Monday, December 21, 2015

Blood Bowl 2 (PS4)

When it comes to football I know pretty much nothing about the sport. I do know of European futbol (aka, Soccer), and have participated in that activity in high school, but I've never really been an American football fan. I couldn't tell you any of the rules, or regulations if my life depended on it. Even with having watched football related movies like "Jerry McGuire" I couldn't tell you which end is up. That's why I proceeded to request this game with the hopes that it wouldn't be entirely football related, or at the very least that I would finally be able learn about the sport in a more fun filled atmosphere. Thankfully the game is a hybrid of sorts that combines both tabletop RPG mechanics, and basic football rules. By that I simply mean it is a combat dice game played on a playing field that is governed by tiled squares which houses game changing statistic modifiers. The teams which are controlled by the player/s, and CPU opponents each move as they would in an American football game, but do so square by square in a more SRPG (Strategy Role-Playing Game) fashion. While the formation changes, turnovers, half time events, rules regarding scoring, and time associated with said sport remain intact for the most part the combat centered mechanics that come with the characters'/teammates' blocking dice rolls changes the gameplay significantly. In doing so it becomes more brutal in nature, and actually gives the players a different way to win outside of the traditional scoring opportunities. Death, and blood are but two of the many things that are a part of the 'Blood Bowl' franchise. You can imagine my excitement at finding this out, especially with me being into the more violent side of video games.

Blood Bowl, for those of you who don't know it is a fantasy football themed game that incorporates characters from tabletop RPG series which were developed by 'Games Workshop'. Most of you will recognize 'Games Workshop' for RPGs such as "Space Hulk", "Warhammer", or the recently released "Mordheim City of the Damned". Each unique tabletop RPG gaming experience from said studio comes with a diverse casting of warring creatures that includes humans, dark elves, skaven, goblins, and other fantasy creatures. The same types of characters that are included in those physical figure inclusive versions of Games Workshop's tabletop RPGs come to life as races available for recruitment to your very own football team in "Blood Bowl 2". As you might expect you'll be managing said team of creatures, and individuals down to the finest details. Names, the team name, player types, appearances, sponsors, and stadium will all be monetarily, and influentially managed by you.

What makes the experience unique beyond all of that is the host, and co-host of CabalTV HD which act as commentators to your team's every action, or inaction. Bob Bifford the hulking human ogre, and Jim Johnson the lanky vampire will make you laugh out loud with their social media jabs, and blunt humor. To top that exclusive feature off the main menu, and intermissions in the game's "Campaign" will showcase these comedic commentators in a 3D style of animation as they spew forth nonsense about your plays. It's a lighthearted addition to a gameplay presentation that is anything, but that. Combined with the bloodletting, and fatalities that come with on-field contact the comedy, and the brutality within blend quite well in a complimentary yin-yang sort of way.

When it comes to available modes of play you'll find a select variety of options in the form of a solo campaign, and a local/multiplayer league. The campaign in the game acts as a sort of entry point, or tutorial, and has you following the sport driven antics of a fantasy football team that has hit rock bottom. As you play through the league tournament in said campaign you will learn the ropes of team management both on the field, and in the detailed menu system where it all begins. At first you will be gifted $1,000,000 with which to recruit some linemen, blitzers, a thrower, some catchers, and an "Ogre". Each character which has a head customization option, and name changing option is displayed on an RPG-like playing card which shows off stats, and skills. The stats being RPG relative while the skills are actual perks that boost the characters performance out on the field. Things like blocking, aggression, and influential changes are among the character specific skills that you'll find. Buying the appropriate amount of each player type is up to you though. I should also mention that before you get into the actual team management menu you'll have to setup your team's name, their logo, their motto, and the race which the players will be. As I mentioned earlier there are a diverse selection of races including humans, two types of elves, goblins, and even skaven (rat-like creatures) which each have a difficulty rating that coincides with their play style. Each race in effect has it's own set of pro's and con's. The more stars in the rating the more skilled you have to be to win with them. As far as said pro's and con's go they range from durability, to movement capabilities. The advantages, and disadvantages of each are listed on the race selection screen for easy reference.

Past the team setup you can choose to learn the game via a campaign playthrough, or go for the gold of the league modes via the associated "solo", or "multiplayer" options therein. Supposing you choose the latter option you will be able to build your team from the ground up as you did in campaign via the methods I explained in the previous paragraph, or have the game's CPU organize your team recruitment automatically as you could before. Once this is done you'll be prompted to either go 'solo' against the computer, or take to the online competitively in some "multiplayer". Either way you will have several league options to choose from ranging from quick 1v1 "knockdown" matches to multi-round matches involving multiple teams in a tournament style scenario. All rules associated with each league type are explained in a text box under the league option. If you do happen to choose the online multiplayer over solo you'll have to go through extra steps regarding league acceptance via the league's administrator. For those of you looking for multiplayer with friends via online this can be accessed, and done at the "Friendly Match" menu in the main menu listing. Simply select that main menu option, and invite a friend using the appropriate button. The difference between a "Friendly Match", and a league match is that they are exactly that, "Friendly". League matches on the other hand payout in in-game gold which can be used to recruit more teammates, or to buy extra boost style perks which come in the form of cheerleaders, coaches, and coin toss related favoritism. Each of which affects various parts of gameplay in a positive way for the player buying them. League matches also keep track of your in-game statistics including kills, KO's, losses, wins, and other such details. The better you do in "League" the more your team will be worth.

As far as the visual presentation goes "Blood Bowl 2" is surprisingly a good looking game all the way through. The animations are rich, and the attention to detail is on par with a "Triple - A" release, a worthy "Triple A" release. Even the soundtrack which includes often times hilarious commentary from the insane CabalTV hosts compliments the game in a fashion fitting of a game that is worth your hard earned money. I think my favorite visual points lie with the brutal on-field attack animations which are cinematic in a way that really brings the game to life, and the best part of the soundtrack which comes from the voice-actors who play the role of CabalTV's Bob Bifford and Jim Johnson.

The remaining question is, "Do I think "Blood Bowl 2" is worth a purchase?". To that I say "Hell yes!!!". This game is brilliant! It was a pleasant surprise, and fun throughout. Do I think it could have used improvements? Yes, I do. I do feel team/character customization could have been more detailed than it was. It was a missed opportunity. Things like custom emblems, and extra customization options for the available characters outfits would have been more than welcome. Just being able to switch head types around, was "meh". Other than that I think you should definitely look into adding this game to your collection. It is worth it, even at retail.

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