Currently undergoing a closed beta testing phase, Daedalic Entertainment’s Blackguards is an unusual turn for the developer and yet will appear familiar to many gamers around the world. A turn based role-playing game (RPG) using the hex system made popular in recent times by the Heroes of Might & Magic series, Blackguards follows an established ruleset and attempts to innovate within. This, coming from a developer famous for point-n’-click adventures, is most certainly an interesting proposition.
‘Interesting’ is the perfect word as, despite currently being available to fans as a closed beta, Electronic Theatre was not able to get hands-on with Blackguards during our time previewing in the videogame. Suggested to be more a clause of haste as opposed to lack of playability, the whistle-stop tour of Blackguards did allow the development team to demonstrate each of the unique features of the videogame. And from this Electronic Theatre was able to determine that Blackguards is a videogame born of passion for a genre; an experiment out of the comfort zone for a developer open to new ideas.
As part of the popular The Dark Eye franchise, Blackguards eagerly plays with convention from the very start. Casting the player as a convicted felon, you’re forever on the back foot throughout the videogame. Your first instance of story is arriving home to find your friend, Elanor, the princess of this land, being torn apart by a wolf. Your first act is to save her of course, but after defeating the wolf you find that you were too late. What’s more, the wolf disappears without a trace. It’s your word against the evidence of a dead body and a bloodied sword in your hand. Things are never going to go well in that kind of situation.
The videogame begins true with the player in prison, with the first task being to escape. Of course there are plenty of other criminals who believe that they have been wrongly incarcerated also, and as such it’s up to the player to decide the fate of many peers. Joining with you at your side but also potentially harming your cause, the cast of Blackguards is certainly nothing short of inspired.
Before any of this however, the player has to create their character. Three archetype characters for available for beginners allowing players to jump straight into the action and customise as they progress, including the choice of profession. Expert mode allows you to build character from scratch using a familiar looking character sheet, though obviously no experimentation was available during Electronic Theatre’s preview. The battle system was a very different situation however, with Daedalic Entertainment positively encouraging players to think outside the box, or rather the hexes. Borrowing from XCOM’s dual action system, players are able to run and attack or sprint for double movement, and within that they can interact with specific parts of the scenery. Prisoners that can be freed, falling objects, flammable liquids and much more offer alternative ways to overcome the might of your foes.
Blackguards promises to delivers more than forty hours of gameplay and over one hundred and ninety unique battle maps, all featuring varied combat objectives and interactive objects. Players are encouraged to think tactically about combat challenges, but also about how they treat characters as the story will change depending on decisions made, with different endings promised to surprise the player. With that, the complete picture of this preview build of Blackguards presents a very interesting argument for Daedalic Entertainment’s willingness to expand, just as Electronic Theatre assured that it would.