It’s fairly safe to assume that not many of you remember Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War. Originally released in the summer of 2007, it came during the infancy of this past console generation and has always been somewhat of an outlier, especially when looking at Omega Force’s other works.
For almost fifteen years the Japanese developer has built an empire around historical, high octane action games that together form the popular Warriors franchise. However, in a move that now seems completely uncharacteristic for publisher Tecmo Koei, they decided to attack the last generation of consoles head-on, unveiling a new IP in the form of Bladestorm.
Although ambitious, refreshing and unique to this very day, the game ultimately failed to take off, and was soon met with a series of middling reviews across the board. There was still something special there, however; something raw and underrated that Omega Force is hoping to capitalise on with Bladestorm: Nightmare.
To set the record straight, no, this isn’t a sequel – at least not in the most traditional sense. Nightmare should be seen as both a remaster and expansion of the original game, purposefully enhanced for its debut on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Although there is plenty of new content on show, the core game remains largely untouched, minus a few extras perks and new lick of paint.
As the original title implies, Bladestorm takes place during the Hundred Years’ War, a bloody medieval conflict between the rulers of England and France. Unlike the Warriors games, in which you control key historic figures, Bladestorm casts the player as an opportunistic mercenary, looking for wet work wherever there is coin to be made. Occasionally, you’ll rub shoulders with royalty and the top brass, but for the most past you’ll spend your time embroiled in an endless series of campaigns and skirmishes.
Your goal? To become the most legendary sellsword there is, accruing large sums of gold while also earning fame and renown up and down France. Additionally, your efforts on the battlefield will yield experience which can be invested to train a number of weapon-specific disciplines.
Each battle will start with a campaign map, highlighting any enemy forces and strategic positions in the area. After choosing where to deploy the camera will snap into a third person perspective, showing your own custom character and whatever unit they have in tow. Fans of Omega Force games are used to having control over just one soldier, buried beneath a sea of splintered shields and swinging swords. In Bladestorm, however, you are able to direct the movement and actions of entire regiments. Responding as one cohesive unit, they can be ordered to attack and regroup using the right shoulder and trigger with face buttons harbouring a small pool of special abilities.
Bladestorm’s key innovation is how it lets players change units on the fly. Whenever in close proximity of an allied regiment you can swap with a simple button press, assuming a new weapon type and range of abilities. You’ll need to do this often, given the rock-paper-scissors dynamic that exists between different types of soldiers. Pikemen, for instance, can absolutely demolish a rank of mounted warriors yet are easy prey for halberdiers. Luckily these strengths and weaknesses are signposted in game without the need to delve into a walkthrough, allowing players to plan their attacks before charging the enemy.
For the first hour, Bladestorm is a joy to play. However, after several battles, the flow of gameplay can become quite monotonous. Very soon you’ll find yourself chasing the same objectives over and over with very limited variation or nuance. Although character progression does its best to incentivise the grind, it’s still there and begins to rub whenever playing for more than half an hour.
Sadly, the same applies when playing Nightmare, Bladestorm’s new bonus campaign. Here, the armies of England and France unite to defend themselves from a looming demon threat. For those who have played Omega Force’s Orochi crossover, Nightmare adopts the same dark and ominous tone, serving up plenty of new unit types to fight and play as. It’s an intriguing expansion, albeit one that forces players to wade their way through pitched battles instead of having the freedom to take on mercenary contracts at their own leisure.
Thankfully, Nightmare brings more than just an additional string of missions to the table. One welcome new feature is the ability to take up to four commanders into battle, using the d-pad to “zap” to their location while in-game. It’s a similar system as has been used in recent Warriors games and one that allows players to manage the battlefield effectively without the need for endless walking. Bladestorm’s Edit Mode is also worthy of mention. Here you can customise your own roster of generals with the added option of stationing them across France. Their contracts will play out in real time meaning that you can come back the next day to find your characters returning from battle with insane amounts of experience, gold, and loot.
Although the difference isn’t night and day, Omega Force has done a decent job in sprucing up Bladestorm’s graphics. Even for a game released in 2007, it still has some charm, now enhanced with a slew of high detail character models and some clever lighting effects. For obvious reasons, the original voicework has been preserved in all its cringe-inducing glory, accents and all. This small aspect can easily be overlooked when you judge Bladestorm’s fantastic soundtrack, however.
As a remaster for new consoles, there was only so much Omega Force could do in trying to make Bladestorm relevant once more without having to rebuild the game from scratch. What new feature Nightmare has to offer are intuitive and gel perfectly with Bladestorm’s existing mechanics. The demonic campaign is admittedly underwhelming in parts yet gives Bladestorm fans another series of unique battles to play through. If undecided, try the demo – it even extends the option to carry your progress into the main game.
Version tested: PlayStation 4