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Codex Review RPG Codex Review: Blackguards

Crooked Bee

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Tags: Blackguards; Daedalic Entertainment

Daedalic Entertainment's Blackguards took us by surprise. Who would have expected a German adventure game studio to make a great tactical RPG, of all things? And yet, as you may recall, our early preview of the game was, nitpicking aside, positively glowing. It's taken us long enough since that preview and the game's official release in January, but we are now ready to present our final verdict on Daedalic's RPG debut, penned again by Darth Roxor and felipepepe. Have a snippet on encounter design and then be sure to read the full review:

Darth Roxor: Fighting. There’s a lot of it. In fact, it is pretty clear to me that if you don’t like combat-centric RPGs, you will not like Blackguards. However, if you do like RPG combat, this game presents a very rare treat that is fairly unique within the spectrum of the cRPG genre, and I can say that with a straight face. It achieves that thanks to a few factors, the primary one being its excellent encounter design.

You see, Blackguards seems to have a different design philosophy behind it compared to other RPGs. When you think about “difficulty” in other games in the genre, the first thing that comes to mind is usually those shitty solutions used by incompetent developers, like enemies with ridiculously bloated HP that kill you in one hit. Others will just keep the one-hit-kill part. More competent ones will come up with superior enemy AI and varied combat encounters. Daedalic obviously went for the last solution, but even then, their approach is still considerably different from other tacticool games you might have played, since it supplements mixed groups of enemies possessing different strengths and weaknesses with complex environmental interaction, that makes many of the game's fights feel a lot like puzzles. You will often be outnumbered and outgunned, against enemies armed with things like poisoned weaponry and traps, but you'll be able to offset that with careful tactical consideration and tool management. [...]

Felipepepe: I said it in the preview, and I’ll repeat it here: Daedalic’s vast experience in adventure games can be fully felt in the way they approach encounter design. Baldur’s Gate 2 is often praised for its vast bestiary and great encounter design. I dare say that Blackguards has equally great encounter design, although from a different “school”.

Since every encounter happens in a unique arena specifically designed for it, the developers had the freedom to play with various things. There are holes that spawn enemies, time limits, movable and destructible objects, healing orbs, falling chandeliers, mechanical blades, flying dragons, falling stalactites, rotating fire traps, swamp gas, giant tentacles, mind-controlling plants, draw bridges, collapsing passageways, a giant cage on a crane… there is not a single RPG out there that offers so many interesting things to do during combat. Honestly, Blackguards is a lesson in encounter design that every RPG player AND developer should experience, to see what a creative team can do when thinking outside of the genre's standard templates. Daedalic even had the guts to make skeletons properly immune to arrows and swords, as they should be.​​

Read the article in full: RPG Codex Review: Blackguards
 
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It is nice to see ONE developer actually giving serious consideration to the enviroment during encounters, even though their approach is p. artificial.

Still, I didn't enjoy the demo enough to bother playing the rest of the game. Definitely give it a try if you can stomach derivative, gamey systems and progressing in a mostly linear fashion from one tiny hex grid to another.
 

Eyeball

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This review correctly identified the reason I did not particularly like Blackguards: the adventure game influence that makes fights feel like puzzles. I consider this to be a gimmick and I do not like it.
 

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This review correctly identified the reason I did not particularly like Blackguards: the adventure game influence that makes fights feel like puzzles. I consider this to be a gimmick and I do not like it.

Funnily enough, a sentence I edited out of the original draft was Roxor claiming that it is NOT a gimmick. :smug:

Apparently, the environmental stuff lessens as you advance through the game - it's used as a sort of crutch for lower level characters. Read the review.
 
Last edited:

clemens

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Well, as someone who liked the game but recognized its shortcomings, I think that was an excellent review, properly praising Daedalic for their outstanding work, but also pressing them to give us better and MOAR next time. Well done. :bro:
(also, claiming that the environmental interaction is gimmicky...oh, well
 

Dorateen

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I've seen this game compared favorably to Knights of the Chalice and Temple of Elemental Evil.

The question I would love to ask the developers is... KotC, ToEE... why not let the player build their own party as in those titles? If this is a combat-centric adventure, I see no reason for story required companions.

Add in this feature down the road, and I'll give it a shot.
 

