Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War
With Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War the Japanese game developer Koei for the first time in history launches a truly new game, instead of the x-th sequel in their extremely repeptitive – though very successful – Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors series.
The concept is well-known: you take on a huge amount of mindless soldiers that you chop to small pieces of fine meat.Bladestorm doesn’t evade that concept, but does add some innovations and transposes the entire thing to 14th and 15th century France where at that time the Hundred Year War is happening.
You play a mercenary who offers his services to the highest bidder, be that that French or English king. In a bunch of battlefields (Orléans, Caen, Rouen, Agincourt,…) you can try to lead the French to victory or change the course of history and make the Brits win. Interesting is that in some missions you fight alongside some illustrious figures like Joan of Arc or Edward The Black Prince, who looks more like a blond choir boy here than a charismatic warlord.
Different from Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors you won’t be fighting alone, but always as a leader of a small regiment. You can pick sword fighters, pikemen, knights, bowmen and so on. Switching between the different units is easy and in theory this will allow you to show off some brilliant tactics. Think of making a line of enemy foot soldiers a lot less thick with a well-aiming group of archers, to afterwards liquidate the remaining hostiles with a mighty cavalry charge. In reality it comes down to going to battle with a group, chopping the enemy until no-one in your unit remains, taking control over another unit and repeat the process until you’ve reached your goal (usually conquering a certain town) of die yourself. Very fascinating, all that mindless chopping…
In theory every units has its strengths and weaknesses (knights are good against archers but weak against pikemen) but you won’t really notice much of that. Just button bashing and using some special attacks and you’ll have no problems fighting through. Also, I noticed the cavalry is quite overpowered . Once they get up to speed (not difficult seeing how big the levels are) there’s no holding them.
As you get rid of enemy armies, your “zeal”-meter will rise. Once filled you can unleash a “bladestorm”-attack. For a short period of time your units will gain a lot of strength and will be faster and more deadly. With a Bladestorm it really doesn’t matter who you’re facing, they all die.
After each battle you return to the tavern where you can recruit new soldiers, get better gear or improve your current armies. During battle your regiments will gain experience points which makes them bigger and stronger as well as receiving special attacks (for instance a triple slash attack for your pikemen). After a while they tend to get so strong that the challenge completely fades away and the game completely becomes a boring occupation of bashing buttons. Koei clearly goes back to its bad habbits, which is a shame seen as the game itself is quite interesting the first couple of hours.
The graphics won’t win any beauty contests. In these times of next-gen console violence they feel a bit oldfashioned even. The levels may be open and big (they easily are a couple of square miles), detail is far to be found. Everything looks desolate, thanks to the overwhelming use of monotone shades of grey, brown and green. Apparently during the Hundred Year War there was also a constant amount of fog present over the French land as your farsight is quite limited. Epic battles like in The Lords of the Rings are therefore far to be found; usually about 70 soldiers will be on screen at the same time and they don’t look too good either when it comes to design. Yep, ultra detailed weapons gear like in Oblivion is also not present and to top it all you’ll hear in the background a boring soundtrack that more resembles cheap elevator music than a true orchestral score. Add to that the irritating dialogues of several characters and you get a game that doesn’t offer much on the audio-visual part.
Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War remains with good intentions. The gameplay is interesting for a little while but then becomes very repetitive. Fans of such no-nonsense hacking & slashing will love it though. Also on the technical aspect the game doesn’t shatter any boundaries so those that want an action game in a pseudo historic setting might prefer the overly hyped but rock solid Assassin’s Creed.