Blood Bowl II
Developed by Cyanide
Published by Focus Home Interactive
Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One
Buckle up, it’s history time. Blood Bowl was originally conceived as a tabletop fantasy sports game, loosely based on American Gridiron Football. It was created by Jervis Johnson for the British games company Games Workshop, who were responsible for other tabletop games, such as Warhammer, and Warhammer 40K.
After being mired in setbacks and legal battles, Blood Bowl was finally brought to the PC in October of 2010; under the name Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition. This edition was generally well received by critics and fans of the tabletop version, and a sequel was later announced for release in 2015. Blood Bowl II was released on September 22, 2015, again to mostly positive reviews.
Whew, there we go.
As I stated earlier, Blood Bowl is a tabletop fantasy sports game, loosely based on American Gridiron Football. Each team begins with 11 players on their side of the field, in whatever formation they like. The computer then flips a coin, randomly assigning heads and tails to either side. If you win the coin toss, you decide whether to kick (defense) or receive (offense).
On offense, your objective is to take the ball and carry it down the field into the end zone. On defense, your objective is to stop the ball from entering your end zone; preferably picking the ball up yourself, after you’ve laid out the player carrying it. That’s where the incredibly deep strategy of the game comes in.
I’m not going to get into the strategies here, but just understand this: strategy gamers will LOVE the complexity of the game. There are so many different ways to play this game that it will leave your head spinning. Do you play a heavily defensive game with Orcs? A quick running, high stepping offense with Elves? The choice is yours with all the different teams in the game.
The game looks beautiful, the characters are well modeled, and the stadiums are full of life. All 8 teams look different from each other, and each has different options for their apperance at each position. The armor for the teams all have a very ‘rough’ look to them, hearkening back to the time period the game takes place in.
The animation is really put on display during the cut scenes of the game. Players can perform moves called “blocks”, wherein the player knocks a defender down. Cyanide really nailed it in this aspect. The way the player lowers themselves, the camera panning around for the best angle, slow motion kicking in… then the player launches up, helmet first, knocking the defender up and onto their back. It’s a beautifully crafted display of power that translates well to the user.
The sound is another place that Cyanide knocked it out of the park. The heavy-hitting opening theme really sets the tone for what you’re about to get into. It has all the elements and panache to really get your heart going. Once you’ve hit the field, the sound effects really bring the game home. The sounds of the crowd, tackling, dodging, celebrating – everything feels ‘authentic’ in a game that relies so heavily on verisimilitude to keep it together.
The HUD is one area where I feel the game does fall down a little bit. The action is incredibly fast paced on the field, partly due to the turns being timed. With this, actions that are automatically performed by the computer, such as dice rolling (a major component of the game), are usually relegated to the bottom right corner, and no mention as to why something is or isn’t happening. You quickly pick up on why things do what they do, but it’s a small issue. Apart from that, things are easy to understand; downed characters, blitzing characters, knocked out characters, etc.
As far as game modes go, the game is very full. It has the standard campaign, which works as a sort of tutorial, while still serving as a full featured story. It also has the ability to just play matches, either against the AI, locally, or online. You can join leagues online; either the official Cyanide league, or any number of user-created ones. With the online leagues, your team is persistent; it will age, players will retire, etc. Statistics are tracked throughout the life of the team. You can also run a solo league, which tasks you with creating a team, and then defeating the increasingly difficult AI opponents.
Overall, Blood Bowl II is a very inviting experience. In my playtime, I went from being somewhat green to understanding some of the subtle strategies employed by my opponents. Admittedly, it has a learning curve, but the game rewards patience with an incredibly deep and complex strategy game. If you love strategy, you will love this game.