Bladestorm: Nightmare Review
Games created on historical facts and events tend to be fairly common these days. While you have franchises like Sengoku Basara or Dynasty Warriors that base themselves in actual warring eras, they tend to be a little bit over-the-top by changing certain story elements or character portrayals. Some of them tend to throw in bits of a supernatural element, in an effort to appeal to the liking of most gamers. But, while playing as a known war hero who can smack back 40 enemy soldiers with a single sword swing is cool, it is always nice to be able to play a title that sticks just a bit closer to its historical source material and that’s where Bladestorm: Nightmare comes in swinging.
Bladestorm: Nightmare is a remake of the original version, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War that released back in 2007 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Before I begin, let me give you all a bit of a history lesson to kind of give you an understanding on the basis for this game. *Ahem*
The Hundred Years’ War was fought between France and England during the late Middle Ages. It lasted 116 years from 1337 to 1453. The war started because Charles IV of France died in 1328 without a son. Edward III of England then believed he had the right to become the new king of France through his mother.
The French did not want a foreign king, so Philip VI of France said he ought to be king because by the Salic law women could not rule or transmit the right to rule to their sons. The two countries went to war because of this disagreement.
At the beginning of the war France was the stronger of the two countries. France had about 17 million people while England had only about 4 million people. France had an alliance with Scotland against England, and England tried to ally with parts of the Low Countries. The English won a great victory at sea in the Battle of Sluys in 1340 which prevented France from invading England. After that the war was fought almost totally in France. England won again at the Battle of Crécy in 1346: the English longbow was part of the reason for the victory.
From 1348 to 1356 there was very little fighting because of the Black Death. Then Edward, the Black Prince won the Battle of Poitiers for England. King John II of France was captured during the battle. The English invaded France again but were not able to take any more cities. A truce gave England about one quarter of France.
The new king Charles V of France was more successful, with Bertrand du Guesclin as his best knight. The Black Prince was busy at another war and Edward III was too old to lead an army again. So France allied with Castile against England and Portugal. France won back many French towns from the English during this time. A peace followed from 1389-1415.
Then the most famous part of the war began. Henry the V of England invaded France and won the Battle of Agincourt with many bowmen. King Charles VI of France was insane and unable to rule, and nearly all his sons died young. The queen of France Isabeau of Bavaria married one of her daughters to Henry the V and signed the Treaty of Troyes to make Henry V the next king of France. Both Henry V and Charles VI died at almost the same time. So the English believed Henry VI of England was the new king of France and many French people agreed. Charles VI’s last son Charles VII of France said he ought to be the new king, but many people said he did not deserve to be king because somebody else had probably been his father.
The English continued to capture land in France until Joan of Arc led the army to success at the Siege of Orleans and the Battle of Patay in 1429. She regained many cities and brought Charles VII to his coronation, but she did not recover Paris. Her enemies captured and killed her. After her death the French continued to take back territory, although more slowly. France had a diplomatic win in 1435 with the Treaty of Arras. The war finally ended in 1453.
So, there’s the basis of the Story Mode. Now throw in a dash of fantasy, with just a pinch of Peter Dinklage (Substitute with Warwick Davis if no Dinklage available) and you got a somewhat clean version of Game of Thrones. But how does the “Nightmare” in the title play a roll in this game? Well, I’ll get to that later. Right now, let’s break it down.
Character Edit Mode
As with most expansive RPGs that allow you to create original characters, Bladestorm: Nightmare allows you to do the same. However one thing to point out is that you get about 80% full body customization in this game. By that I mean you can adjust various physical features of your mercenary, right down to the pitch of your character’s voice. This freedom allows you to essentially create a unique looking and sounding individual controlled by you throughout the game. You can change your hairstyle, skin tone, eye color (Even giving yourself heterochromia…er…an eye that has a different color than the other), scars, or even a facial distortion that gives your character a broken nose. There is so much more to it, but it would take me a long time to explain. Below is a picture of my created character, Firion, to give you an example of what you can do with the creation system…and yes, I took the name from the main character in Final Fantasy II because reasons.
So what do you do after creating your mercenary or mercenaries (Yes, you can create a list of about 10)? Well, several things. You can begin playing the Story Mode, or you can take advantage of Station Mode. Station Mode is a system somewhat similar to the Pawn System in Dragon’s Dogma in a way that you can put any of your created mercs online for other users to hire for battles that you place them in. Depending on the battle, the payout and rewards are different. So, being as diverse as possible when placing your mercs is a good way to maximize your rewards.
Gameplay and Character System
Like pretty much every RPG ever made, your character levels up by gaining Experience Points(Unlike that piece of trash SaGa Frontier). XP is gained by defeating enemies and capturing keeps as is Skill Points, or SP. While leveling up raises your character’s core abilities, the SP placement is what makes it more in-depth. With SP, you can level up your characters’ supporting skills, weapon class proficiency and attacks, to name a few. One thing to point out is that with every skill you raise, it effects your squad as well. So after a bit of a grinding session, you can effectively have a squad of incredibly powerful soldiers that can contend and conquer anything the opposing forces can muster and throw at you.
Battles in the game are completely squad-driven. While you can go “lone wolf”, it is highly recommended that you take a squad with you because the enemy forces do NOT mess around and will kill you quickly should you be caught by yourself. Various units are at your disposal for you to command based on the different weapon types you could choose from when creating your character, with that choice being your most effective troop type. You can, however, use a different unit type at any point during the battle. But to make good use of said type will require you to put some SP into that unit within the Books Menu to maximize the effectiveness. Morale plays a large role in battles as the higher your unit’s morale is, the more likely they are to reach a Zeal or Bladestorm, allowing your unit to receive a tremendous boost to their stats and abilities, while dishing out maximum damage to enemy forces.
