By: Jeff Cater
Your star runner is only eight squares from a touchdown, with a nice cage of Blitzers and Assassins on careful guard around him. The turn ends. Slowly, the giant Ogre on the opposing team lumbers toward your line. Turns out, very little can stop an Ogre, and it sure as hell isn’t going to be one of these puny Dark Elves…
Welcome to Blood Bowl 2! Cyanide and Focus Home Interactive have brought a sequel that either improves upon or hinders the experience provided by the original game (depending on your perspective). Let’s take a closer look at this bloody, hilarious game.
Blood Bowl 2 is a turn-based game, so many of your actions rely on highlighting a player or square and pressing “X.” Either camera angle you choose is adjustable with the right stick, but it can make selecting the correct square or player somewhat tricky because the selection marker likes to stick along the grid lines.
Switching camera angles skews the field at an angle, making the left stick feel pretty fumbly. That will rarely lead to any mistakes, however, because most actions you perform come along with a confirmation so you can hop back if you’ve made an error. With a player selected, you can bring up a menu that houses different actions depending on what class that character is and whether or not they have the ball.
Being a title that stems from the Warhammer universe, you’ll be pleased to know that character variation and detail is top tier. The venues that host these bloody events are very lively and animated feeling, with bloodthirsty fans shouting and sometimes even murdering players! Blood Bowl 2’s framerate stays pretty consistent, with the only noticeable hiccups being in the pre-game stadium fly-bys.
Other than that, the game’s visual suite is also greatly enhanced by superb animations. From the hoppity victory dance of a Skaven Gutter Runner to the possibly self-aware tentacles that are sprouting from the Chaos Minotaur’s back, it all moves well. In particular, brutal attacks the opposing team members will treat you to a slow-motion depiction of the event, and it’s just awesome seeing a heavy Ork Blitzer smash a puny Human Runner into the ground.
Arenas provide different texture to the ground, too, which affects gameplay. You’ll be just fine running along the grass, but bring caution when the field is actually intricate stonework, because that hurts a lot more than grass.
More so than before, playing and even watching a game of Blood Bowl 2 feels like a real sporting event. The crowd roars and throws insults, and the in-game commentators offer an unbelievably accurate play-by-play.
For example, if you’ve surrounded your ball carrier with teammates, one of the announcers will say something like, “They’re building a cage around their runner!” Other times, they’ll speculate on just how bad a player’s injury might be. This great performance mixed with the quirky humor of Blood Bowl makes for an entertaining and informative experience.
There’s no doubt that the rule book for this game is extremely deep, which makes it a difficult game for a casual player to understand. At its core, Blood Bowl 2 is a take on American football, only it has Goblins and Chaotic Demons. Being based on the board game, however, almost every action results in a dice roll. Moving a player, blitzing an enemy, passing or intercepting a ball, all of it comes down to the good ol’ six-siders.
At first, it can seem extremely unfair as you’ll watch players fumble endlessly or see your defensive line just let opposing teams through. Once you’ve properly studied up on your players’ stats and your opponents, though, forming effective plays becomes considerably easier.
You might be in a position where you’d like to just run the ball the last 10 yards or so, but it could certainly be more beneficial to use every Blitz (the “attack” of Blood Bowl) action you can to ensure the safety of your runner.
Blood Bowl 2 not only features online multiplayer, but it also has an available offline mode for when you have a friend over that you don’t mind yelling at. There’s also a campaign mode that follows a team called the Reikland Reavers, a group of chaps dying off and simply giving zero fu**s about the game anymore.
Your job, as the new team manager, is to bring the Reavers back and past their famed talent. So you’ll be drafting players here and there, firing one every now and then. But you must keep in mind: This is Blood Bowl, and players can in fact die for good, so try to keep an even team lined up with substitutes in mind just in case your star blitzer ends up underfoot of an Ogre.
Whether or not you liked the first game, Blood Bowl 2 stands as an original, if somewhat of a niche, title. Quality visuals, stupendous audio and a deeply rewarding learning experience makes this a game to pick up. When everything ties together as well as it does in Blood Bowl 2, it’s hard to pin down what makes it great. It’s just damn fun.