Applypoison

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Felipepepe:

That plus the lackluster documentation means at some point you’ll probably be upset with your first party and feel the urge to restart the game, this time using your newly acquired meta-knowledge, especially when playing on Hard.
As a perfectionist/serial reroller in RPGs, I actually find this to be pretty incline
:thumbsup:
Sold!
 
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Incline would be you lurking more, lack of proper documentation is completely inexcusable for a CRPG.
 

felipepepe

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The question I would love to ask the developers is... KotC, ToEE... why not let the player build their own party as in those titles? If this is a combat-centric adventure, I see no reason for story required companions.
Although they were brave to make a turn-based tactical RPG, they were also trying to keep it easy to get in. It was only due players feedback that they finally decided to allow you to freely build your character at the start, instead of just picking between 3 classes.

Hopefully Blackguards will sell well and next time they will be less scared of trusting the players.
 

Boxer

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Did it fail on the market? When is the patched up, goty edition gonna come out?

edit

also the bloom jesus fucking christ
 

Roguey

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derivative, gamey systems
Giving skeletons total immunity to slashing and piercing weapons is a bizarre quasi-sim gaminess. Not unlike many D&D systems.

I'm pretty sure I could slice off one of my own limbs or puncture my skull with sharp enough blades and enough force.
 

felipepepe

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I'm pretty sure I could slice off one of my own limbs or puncture my skull with sharp enough blades and enough force.
And I'm pretty sure that bones can't move without muscles. That's why puncturing does nothing, they have to be crushed to a point where even magic can't make them whole again.
 

abnaxus

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IIRC skeletons are only immune to piercing damage, not slashing damage (swords).

Or maybe it was because I was using swords with magic/infantry damage.
 

AbounI

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Nice review .Thanks
And for you Felipepe, for your work and our wish about your guide:

Still, there’s other bits that we need to take care of: Complexity needs way more explanations than we thought, and this is something we need to get into the game. For example, some players think Blackguards in some way is a RNG driven game, or, in other words, luck does matter. It isn’t, or only to a small extent. We fear that we missed out on a couple of explanations in-game, of how you can have influence on the RNG, and we’re trying to get these in now.
For us, it was very obvious that you only can hit perfectly with a weapon when you have the weapon talent pushed up, and the relevant char attributes as well, but it turned out that we run into some tunnel view there, and for the player it doesn’t seem to be that obvious. So that’s something we’re working on now.

http://www.rpgfrance.com/dossier-10183-1-interview-daedalic

Quote taken from a french interview with Daede. Scroll down for the english version, everyone should be pleased to learn they intend to go further than just one cRPG... as it is not a secret, Daede is working on 2 yet unrevealed projects
 

Cowboy Moment

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Hopefully Blackguards will sell well and next time they will be less scared of trusting the players.

Judging by Steam top sellers alone, it sold better than any previous Daedalic game. Interview above pretty much confirms it, they're eager to make more RPGs.
 

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http://www.rpgfrance.com/dossier-10183-1-interview-daedalic

Quote taken from a french interview with Daede. Scroll down for the english version, everyone should be pleased to learn they intend to go further than just one cRPG... as it is not a secret, Daede is working on 2 yet unrevealed projects
Was it a design decision to portray towns (hubs) in the form of interactive screens or was it a budgetary constraint? Why didn't you offer more exploration?
We started designing the cities as open world places, allowing free roaming and exploration. After a couple of test sessions with external players, though, the feedback was clear: Players felt as if their playing experience was unnecessarily decelerated. The game was losing its dynamics that way – so we came up with the hub idea we know from our adventure games, and now can present everything the player needs, reachable within just a few clicks.
I find this very interesting... it is somewhat like AoD's "teleport", but taken to a extreme level. It is probably also why Roxor enjoyed so much the side-quests; you never have to actually run for 15 minutes from one point of the map to another. It literally takes only 2 clicks to exit a city and travel to another one.
 

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Wonderfully detailed review. Good job guys! I really like that you give appropriate praise to Daedalic for such a good effort on their first RPG but don't go easy on the game flaws at all. I played a bit of Chapter 1 during Early Access but didn't want to spoil it till final release. Planning on going back to it soon.
:brodex:
 

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Any news on future support for the title? More features, balancing etc.? Or is where it stands where it will be?
 

evdk

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So is there any ETA on the 1.3 patch? I wouldn't like to start only for the game to be rebalanced midplay.
 

