It’s the 14th century. Two of Europe’s most powerful kingdoms, England and France, are locked into battle. Normanday, the Flanders, Brittany see more bloodshed by the day. For 120 years, as one century passes into the next, these two kingdoms fight for control of France. This is the setting for Bladestorm Nightmare, the latest game from Koei Tecmo and Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force, available for the Playstation 4, PC and Xbox One. It is a remake of Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 but with additional features, including a second story mode entitled Nightmare.
The meat of the game revolves around the legendary conflict. However, instead of taking control of key figures, such as Edward The Black and Joan of Arc, you create and take control of a mercenary during an unspecified period of the war. The character creation system is one of the best features of the game, taken from the Dynasty Warriors Empires games. Both male and female mercenaries can be created, alongside control of the pitch of their voice (from three pre-selected options), facial features, build of the body and more. The creation system is similar in style to that of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which also featured an excellent character creation system. Numerous mercenaries can be created and imported into the story mode, but only four can be active on the map at one time.
The hub for your mercenaries is a French tavern in an unspecified location. It seems to be the hub for all the mercenaries in the war, as travelers and soldiers offer advice, including hints of an important battle. The hub is also used to upgrade weapon efficiency in a mammoth amount of weapons the mercenaries can use, upgrade skills, purchase weapons and armour and purchase recruits for use in battle. It is also where mercenaries accept contracts for various missions for both the English and the French.
The gameplay itself, however, is a let down. Every mission of the story mode revolves around two objectives: capture and defend. Both armies control certain towns and citadels around the various regions in France. Each mercenary is assigned a task to capture the main point of the mission or defend the main camp of the army the mercenary sided with. The mercenaries command a small squad of troops, which can be increased with skill points. There is a variety of troops to command, from simple swordsmen, archers and mounted warriors, each wielding a particular weapon to master.
The problem is the repetitive nature of each battle. All I did throughout each battle is hold down R1 (a basic attack) and sometimes use a weapon specific skill (which there are three). While the game implements a strength/weakness system for the weapon classes, I found it useless once your mercenary levels up in one particular class. After focusing as a swordsmen, I could cut down horseback warriors in seconds, despite the unit charging down my unit. Furrthermore, I didn’t lose any men in the attack. Realistically, this should never happen, but it’s the ability to level up with skill points, combined with the ability to link up with another overpowered mercenary (as I combine my male swordsmen with my female archer), it’s a recipe for a boring chore of a game.
Traversing through the maps is a problem as well. The maps turn out to be very large in scale. Usually, I don’t have a problem with it if the visuals are worth looking at, but in Bladestorm: Nightmare, the visuals are subpar at best. The game doesn’t take advantage of the Playstation 4’s power, making everything look quite basic. There must be a draw issue as well, as the grass looked white at certain distances rather than the natural green they need to be. After moving closer, it reverts to the natural green. The water seemed dull and lifeless as well. Games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim provided a beautiful looking landscape in a large map, where travelling on foot or horse didn’t seem so boring. Here, the maps needed to be smaller. It also affects the time, as each day lasts nine minutes. So, if you must capture several points of interest and want to complete it quickly, at times it’s cutting a fine line. You can take several minutes to reach one particular point of interest and you need to capture it with several minutes to spare.
Each point of interest has defensive points, which represent each unit at that particular point of interest. In order to capture one, the player must defeat the number of units which equate to the defensive points of the point of interest. Afterwards, the base commander will pop up, who needs to be defeated. Once he or she is defeated, then the point of interest is captured. The size and type of capture point determines the defensive points it has, so a citadel or castle will have more than a small village. This is where there is a potential of massive battles, but it’s hindered once again by broken character growth. Even defeating the base commander can be done in a few seconds and not offer much of a fight, succumbing like regular troops. It creates monotonous gameplay, boring the player quite easily.
There is, however, a second story mode that offers a little more than the main story mode. Entitled “Nightmare”, this second story follows a combined force of England and France against Joan of Arc and her army of monsters. The fantasy elements brings in an interesting twist with the ability to control your own unit of monsters into battle. However, the objectives are the same, the gameplay only offers a little bit more of a variety and it still suffers from broken, overpowering mercenaries. While it is the more interesting of the two story modes, it does lose its appeal quite quickly.
If you’re a fan of Omega Force games (and I do enjoy Dynasty Warriors), then you may like Bladestorm: Nightmare, but it isn’t a game for anyone else. While it does offer a great character creation mechanic and offers variety in weapon classes, the long treks from point to point, the repetitive and boring gameplay and the subpar visuals hindered my overall experience. I did have fun from time to time, but I also got bored very quickly. It’s hard to drop full price for Bladestorm: Nightmare, but for a rental or at a reduced price, then you can justify picking it up.
The game was provided by Mindscape Australia, distributor of Koei Tecmo and Konami games in Australia, for the purposes of reviewing. As a fan of some Koei Tecmo games, bias may be present in the review. The game is out now for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One at various video game retailers across Australia. The PC version will be released in May.