This may seem unusual, but reviewing a sport game is something I’d never expected to do. The likes of FIFA, PES, and other conventional sporting franchises simply lull me to sleep – a purely subjective opinion of these simulation games. Blood Bowl is a sports game in terms of theme, but really it’s more of a tactical RPG where you build up your squad by beating the living snot out of the opposition. It’s a sport that would never fly in the real world, but Blood Bowl is certainly fun.
Based on the Games Workshop board game, the general objective of Blood Bowl as a game is to score more touchdowns than your opponent. Cyanide Studios are no strangers to the IP as they handled the previous incarnations of the franchise, but with Blood Bowl 2 we see a new engine that carries a lot more detail in this chaotic sports simulator.
Compared to the previous Blood Bowl, the graphical fidelity on show here is a step up from the original with higher quality animations and stadiums. Each game of Blood Bowl is being watched by a lively crowd that is chaotic in their partying and somewhat mobbish in their build-up. Character animation quality is drastically improved too with cinematics for when players punch the opposing team and other key events that happen during a game of Blood Bowl.
However there are two major drawbacks. Loading times are horrendously long taking upwards of a couple of minutes to load all of the match assets. Even though there are significant inconsistencies with the animation, such as blood spurting from areas that aren’t near the point of impact, this is all more forgivable than the camera which restricts your view of the action too much. Having a free camera mode in addition to the two viewpoints would have given players a better view of the action.
Team diversity is one of the key dynamics that made the first Blood Bowl and its many expansions such fun. Of the 23 teams present in the last version of the original game, Blood Bowl 2 opts to only feature 8 of them plus 2 more as add-on DLC. It’s a shame that the more interesting races are put behind a paywall or omitted entirely from the cast, but there’s enough playstyles in the box to cater for most tactics, from stoic Dwarves to sly High Elves.
Blood Bowl teams generally consist of two play styles – speedy teams that dodge and weave to the goal line and brutish teams that like to punch things. Just like previous renditions of Blood Bowl, you are able to create teams and leagues, building both up from the ground using points accumulated via certain actions such as scoring touchdowns or punching someone so hard that they are KO’d, injured, or killed.
Your squad’s skills are numerous and can be both beneficial and detrimental. So while your strongest players might be capable of knocking out foes with ease, they can also be pretty stupid. Teams for the most part are balanced with points values being how to gauge if you’re outmatched or on an even level. You can also upgrade your stadium, buy rerolls, or indeed other staff such as Cheerleaders to influence kickoffs.
As far as faithful renditions of Blood Bowl go, Cyanide Studios seem to have the rules down to a tee. Passing is as notoriously difficult as it is in the main game, while smashing opponents to the ground is relatively easy, occasionally getting them so injured that their ailments could be fatal. While the campaign is essentially a glorified tutorial with a generic underdog story, it does a great job of teaching you what to look out for and introduce you to team play-styles.
Blood Bowl 2 is most definitely better played with friends, though local multiplayer is still limited to friendlies only. You are able to create leagues with both AI controlled foes and human controlled opponents. You can also review your matches and online matches between other players with the CabalVision. Single player options are the bulk of the experience, but are nowhere near as fun and the AI takes its sweet time with its decision making.
The user interface could also use some work. Having an easily accessible log of actions so you can see historical data on dice rolls would have been great. Most notably the abilities are a bit hard to see and occasionally you won’t be able to see what skills a player has, such as during the opponent’s turn. It makes it hard to plan ahead, resulting in potential mistakes being easier to make.
Audio is also hit and miss. While the inclusion of Jim and Bob, a vampire/ogre commentator duo, are amusing to listen to and generally well voiced by their respective voice casters, the same can’t be said for the repetition of their dialogue and occasional wrong dialogue in the subtitles.
It’s difficult to overlook a lot of the flaws with Blood Bowl 2, but at the same time if you have a group of likeminded people willing to create a league, then this is a great if somewhat limited option. It’s everything you’d expect in a Blood Bowl game, with a great tutorial for newcomers and a coat of paint, looking as good as the Citadel Minatures you’d see in the window of a Games Workshop. While the core game has been sadly out of print at the store for some time, this is the most accessible way of getting your Blood Bowl fix.
Version Reviewed: Xbox One