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Any news on future support for the title? More features, balancing etc.? Or is where it stands where it will be?
The Blackguards story continues! On March 4th Daedalic will release additional content for its critically acclaimed turn-based RPG - Blackguards. The new DLC, Untold Legends, will offer exciting new battles, additional quests and new story elements, taking the adventure even further. At the same day, Daedalic plans to release an important update for the original Blackguards game, which will bring important balancing improvements.

Untold Legends sheds new light on the background and heritage of Takate, the former slave and arena fighter, who joins the player’s party in chapter 2 of the original Blackguards. Takate’s home is in the foothills of the rainforests in Southern Aventuria, where most of the native people of the Moha originate from. In Untold Legends, players will learn how Takate became a slave gladiator, and get the chance to take revenge on all the slavers that caused so much pain to him for much of his life.

”Untold Legends” will offer new weapons, several new quests, more than 10 new battle maps and 25 previously unreleased music tracks. Priced € 4.99/$ 5.99/£ 3.99, the DLC will be available digitally for purchase through all major download shops such as Steam, GOG, the official Mac App Store and Gamesrocket. Customers who purchased one of the retail editions of Blackguards can acquire the DLC through Gamesrocket.com Customers, who purchased the Blackguards Contributor’s Edition via Steam will receive this first DLC automatically and for free.

Simultaneously with the Untold Legends DLC, Daedalic releases patch 1.3 for the original Blackguards game. The patch will majorly improve the game’s balancing system, giving players better insights into their characters’ hit chances, and how to improve these. Showing the Hit Chance during battles is no longer depending on the talents Warcraft and Animal Lore, so players will always know the odds when choosing among normal- and special attacks. Also, the new patch will now allow to display a full battle log, including all dice rolls, to allow full transparency of all events while in combat.

So is there any ETA on the 1.3 patch? I wouldn't like to start only for the game to be rebalanced midplay.
March 4th. Then everything we just wrote will mean nothing. :3
 

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Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
I usually am not into puzzle tactical games, but this one is among the few games that did it right (with Battle Isle 4 : Incubation, and Space Hulk).
One of the main shortcoming of the game for me is the interface :
The lack of an animation speed setting is soul crushing at times, and the weird decision to have double click trigger character stat page is very annoying as you need to click twice to move. There are a few other poor choices that make the game not flow as smoothly as it could (like resting in a tavern being twice more expensive than staying outside and consuming provisions for the same benefit, even though there is no way to go through the full stockpile of provision the game offers, or vendors never restocking on items, making you search every town to restock on arrows).
But overall, I agree it stands it ground against titles like Knights of the Chalice, and Baldur's Gate 2 when it comes to encounter design, and am having a great time playing it.
 

hiver

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Pretty fucking awesome review guys.

Love the combo of two people doing it and that should be used more often. I didnt read the first review, or thread about it here but i was wandering about the game.

Such a shame that writing is so bad. Its something i cant stand lately, as few members here could attest to.
Not that i demand some literally master pieces but some basic coherence and quality of writing should be, must be achieved in RPG games of this caliber.

Even so, the good parts seem really, really good - especially the environmental interaction in combat which is something that was missing in True RPGs since... Fallouts, at least. (as far as my knowledge of RPGs goes)
 

Galdred

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Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
The writing is nothing to write home about, but doesn't get in the way either. It's more a missed opportunity than something annoying IMO.
 

hiver

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Thats an oxymoron. I can only accept that as your personal reaction. Nothing more. Since it isnt anything more.
 

Snozgobler

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I got this game shortly after it came out for free from the delightful Swen Vinke when he gave away some codes over twitter, though after playing it for a bit I'd have been happy to pay. Being entirely unfamiliar with the dark eye ruleset I made some questionable decisions and too heavily favoured stats with my XP when I first played the game (back when only chapter 1 was available and characters were presets). In this at least I think Daedalic's idea of initially giving players no option of custom character creation stopped me from making even more miss-steps with my first character and while I like the ability to fully create my character now, my initial experience with the game would likely have been much more frustrating had I had complete freedom to derp my way into it. I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment that meta-knowledge leads to the desire to re-roll your party xD.
 

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