Inside Pulse 12

Review: Bladestorm: Nightmare (Sony Playstation 4)

Bladestorm: Nightmare
Genre: Strategy/Action
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Release Date: 3/17/15

Back in 2007, Koei released the original Bladestorm, titled, “The Hundred Years’ War”. An interesting, albeit futile, attempt at combining the massive scale of their traditional Musou formula with the popular RTS genre. The game was received with tepid reviews and a general lack of interest even among Koei’s biggest fans (for the life of me I couldn’t finish it, and I personally live and breathe Musou anything.) I for one was surprised to see them give the franchise another go with “Nightmare,” especially keeping the same Musou meets RTS formula in tack again this time around. If anything, I would have expected to see the European ascetic of The Hundred Years’ war resurface as a more typical Dynasty Warriors experience if anything at all, which I concluded the original game would have been better for after playing it for many hours and never finding a click with the gameplay. Being optimistic however with one of my favorite publishers and developers, I was excited to give Nightmare a go, in hopes that maybe Omega Force found a way to make the quirky gameplay combination work this time around, and hopefully make the overall experience click in a way that makes it enjoyable. Unfortunately, for the most part, such was not the case…

Bladestorm: Nightmare offers 2 separate gameplay scenarios. “The Hundred Years War”, which for all intents and purposes, is a retooling of 2007’s game with slightly enhanced visuals and a few modest gameplay enhancements. The first, as one could guess, is set against the backdrop of Europe’s Hundred Years’ War. A series of conflicts waging from 1337 to 1453 between France and England. Your character is a custom created mercenary that holds loyalty to neither side, but fights merely for coin and fame. As you complete random battle scenarios, important story battles will available which will introduce key historical characters such as the Prince of England, and Joan of Arc, and progress to overall plot. It comes across as a generally effective narrative, and does a fine job as a history listen in the same vein as any given Dynasty Warriors game does.

As previously mentioned, Bladestorm attempts to combine the massive scale battles of a Musou game with the squad based gameplay of a real time strategy game. At any time, your mercenary can take control of various unit types on the field, of which there are a good variety available. Once under your command, holding down the R1 button will ready the squad for combat and have them attack any enemy units within the vicinity. You can also use the face buttons to issue the squad to execute a myriad of special attacks to gain the upper hand in a battle. These attacks have various cooldowns associated with them. Commanding squads and attacking enemy units is a game of rock, paper, scissors essentially, as some units are effective against some but weak against another, this requires you to constantly move back and forth between allied bases, swapping squads, sometimes three or four times just to take out a single enemy base, which is ultimately to goal of any given battle. This is a tedious excursion unless you’re commanding units on horseback which move at a brisker pace. The easier alternative, which negates the gameplay system entirely is to power up one type of squad as much as possible until they are powerful enough the literally mow through any kind of squad they might come across. Yes this is sadly a sound strategy, and once that is easily doable. This brings us to the wealth of customization options available in Bladestorm: Nightmare, which again, much like the squad types, there are quite a lot of.

Using a specific squad type will earn you EXP for said squad, and the as the squad levels up, they’ll inherently become stronger. You’ll earn SP (Skill Points) which goes in a accumulative pool which can be doled out to power up any squads you wish. You’ll also earn considerable SP bonuses for completing contracts (battles), which also goes into the accumulative pool. Your SP points can be used several different ways. You can use them to simply level up a squad, or use it to level up various parameters pertaining to a specific squad. Leadership, for example, will increase the amount of troops you can command within the specific squad, while research, will increase the amount of SP points you receive as a bonus when the squad levels up. You can also use you SP points to increase the effectiveness of the squad’s special attacks. MANY OPTIONS. But to what end? As I mentioned just a while ago, you could do your best to balance out ALL of the various squad types, carefully making sure all are equipped with the best equipment (yet more customization), tactfully retreating when you come across an enemy squad that is likely to overpower the one your currently commanding, and doing things by the books. Chances are however, that you’ll tire of the same handful of battlegrounds, carbon copy battle objectives, and rinse, wash, and repeat, gameplay Bladestorm: Nightmare has to offer a lot sooner than if you just were to concentrate all your points into a single unit and powerhouse your way through the campaign. And therein lies the problem. For all of its intricate customization options and meticulous control over the developments of your individual squads, none of it really matters.

Bladestorm: Nightmare‘s 2nd scenario, which is completely new, sees your mercenary with a magic sword and in a fantasy setting where the French and English forces have formed an alliance against a demonic version of Joan of Arc who has plagued the land with all matter of monster. This mode is more straight-forward, and there is no tavern to distribute SP points or buy items like in The Hundred Years’ War campaign. It’s a quick and dirty mode that tells its story and has you fight a lot of monsters and capture a lot of bases. This mode can be tough to jump straight into, but fortunately you can bring you character back and forth from each campaign, taking the progress from each with you.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Bladestorm: Nightmare is more of less a polish of Koei’s 2007’s Bladestorm: The Hundred Year’s War, with some minor enhancements and a new action intensive scenario attached to it. I went into it enthusiastically hoping that the bumble that was 2007’s game could somehow be made to click, but was sadly disappointed, and left with the same conclusion I had with the original release: that it would be more enjoyable as a traditional Musou game. The game can be fun at times for brief periods, but once you realize the wealth of customize options included are essentially useless, it’s hard to commit to Bladestorm: Nightmare‘s lengthy and at times dull campaign.