Blood Bowl Review
In the days before magnificent, life-dominating consoles stomped onto the scene like huge electrical sumos, the undervalued tactical minds of the modern world relieved their craving for killing on the fibre-grass battlefields of tabletop warfare games. Games Workshop is the company that dominated said market, pumping out new variants faster than a bury of rabbits on a range of aphrodisiacs. With technological advances, many have found their craving for gaming satisfied by the heaving plastic beasts in our living rooms and sidled stealthily away from the tabletop “scene”. Well it’s time to sort out your army rosters and sharpen up your tactics, as with Blood Bowl, you’re certain to be drenched in a vat of the same magic that had you captured the first time.
Arriving in a dated and clunky menu screen, I let go the first of what appeared to be the start of many sighs of disappointment. Calling it intuitive would be like calling Dawn French streamlined (Ed – ha). Getting into a game is a laborious task indeed, with various options and variables which, to the untrained eye, would constitute little more than shapes on the screen. So looking at said shapes, I pressed on, diving into a turn based match.
An important feature of Blood Bowl is the presence of two main match types; turn based and real-time. The tabletop veterans amongst you will probably vie for victory in the turn-based mode as this is where the original ruleset and game style is more accurately recreated. For those of you who have no idea what’s going on or that are irritable and impatient, I’d advise the real-time mode as this allows for a rapid crash course in how to play and also allows for mistakes made to be swiftly rectified.
The in-game mechanics work pretty well, often feeling more like turn-based combat than a sports-style game. The controls will take a game or so to get the hang of but once the hang has been obtained, you’ll be hanging like a pro; like a monkey from a tree. The mechanic is versatile in that it allows for the enactment of various crackpot tactics in propelling that ball into the TD zone. If you have a team of muscle-bulging meatheads, then lay out all of the opposition and skip camply over the line, ball in hand, like Morrissey carrying a Flirtini.
Graphically, Blood Bowl is not a pretty face. The pitches are nicely detailed with broken bones and spikes strewn around like dangerous confetti and the grass textures look appealing enough from a distance, especially when set against the vibrant scenery of the various stadia.
What drew me most to this peculiar concoction of genres and gameplay ideas was the heavily employed fantasy element. I’ve always had an extremely large and juicy soft spot for all things fantasy, so when sporting violence met orcs and dwarves, the tickets were booked and I was on a jet to Blood Bowl Island.
Curiously enough, after you’ve overcome the first few days, what with collecting the baggage and booking into the hotel, Blood Bowl rapidly becomes a new best friend. It has its flaws, but they’re more endearing than annoying and by the time you’ve got the gist of the timetable and have learned to skip water aerobics from 10-11 AM, you’ll bask in the warm glow of what actually constitutes the rare beast that is genuinely rewarding gaming.
Considering many of the rules are identical to the tabletop version, the game has one giant flaw. It isn’t on a table. What would feel like a flowing continuous pace with a tabletop game would, and does, feel like a juddering wait fest on a console where most users are ready to receive their injection of action as soon as they enter a game. Not being able to skip watching your computer opponent’s moves is a huge oversight by the developers and eats away large chunks of valuable gaming time.
This time consuming aspect of the title, however, is a double edged sword. It also means that you’ll have an infinite abyss of gameplay time offered. Having sunk a good number of hours already, I still have masses of game to gnaw and claw at, making Blood Bowl one of the best bang for buck games of recent times.
Sadly, there are some flaws with the finish that scream “RUSHED, THIS GAME WAS RUSHED” at you. Various typos in the hint bubbles in-between games and interface faults dancing their jagged way across the menu screens. If only the developers had put a little more time into the finishing touches, from the shrouded mystery that is games development could have emerged a much more polished and better groomed beast. As it stands Blood Bowl is what we have, and I remain only too glad that it is.
If you’re considering making an investment in a massive time sink of a game, then Blood Bowl could be your answer. It is definitely a game for the reserved thinking man – there is no way it can be beaten with simple button-mashing. Time has to be put in to learn the tactics necessary to succeed but I can guarantee that it is all worth it when the victories start pouring in. The online community is also something to be taken into account; a very small population had me unable to find games and when I could, my opponent quit out as soon as the tables turned in my favour, so perhaps if you’re looking for a LIVE gem, then you need to open another treasure chest. I strongly suggest you avoid this title if you’re not fond of putting in too much effort with video games, as in that case, it will offer little reward for your 40 bar.