Blood Bowl 2 Preview - E3 2015
Returning to the turn-based, violent sport based on Warhammer board game
In the world of made-up video game sports, Blood Bowl is by far the most awesome. Based off of a board game set in the Warhammer universe, Blood Bowl is a sport that's one half American Football and one half gladiatorial combat. The game features many different fantasy races and specific teams within the race categories, from ogres to orcs, lizardmen to the undead.
The digital version of Blood Bowl is a faithful simulation of the board game. Players take turns moving their pieces around the board, rolling when necessary to determine the action on the field. Cyanide Studios has been faithfully working on Blood Bowl 2 since the launch of the first game and the sequel is looking significantly upgraded.
I only got to play a single game of Blood Bowl 2, so I am unable to comment about the new story-driven campaign mode or any other modes the game might offer in its finished product, but even the simple act of picking a team in Blood Bowl 2 has become more visually interesting. Blood Bowl 2 is giving the sport even more personality than the original, not only in how the teams are animated and equipped, but also in the stadiums in which you hold your matches. The stadiums can be leveled up in campaign mode, growing in size and also in customization options.
After the stadium and teams were selected, I was treated to Blood Bowl 2’s more cinematic opening. Obviously Blood Bowl 2 doesn’t have the big budget of other triple-A sports titles, but the opening shots evoke the same kind of imagery. We see players enter from the locker rooms, the camera pans over the excited crowds. The TV-style presentation has taken major strides since the first Blood Bowl.
While the graphical face lift is very vital to how Blood Bowl plays, nothing is more important than the redesigned UI. Blood Bowl is already a complex game and can be difficult to learn, but the unintuitive design in Cyanide’s first effort didn’t do anyone any favors. Much more information is displayed during Blood Bowl 2's matches. You can see how moving characters into a tackle zone can affect chances of success, you can see percentages representing your chances to roll successfully when attempting a take down or dodge. Also, when you roll, the game allows you to see the outcome in the bottom right hand corner. There’s no more trying to remember if you’re attacking a character with the block skill who will remain upright after your attack, as the game gives you this information all the time. You’ll also never have to worry about trying to remember the name of your star player, or searching for them on the map as now they are marked by the star at their feet.
The whole experience exudes the rough and tumble personality of Blood Bowl. From the font of the UI, to the way dice are selected. It’s the little things Blood Bowl 2 has done that really help the experience shine. This also feeds into bigger presentational improvements like tackle animations and touchdown celebration. The repeated animations of the first Blood Bowl are a thing of the past. It’s a whole new Blood Bowl game.
To be fair, it took me some time to adjust to the new Blood Bowl. One of the biggest reasons for this is change from mouse and keyboard to a controller. Using a PlayStation 4 controller, after getting so familiar to clicking around with a mouse, is a pretty big leap for the game, but after a few moments I felt well acquainted with the new controls.
I played as the orcs against dark elves and blitzed through the dark elf line, while they attempted to set up a deep pass behind my defense. It took only seconds for me to be reminded of the fickle nature of the random dice rolls as my blitzer fell while closing in on the opposing thrower; but at least seeing the percentages of success really helps with your decision making. At least when you’re taking a big gamble, you’ll have a better idea of your chances.
While my initial blitz fails, I am fortunate enough to get another shot before the elves attempt to heave it deep. I close in around the thrower and flush him outside of the blocking he has set up. Once he’s on the run, I hit him and force a loose ball.
Unfortunately, I am unable to maintain possession and the ball goes bouncing around the field. For a few turns both my orcs and the opposing dark elves exchange possession, but on the final turn I chance a risky pass to an orc who has nothing but green fields in front of him. He sprints for the endzone and celebrates a touchdown.
The mechanics and gameplay of Blood Bowl 2, like its predecessor, are rooted in the board game, so there really isn’t much Cyanide Studio can do to change the game in that sense, but after playing the demo I remembered why I wouldn’t want it to change. The thrill of the open fields and the bloodlust of taking out an opposing ball carrier are still alive and well. Cyanide Studios can’t alter the game itself, but they can control the world and aesthetic that game is wrapped up in, and they are looking to make major strides in that sense with Blood Bowl 2.
Blood Bowl may not be a real sport, but it is getting the real sport game treatment. Blood Bowl 2 has more customization options, a brand new engine, and an overhauled UI to enhance the gory experience for the fans. Blood Bowl 2 launches September 22nd on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.