Bladestorm: Nightmare Review – Nightmare Realized (PS4)
The Hundred Years’ War, if you remember your high school history classes, was series of conflicts between England and France that lasted around 120 years between the 14th century and the 15th century. Notable figures arose from these conflicts, including Joan d’Arc and Edward, the Black Prince, both of whom are still referenced today. While it isn’t entirely necessary, that fun little history refresher might serve you well when playing Bladestorm: Nightmare.
Previous released on last-gen consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 as Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War, the Omega Force and Koei Tecmo title is coming to PS4 and Xbox One today. While it has a few new features and modes, Nightmare is essentially a remake of the original Bladestorm title, and both revolve around The Hundred Years’ War.
Living That Tavern Life
The main mode in Nightmare takes place during some unspecified time in the war, putting the player in the middle of it as a hired mercenary. Players are able to fully customize what their mercenaries will look like in almost as many ways as Dragon Age: Inquisition allowed. The gender, facial features, build, voice, and more can all be customized to the player’s liking, and numerous mercenaries can be built.
After the character creation process, players will find themselves in a tavern, where they will be spending a large part of their time. Here, the player is able to buy weapons and armor, listen to random pieces of semi-accurate historical facts, use collected skill points, or select a contract and go to battle. Being a mercenary, the player has to choice to either join up with the French or join up with the English. Strangely, this choice must be made before every battle, and ultimately it never really matters which side you might end up fighting on. It can be fun at first jumping from side to side after each battle, getting to fight with Edward and then with Joan d’Arc, but it soon becomes annoying to take over something as the French, and then retake it in a future battle as the English. As to why neither the French nor the English seem to realize that you keep switching sides all the time is not really clear, but it helps make the entire main mode’s story and premise of the game pointless and boring.
Off to Battle
Actually, it isn’t only the story of Bladestorm: Nightmare that’s pointless and boring – the battles are as well. Players are able to command a small number of troops each battle, which they will need to use to either defend bases or take bases over. The amount of different classes found in Bladestorm is staggering. Before each battle, the player can select which type of troop he or she might want to command, which will also allow the player to play as that type of troop. There are archers, knights, knights on horseback, executioners, ninjas, and so many more. Playing as an archer class, which have a lot of trouble in hand-to-hand combat, will make the game feel entirely different than when playing as a class that uses a sword and a shield, for example. Although many of these troops are merely re-skinned versions of other troops, it still is pretty fun to choose which soldiers you want to fight alongside you for that battle.
However, once in battle, the fun very quickly slips away. The maps are huge, with numerous bases and forts on them and large areas between them – very large areas. Even when on horseback, it can take several minutes to get from one area to another area, and there is very little to do in the meantime. Sure, an occasional small enemy troop might be in your way, but other than that, there is very little to look at. It doesn’t help that some of the textures of the environment seem to have some issues, either. While I think Bladestorm: Nightmare looks pretty good considering it’s a remake of the original Bladestorm title, various parts environment looks terrible. Trees and grass will often appear white from a distance or from a certain angle, but as you approach them, they will switch to their natural green color. This happened to me a lot, and while I am unsure if it is a bug that will be addressed or if it’s a permanent error, it made parts of the game look incredibly ugly.
After players finally are able to traverse the large areas of open space and reach an enemy base, the resulting battle can actually be somewhat entertaining. Since entire armies are waging war and your character is only one mercenary, large enemy bases will be guarded by, at times, hundreds of soldiers. At the same time, whichever side you may be on will also be attacking with huge numbers of soldiers, resulting in an absolute massive conflict. This can be really cool to watch, although at times it can cause the frame-rate to drop dramatically.
Well, That Was Easy
Despite the emphasis on massive battles, after the first couple of contracts or so I never felt the need to wait for fellow soldiers to join me and my little squad in battle. See, as the game progresses, the player will earn levels and skill points. These can be used to make certain classes and troops stronger and far more powerful. Since I enjoyed playing as the sword classes, I ended up putting many of my skill points into them. This, in a strange way, turned out to be a mistake. By the fifth battle or so, having any troops with swords by my side made me essentially invincible. I was able to go into huge enemy fortresses and wipe out hundreds of soldiers without even losing a fraction of my character’s health. Even the enemy base commanders, which can be huge, boss-like things died after only a few short seconds. The battles became extremely dull. I tried playing as some of the other classes, but, since they can automatically level up in battle, they started to become overpowered too. The terrible enemy AI only made this more apparent. At times, I would run head on into a group of enemy archers, and not a single one would fire a shot. Even playing on the “Hard” difficulty, the enemies were extremely slow to react to me or my troops. Combine that with my overpowered soldiers and you get monotonous, mindless gameplay.
The only thing that helped make the battles slightly less dull was playing the “Nightmare” mode, which a separate entity from the game’s main mode. Here, France and England team up to battle Joan d’Arc, who is attacking everyone with monsters. The player can use his or her character from the main mode and essentially do the same thing as before – take over enemy bases. The differences here, however, are that there is no choice as to what side you will fight on, as France and England have combined forces, and that you will be fighting monsters rather than people. Griffons, giants, dragons, goblins, wizards, and more will all have to be cut down. Over time, the player will be able to use some of these forces in his or her own squad as well, and I will admit that it feels pretty badass to attack enemies with a bunch of griffons. But unfortunately, “Nightmare” mode suffers from the same issues as the other mode. The troops become overpowered too quickly, the enemy AI is awful, and there is too much pointless walking. The monsters are fun for a little while, but, since they are mostly just re-skins of the human soldiers, they lose their appeal rather quickly.
That is the problem with Bladestorm: Nightmare – it loses its appeal too quickly. Between the monotonous battles, boring story, and ugly visuals, there isn’t much there to hold someone’s attention. If you want to have some fun with it, rent it for a day or so. After that, Nightmare is pretty much worthless.
The review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.