Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Blood Bowl 2: A Second Opinion

Greetings friends and welcome to another Second Opinion with me Dr Loxley!

Today i'd like to share with you a game I've been playing for a short while which I think deserves it's own review. The game in question is of course, Blood Bowl 2 by Cyanide Studios.

Now I should probably point out that I played this game using the PC build however it is available on PS4 and Xbox One so different formats may give different results.

What is Blood Bowl 2?
Blood Bowl 2 is the fantasy (American) football sequel to Blood Bowl which was also developed by Cyanide Studios.

In Blood Bowl 2 you take the role of a new coach who has to sign up and lead your very own Blood Bowl team to victory. Now your team is no ordinary team as this game is set in the Warhammer World designed and developed by Games Workshop. As such you have a wide selection of fantasy races to choose from including Orcs, Elves, Chaos beast men, the rat-like Skaven and of course Humans to name but a few.

Victory however is achieved via a combination of punching the opposition into a bloody pulp and scoring touchdowns. Of course technically it is only by scoring touchdowns that you win a game, but it's a lot easier to do if the entire opposing team is face down in the dirt.

What is the History behind Blood Bowl 2?
Believe it or not we had to travel a long way to reach the Blood Bowl 2 stop in life, and I'm not talking in an existential or evolutionary way. No, Blood Bowl has had a very long and complex incubation complete with multiple births.

Originally a table top game designed by the before mentioned Games Workshop, Blood Bowl was played out on a board with a series of models per side. These models were ideally built and painted by you the player and the game would take place through dice rolls and square counting and statistic measuring.

Back in the 90s I had the pleasure of playing (and still to this day owning) Blood Bowl 3rd Edition however I personally had problems with the game. Namely there was a lot of maths involved and lots of things to remember including the wide range of skills your players may have.

Simply running to a spot on the board, first you needed to know how far your player could move. Then you could move additional spaces by rolling dice and being lucky. However if you wanted to move past opposing models then you needed to roll dice to dodge. What you had to roll was based largely on your own stats, however you would get modifiers or rerolls depending on your skills, and likewise the opponent would get modifiers depending on their skills. This was a lot of information to keep in your head and even to this day I get feelings of dread when I think about playing the game on a board again.

Then the game had its support dropped by Games Workshop and it came down to the community to instead develop their own versions of the rules, one such version is known affectionately as 'The Living Rulebook'. While I was not involved in that myself, I am familiar with those who were and could probably tell you a lot more about that than me.

Then around the mid naughties came a sudden twist. A company was developing a video game called Chaos League that promised to be 'not-Blood Bowl' on a computer.

The game was interesting at the least, it played pretty smoothly but was plagued with issues namely the fact that it really was Blood Bowl in a different name, however the lack of a brand recognition did not help it.

A few years later Games Workshop came along as said "we like what you did with Chaos League! How about you now make Blood Bowl for real?"

And so the first computer version of Blood Bowl was created featuring a few of the main races (Humans, Orcs, Elves, Skaven etc) the game was good, it was fun, but it still felt slow to me. Yes I no longer had to remember stats etc just to move a player as the game did all that for me, but there was something about the game that didn't play smoothly.

Then they released Legendary Edition. The same game but with a tonne of extra teams but little more else. This was then closely followed by Chaos Edition, same as Legendary only with the extra Chaos team.

Following Chaos Edition things went a little quiet before being announced that Cyanide were now working on the brand new Blood Bowl 2 which promised to take everything learned from all 3 previous versions of Blood Bowl and create an experience with better graphics, smoother gameplay and less of a barrier between player and game.

Which brings us up to today!

The Good
So what is there to Blood Bowl 2 that is good?

Well if we look at the previous goals of making the game prettier, smoother to play and less of a separation between player and game, I am happy to reveal that this has been achieved on all fronts!

As you can see from the screen shots, the game itself is beautiful and doesn't require a monster rig to make it look like this (no TitanX required) and not only is gameplay smoother, but the interface is much more intuitive than previous iterations of the game!

