Bladestorm: Nightmare is a third-person strategy game from Omega Force, developers of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. The game is a remake of 2007’s Bladestorm: The Hundred Year’s War but brings some new features along. Is it enough to warrant a return to the war, or enlist for the first time? Yes and no.
Nightmare loosely retells the story of The Hundred Year’s War between England and France in the 14th and 15th centuries. You star as a voiceless mercenary leader, whom you create yourself, using the game’s impressively robust edit mode. The game feature’s a free-mission system, which allows you to select which contracts you want your mercenary to carry out. Seeing as you are a mercenary, you can do contacts for either side of the conflict. Most of the missions do not add to the game’s plot, but you can expect to fight during some key battles, on the side of who historically won obviously. After completing each contract, players will head back to the Tavern, where they can purchase new equipment for their mercenary, select new contracts and hire extra help.
During combat controls are easy to use on the battlefield the player takes command of a squad with the press of a button. Holding down R1 allows your mercenary and his or her troops to attack the enemy freely. Each squad also has three unique special abilities — called action skills, at their disposal. Each action skill has cooldown, so you can’t expect to button mash your way to victory. This is a strategy game after all. Properly utilizing your squad is the only way to be victorious.
Speaking of properly utilizing your squads, the game features a rock paper scissors style mechanic when it comes to facing off against enemy troops. Basically some units have and advantage over certain troops, but will be at a disadvantage going up against others. For example, a squad of swordsmen would be effective facing off against a unit armed with rapiers, but would also be easily defeated by troops riding horses. So taking command of the right squad during fights is ideal, otherwise you’ll find yourself tasting defeat.
Sadly, the game’s battles are not that exciting at first. In fact they are rather dull. Your squad starts off fairly small, with only a handful of troops fighting alongside you. Add in the mostly slow paced combat and you find yourself in some really boring confrontations. Traversing the battlefields can also be somewhat of a bore in the beginning, as they are quite large and character movement isn’t that fast.
Charging into battle, slowly.
Upgrading your squad(s) thankfully does away with this issue. Using Skill Points (Earned in battle), players can increase their strength, defense and even the number of troops. Commanding a squad of 30 is empowering, especially when you are striking down your foes with relative ease. As you progress through the game, you gain the ability to command more than one squad (Up to four in total) at the same time. Your mercenary makes allies as time passes and they will team up with you in battle. Battles become much more intense and fun, when you have hundreds of soldiers at your command. The game does a good job capturing large scale showdowns and making you feel like you are in control of a true army.
Even though the combat picks up, the game still suffers. The A.I. — both ally and enemy, is rather inconsistent. At times they will do what they are supposed to do on the battlefield, other times they won’t. Allies and enemies alike will stop moving, or just run into walls. The mission objectives are extremely repetitive. Every battle consist of defeating enemy troops defending a village, city or castle. Once those troops are defeated, then you must defeat the base commander to take control of the location. Every mission requires you to do this to some extent. Even if the main objective is to defend your location, or escort an ally, capturing enemy bases is still required. Frame rate occasionally take a nose dive when too much action is on screen, especially when unleashing the Bladestorm special attack.
The game features the all new Nightmare mode. In this scenario the war between England and France has ended, due to rise of demonic creatures. Now it is up to the player to track down Joan of Arc and put an end to the monster threat. This mode is easily the more fun of the two, with the inclusion of supernatural enemies. Not only do you get to fight against the likes of Ghosts and Dragons, but you also acquire books for them, allowing your mercenary to command them in battle. The monsters for the most part, have cooler special abilities than the humans do. Vanquishing my enemies with a squad of Griffins was a true highlight of the game. They also allow you to get across the large battlefields faster, which is a plus. Another plus about Nightmare mode is the option to import your mercenary and everything you unlocked from your Hundred Year’s War playthrough.
Griffins. Mother F’ing Griffins!
The story progresses differently in Nightmare mode. Instead of the Hundred Year’s War free mission system, the story is presented through nine lengthy Chapters. While the plot in Nightmare feels more structured than in HYW, it doesn’t warrant any attention thanks to the poor voice acting and uninteresting characters.
Sadly while this new mode is fun, it also filled with the same technical issues and design problems that plagued the previous one; from terrible A.I. to repetitive mission objectives. Not a single improvement was made in those areas. The final boss battle was also overly long and boring. Finally beating it should have left me feeling proud, or with some positive emotion. Instead I just felt annoyed.
Nightmare mode can also be played cooperatively with one other friend or person. The online community is pretty non-existent, as it took forever to find someone online to play. You are better off playing with someone you know who has the game. Co-op play can also be fun but only if you are on equal footing, in terms of squad level. Otherwise one player may end up doing most of the work since they have the stronger force. Nothing fun about watching someone get all the kills. Playing online was smooth, with no noticeable lag whatsoever.
You can also partake in versus mode, which feature four different missions; Capture Bases, Capture Guardians, Defeat Commanders and Monster Campaign. The first three are pretty self-explanatory and victory is awarded to the first player. The fourth mission requires you to land the final blow to a particular monster type or number of monsters to earn a point. These are a nice enough distraction from the story modes but as with co-op, if you are paired with someone who isn’t on your level, then matches will be extremely unfair. That is if you can find someone to play with.
From a visual standpoint the game does not impress. While it doesn’t look bad — the character models look fine, the environments are very bland and uninspiring. The music is impressive and helps capture the feel of being in battle, but it quickly becomes repetitive and overstays its welcome.
Despite a boring start, Bladestorm: Nightmare turns into a more enjoyable experience as you progress. The Nightmare mode is welcomed addition and the best way to experience the game. Unfortunately, while the large scale battles are fun, they’re not enough to completely save this title from being brought down by its repetitive design and nagging flaws. Its online component lacks a healthy community. I can only really recommend this if you were a fan of the original, as you may find more enjoyment with Nightmare. Everyone else, you are better off playing something else.