Now, you can’t just grab a unit of troops and run into the fray blades out and swinging. Well actually you could, but it won’t help you most of the time. Each unit type has strengths and weaknesses that you have to consider before approaching a skirmish(Hence why this is a STRATEGY GAME!). Most people like to think of it as a “rock-paper-scissors” system. I prefer the Pokémon Type system, myself. So for example, let’s say you are leading a group of Bowmen. Bowmen are very strong against Mounted Units and Sword Units. However due to the fact that bowmen lack in melee combat skills, Sword Units can decimate your group of Bowmen if they get close enough. So, always be mindful of the type of enemy unit you are going to attack as your attacks may not be effective. Each type of unit has designated commands only available that specific type. Let’s use Bowmen again for an example. As stated above, they lack terribly in melee combat. So keeping them away from the fray is ideal if you want to survive a skirmish. When ready to attack, pressing the corresponding button will ready your unit’s bows. Pressing the same button again will loose a volley of arrows at any enemy troops in your field of vision. Note that there is a small cooldown before you can loose another volley. However, you can also press and hold another button on your controller (R1 for the PlayStation 4) and you and your entire unit will begin attacking nearby enemy units with non-special attacks. These decisions are one of the key factors to not only surviving a skirmish, but making effective use of your unit’s full potential.
The battlefields in this game are massive and will take several days to complete (In-game time) in full. Each battle has a timer and when it gets to 0, you enter Nightfall, which shows you the results of your battle that day and allows you to make changes to your unit, level up by use of SP or purchase items from the Merchant. You can also do all of this prior to a battle in the Tavern, which acts as the central hub for all things mercenary. In the Tavern, you can create more mercenaries, upgrade already existing mercs, get new contacts, purchase items and equipment from the Merchant and listen to various rumors from other mercenaries there. Of course that’s not all you can do, but you will be able to check it out within the game.
Now, before a battle begins, you are tasked with choosing a deployment point and from there, you are given instructions on a suggested keep to take. Keeps come in two forms: Occupied Keeps and Enemy Citadels. Occupied Keeps are easy to capture as defeating enough enemy units surrounding said keep will cause the Base Commander to appear. Upon his/her defeat, your forces officially capture it, granting you various rewards like money, items and so forth. Enemy Citadels are different story. These keeps are much larger and much more fortified, requiring you to plan out your attack carefully. Unlike the Occupied Keeps, Citadels have units that require you to defeat prior to entering the actual keep. These units are marked with a Shield icon over their heads. Defeating one will cause the Citadel’s defense level to drop by a value of 1 point. Defeating them all will reduce the Citadel’s defense completely, forcing the Base Commander to appear. But Enemy Citadel commanders are much larger(Literally), powerful and more difficult to take down as they have a Break Gauge that requires you and your unit to deplete before the commander begins to take any damage. Again, proper planning and coordination is another key factor in a successful keep takeover. In fact, here’s an example of how large some of the Citadel Commanders actually are:
Story Mode and Nightmare Mode
Story Mode has you playing through the 100 Year War, as well as interacting with notable people from history such as Joan of Arc, Edward the Black Prince, John Talbot and John Chandos, to name a few. Most of the key battles from the actual real event are present in the game, such as Crécy and Orléans. Gameplay is exactly as I outlined above and while you may think it’s linear, it is in fact not. As a mercenary, you have the option to change sides at anytime during the course of the game (Though only by accepting contracts in the Tavern), with no worry about moral choices effecting anything in-game. So while France did in fact win the 100 Year War, you can choose to turn it around and have the English win, as well as preventing notable events from happening like Joan of Arc being burned at the stake.
Nightmare Mode, however, is entirely different than Story Mode…and when I say different, I mean WAY different. First off unlike Story Mode, you can choose what difficulty you want at the beginning. Secondly, this mode has you fighting demons and monsters. That’s right, demons and monsters…and guess who is leading them? Joan of Arc herself! In this variation of the Story Mode, England and France have set aside their issues and united to combat this new threat. The mercenary you choose to be the main character is an unknown warrior who wields a mystical blade called “Gladius Dux, the Sword of the Commander” and it allows you to control monsters. Unfortunately, it seems like a plot device as you cannot wield this weapon whatsoever. By that your units are typically made up of both humans and controlled monsters, all of which function exactly like the normal units in the main story. However adding to the fantasy element of this mode is the inclusion of Magic and the ability to unlock and use a Mage class, with your troops named “Death” as they bear a striking resemblance to the Grim Reaper himself. Casting magic is obviously a form of ranged combat, but the magic is treated like AOE (Area-of-effect) spells with some casting time involved. Regardless, magic in this game is decimating and whether you have a Magic unit or up against an enemy magic unit, tread lightly. Oh did I mention you have to fight dragons now?
Overall, the game is actually very well made and thought-out. It definitely surpassed the original in terms of content, graphics and the like. Most new players might feel a little overwhelmed by the complexity of this game’s battle system. But just like Resonance of Fate, once you figure out the battle system it gets far more enjoyable and fun. This game makes you think and plan, so patience and calculation is highly suggested to get most out of it. Personally, I enjoyed this title. It’s been far too long since I actually played something this expansive and in-depth and the feeling of controlling up to 200 units with me as their leader as we destroy hordes of enemy soldiers definitely leaves me a high level of genuine satisfaction.
Bladestorm: Nightmare drops today for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for $59.99, with the digital-only version for the PlayStation 3 being priced at $49.99. Sorry Xbox 360 users…dems da breaks.
8.5 out of 10
Until next episode…