 2, there’s not not enough strategy and not enough football, as I found myself playing through matches that I survived, rather than enjoyed.
There are two game modes in Blood Bowl- a single player campaign, where you take a struggling team back to the glory of yester-year, and a create-a-team mode, where you, well, create a team, and play in single player and multiplayer leagues with it. The campaign is simultaneously a tutorial to the world of Blood Bowl, giving the player a window into what the game is, how to play, and slowly introducing mechanics match-by-match, and a test to battle through the AI, which starts off easy, but slowly ramps up to very high difficulty.. There are a lot of mechanics to the game, and Blood Bowl brings you along slowly. Too slowly, I might add, as the turnover mechanic (where the turn switches to the opponent the moment any of your players gets knocked down or fumbles the ball) isn’t introduced until the fourth match. Each match is long- nearly an hour and a half, which meant that I had played the game for nearly four hours when the most important mechanic to gameplay was introduced. It also meant I had been playing the game wrong for all that time, and had to unlearn how I thought about it.
Blood Bowl matches begin with a kickoff. Each side deploys their people, orcs, elves or whatever race your team happens to be, and then the ball is kicked. The ball is never caught, but lays there, on the field, waiting to be picked up. Actually picking up the ball is something that happens last, as a failed attempt immediately ends the turn and lets the opponent move. So, you move your phalanx into position. Then you can attempt to block the opposing players. You’re allowed one blitz (when a player can move and block in the same turn) per turn- otherwise players have to be in position before they hit their foes. Then the blocking begins.
Blocking is simultaneously very tactical and very luck dependent. Some characters (like the Ogre) are much stronger than others, and will get bonuses when they attack. Flanking characters also affect the roll (for good or ill, depending on which team they are on). Normally, you’ll get two dice to roll, and get to pick the result from one of them. You can add coaches to your team that will allow you to reroll once or twice per half, which is a nice momentum switch if you can do it (as if your tackling player gets knocked down, your opponent gains the turn). Blocking is very important- occasionally players can get knocked unconscious, pushed into the stands or even killed, and as the match continues, one side or the other can get a very significant advantage in numbers.
The ball is the center of the match. If picked up, you can throw it to other players, or try to run it for a touchdown. Running too far, catching a pass, or running in reach of opposing players causes your player to have to make saving throws. In fact, there are a lot of saving throws in the game. I think there are too many, and they led me to quite a bit of frustration. In one match, my human thrower failed to pick up a ball he was standing right next to. Twice. Then an opposing AI player ran in and picked the ball up on his first try. I used my blitz to attempt to knock him down, and failed. I had been smart enough to surround him with people, though. To my dismay, I watched as he survived four different saving throws and ran for a TD. So, to recap, I failed three rolls, and my opponent succeeded on all 5 of his. This was the point at which I realized something about the game- I wasn’t having very much fun with the actual play.
The game does a lot of good things with its presentation. The game announcers, a vampire and a massive troll, are hilarious, and the pregame in the campaign is something really worth your time for its entertainment value. There are also a number of really nice animations for touchdowns and for the pregame ceremony. Unfortunately, these are few in number, and you’ll quickly notice they become highly repetitive. The game also bizarrely lacks stat tracking. It will select an MVP after the game, but not tell you why. And I’d like to know who scores all my TDs, and who leads my team in knock outs. I’d like a relationship with my players, like something out of X-COM. That’s a feature that’s practically industry standard these days, and in a game where my leading scorer could potentially die on the field, it seems odd that it’s absent here.
Blood Bowl is nice for a few matches, but after a while, I found it grew pretty tiresome. The prevalence of luck over skill was maddening, and the matches were overly long. In 90 minutes I can play 3 games of Madden, but in Blood Bowl, I can get in maybe one game (if it’s a blow out). It makes it really difficult on multiplayer, as that is a long time to be battling a random on the interwebs. Blood Bowl 2 is a nice spectacle, and watching my Ogre slam a dwarf with his massive fist is intensely satisfying, but over the long haul, I’d prefer to spend my time playing something else.