Gameplay while still being turn based consists of you clicking the player you want to manoeuvre and then clicking on a second point, this can be either an open space of ground to run to, or a friendly player to pass the ball, or an opposing player to tackle. If there is only 1 choice available to you (such as tackle the opponent) then your player does this automatically after receiving confirmation that you want to go ahead with the move, if however there is a choice then it gives you the list and let's you pick. You don't need to spend time thinking about the best route to run from A to B as it calculates it all for you and executes it perfectly! This has changed how the game plays meaning you can focus on what you want to do rather than how you are going to do it.

The same applies to building a team roster. If you want to, you can go through player selection one at a time picking who and what you want in each role, or you can set the game to do this for you loosing it to create a balanced (but perhaps not optimised) team so you can jump straight in and play.

They have also added a single player mode which unlike previous game versions actually has a semblance of story. No longer are you Generic Team X playing off against Generic Team Y, now you have contextual commentary who have more than 3 lines of dialogue repeated ad nauseam and a reason and drive to do what you are doing!

The Bad
Ok so Blood Bowl 2 is not the perfect game for a lot of people. A quick check on Steam reveals a lot of people unhappy with certain elements, but what is very telling are what those elements are.

Firstly we have the ruleset that the game itself plays by. This is not the Living Ruleset used by the tabletop community at large. Cyanide have been very open in saying that they have made many changes, some of them open and obvious, others subtle, but they were all made in order to create what they believe makes the game more fun.

Secondly, to a degree player choice has been removed in certain circumstances. Remember when I told you that in the tabletop game you had modifiers and rerolls based on player skills? Well you didn't have to use them. In Blood Bowl 2 the game automatically will use those skills. Personally I don't see a problem with this, why have the Dodge skill if when you need to, you don't use it? But apparently the fact that you are required to use it is an affront.

Others have argued that the game has dumbed down Blood Bowl as a lot of the rules around the game such as building a roster, along with rules within the game such as finding the optimal path to run your player, can now be automated by the game. For these players, this is not the Blood Bowl for them, it's the Pop-Corn Pop-Culture version of Blood Bowl designed to appeal to console players.

The Ugly
Micro transactions and DLC. There I said it. It's the ugly truth of the modern gaming world and it is here to stay with Blood Bowl 2. Currently not in play, but with plans to release, we will see the team rosters expanded in future with extra teams as micro transactions/DLC.

Obviously some people are unhappy with this. Their attitude is that when they buy a game they should get the full game and not have to shell out an extra £50 split over £2.50-£5.00 increments for additional content later down the line. The thing is, we saw in previous iterations of Blood Bowl what happens when you don't design the groundwork to accept DLC, we get three whole different games where in some cases all they are doing is introducing a single team.

What this system lets you do as a player is pick and choose. If Cyanide decide later on to release a Vampire Counts team, or a Nurgle Rotters team, then they can do so and as a player you can pick and choose if you personally want to use those teams yourself. You are not buying a whole new game with tens of new teams just because you want to play one of the new teams.

Once again we are seeing control being given to the player and letting them play how they want to!

So we get to the ultimate question; should you buy it?

As always it depends on your tastes. For me Blood Bowl 2 is a mixed bag. I really enjoy playing it, a lot! But that is because it lets me play Blood Bowl, without playing Blood Bowl (in the traditional sense). When I play this game, the brain hurt and dread I experienced from the tabletop version and the previous video versions, it's all gone!

It is almost as if Blood Bowl 2 is the Blood Bowl game for those who don't like playing Blood Bowl.

Focus has been taken away from the 'serious business' of tactics with a focus instead on 'fun'.

So if you play your games to ROFLStomp the enemy into the ground and drink their tears, then honestly this game is probably not for you.

If however you like playing a silly game for fun which you can also play against your friends, then there a lot worse fixes you could get out there.

Ultimately I had great fun playing, and isn't that the reason we play videogames in the first place?

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley


  1. I'd heard that the AI was still pretty abysmal (BB1 it was pretty poor) any feel for that?

    1. The AI is pretty poor. You play a game on an easy-ish difficulty and the opponent will stick to the same tactic over and over again regardless of the state of the game. But just like the earlier versions it's a game more for multiplayer than singleplayer.

      Saying that however, each race AI seems to have a set tactic, so in a way single player is its own strategy game where you have to figure out what the opponent strat is and how you can combat it. That is quite fun and a challenge in itself, but once you have sussed it the match turns into paint by numbers as long as you can execute your tactic each time.