Mix one part American Football with two parts fantasy table-top wargaming, and Blood Bowl is what comes out. It takes everything from that most bombastic of sports and then amplifies all the most ridiculous elements, with souped up violence, wizardry and even overt bribery in the mix.
As with Space Hulk, it’s a Games Workshop board game from the late 80s, and one which has seen a degree of success as a video game. This will actually be Cyanide’s second crack of the whip, coming to PC towards the end of this year and following on from their fairly popular and well received 2009 entry.
Coming from their experiences there, they know a lot of the areas that they want to improve upon, to deliver a more rounded experience. One thing they are keenly aware of is that their first effort was maybe not the most inviting of experiences.
Rather than ape the gameplay mechanics of the Madden series of games, with brief snippets of live action, it stays true to the board game, playing in a turn-based fashion with dice rolls, re-rolls, action points, stats and modifiers which are played out one character at a time. It’s not going to be that fast paced, which could be off-putting to newcomers.
But that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve upon what was already there, and this starts with the more visually appealing graphics. The grass is thick underfoot, the players feature a high level of detail, the stadiums can reach high into the sky, packed to the rafters with supporters.
Thanks to the fantasy setting, multiple variations of humans, Orcs, Elves, Dwarves and on to the eight race roster face off against each other, each with their own advantages and disadvantages and each with AI that will use different tactics to play to those strengths.
To improve the gameplay flow, each player is now represented within a stack of cards in the HUD. Finding the player you want and then being able to quickly glance at some of the vital stats should help to streamline the decision making before you make an action.
Perhaps borrowed from the latest XCOM games, these actions are now presented in a much more cinematic way. The camera angle will change to something perhaps a little truer to sports broadcasting, as the player runs through their animations. However, it was keenly stressed that these camera changes and animations would not take any longer than they had before.
The single player campaign also features elements of this more entertaining shift, though it will also act as a gradual tutorial to the game. It sees you take control of the Reikland Reavers, the human team at the heart of the story of the original, down on their luck 8 years after the height of their success.
To keep things entertaining, each match will have some unique little twist or event, to keep things fresh an interesting, while much of the presentation and humour will hang on the commentary of Jim Johnson and Bob Bifford, the hosts of the “Cabalvision HD” game coverage.
Naturally, single player won’t be limited to the campaign, and you can create your own team. This will tie together all of the elements that you learn in the story-based campaign, but lets you build them from the ground up to dominate the league. Team management will come into play, while a sign of your success will be the way your stadium grows from a single stand to gigantic venues that rival the size of those in the real world. Naturally, the bigger the stadium, the more fans can attend, the more money you can bring in, the better players you can buy and the greater successes you can achieve.
It sounds like there are big plans on the online front too, with custom leagues and cups a certainty, dragging a load of variables along with them, but there are more announcements to come on this front.
It’s great to see that the team at Cyanide have such a clear vision for how best to tackle this follow up. So many areas are being overhauled or improved, to really push the game forward five years and open it up to what could be a wider audience. It’s still going to be a niche, but there’s nothing to say that niche can’t get a little bigger through their efforts.