Fans of gridiron action were happy to hear that Blood Bowl 2 resurfaced at this year’s E3. The sequel to 2009’s Blood Bowl, Blood Bowl 2 looks to be a massive improvement over its predecessor, building upon everything that made the first title so wildly popular while bringing with it numerous overhauls and new gameplay mechanics. During the E3 gameplay presentation of Blood Bowl 2, there was little denying that Cyanide Studios’ upcoming offering is destined to be one of next year’s most enjoyable –and brutal – offerings.
For those unaware, the Blood Bowl series is adapted from a tabletop game of the same name, set in an alternate version of the Warhammer universe. Blood Bowl 2 keeps this connection alive by bringing the rich personality of the tabletop game in a wonderfully violent cacophony of sports action. Blood Bowl 2 is best described as traditional, American Football set in the hyper-brutal Warhammer setting.
In Blood Bowl 2, the main focus is on teamwork and strategy. The game’s experience is centered around tactically controlling each player on your team in order to out play your opponent. Despite being a turn-based game at its core, Blood Bowl 2’s action never feels slow, as the strategic element of the game is rich and deep, with tons of options for any given situation.
Visually, Blood Bowl 2 stands out from the first title in the series, thanks largely in part due to the game’s new engine. Cyanide has built a new tech engine for Blood Bowl 2, creating a game that is graphically slick and pleasing to watch in action. With these improved visuals, the action and experience of Blood Bowl 2 comes alive during every second of gameplay, from both teams on the field to the imaginative and impressive stadiums that roar with boisterous crowds. During the E3 demo, a team consisting of human players faced off against a squad of orcs and goblins, each of which more wickedly detailed than the last.
Games in Blood Bowl 2 will consistently be dynamic and changing experiences in an effort to keep the player constantly on their toes. Weather patterns effect how matches will turn out and the rules of a given game can change at the drop of a hat, ensuring that each and every possession and drive feels fresh throughout.
Each player on your team can be directed and placed anywhere across the field in Blood Bowl 2, allowing for the player to learn an athlete’s different strengths and skills as well as position them in a way that can maximize their talents. For those who might have trouble how this would play out, imagining an combination of X-Com type movement and placement with football gameplay is the best analogy to give.
Utilizing numerous players is the key to being successful in Blood Bowl 2, and it is a blast to play out different scenarios in different plays. For example, you may tell one of your players to attack an opposing team member who is down on the field in order to keep him out of the action, or choose to avoid him completely, opting instead to rush downfield for a pass. Thinking critically in order to outplay your opponent is a wonderful combination of traditional strategy and thinking on the fly.
Blood Bowl 2 features a campaign mode, told through the eyes of two sports commentators – Jim and Bob. Jim is a vampire and Bob is an ogre and listening to their commentary run throughout a match is both insightful and downright hilarious, thanks to Cyanide’s attention to detail in their writing.
In the campaign mode, the first seven matches are tutorial based, a welcome addition that will help acclimate newcomers to the series as well as fully enlighten all players to the nuances of strategy in Blood Bowl 2. Matches in Blood Bowl 2 can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half, while each play has its own timer ensuring that players cannot stall forever and the game can continue on.
Teams are generally divided up by various races in Blood Bowl 2, representing a nice selection of fantasy staples. Certain races are innately better at different aspects of the game than others, encouraging players to experiment with teams in order to find their preferred fit. Some teams will specialize in long passes while others are much more concerned with brutally beating their opponents into a pulp.
Outside of the stock teams, Blood Bowl 2 also allows players to customize their own leagues. These leagues can contain up to 1,000 players and can be public or private, with the option to include a league entrance fee set by the player. This is sure to incentivize serious competitive play when Blood Bowl 2 launches, making it the next big thing in strategy gaming. As players manage their teams and franchises, they are free to trade athletes about, adding a great level of depth to the management metagame.
Set to release this fall on the PlayStation 4 and PC, with an Xbox One release to follow later, Blood Bowl 2 is shaping up very nicely. Equal parts brutal and deeply strategic, after spending time with Blood Bowl 2, it may be hard to go back to regular football ever again.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Raymond Porreca using meeting notes taken by Matt Heywood
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