Let’s face it. There’s the sports fanatics and then the fantasy gamer geeks. Sometimes these lines intersect, as is made clear by the number of sports games available on consoles and computers these days. But what happens when sports, in particular football, and fantasy collide? Our Blood Bowl 2 review takes a look!
Blood Bowl 2 is the follow up to the original Blood Bowl which takes American football and fuses it with Warhammer. Sounds fun, right? To some extent it is, but we’ll get that in a bit.
Like a lot of sports games these days, the story mode uses a team management approach during the campaign which doubles as a pretty lengthy tutorial. You’ll start off by managing the all-human Reikland Reavers, and you’ll learn the ins and outs of Blood Bowl through the first few matches of the campaign during your quest to restore the Reavers to their former glory. You’ll take on other teams stacked with other races such as Orcs, Dwarfs, Skaven, Dark Elves, High Elves, Chaos, and Bretonnia – each with a slightly different play style that range from the more agile to the more headstrong.
During your attempt to lead your team to victory, you’ll run into various game modifiers that will change the way the game is played. Throughout all this, your journey will be documented by Cabalvision’s own Jim & Bob who offer up their sometimes funny, sometimes drab, but always unsolicited commentary and play by play.
While you manage your team between games, using experience gained to boost your players, upgrade your stadium (there are 4 tiers and 10 available add-ons), customize your team jersey, or visit the player market to buy and trade players, you’ll also be involved in playing out the turn-based matches.
Each match starts off with a coin toss, and one team kicking off to the other. After that, you move your players around the field, knocking down opponents, or setting up to receive a pass or run into the end zone to score that all important touch down. Your chance of success of an action – dodge, pass, interception, catch, go-for-it, etc – is displayed on the field before you commit to a move, and the game also gives a preview of a block dice’s possible results taking the players’ skills into account. After you’ve moved all your players, the AI (or human) opponent will get a turn to move all his/her players. Rinse and repeat – each player gets 8 turns – until the match is over.
When one of your players is near an opposing player, a number of things can happen. You can choose to attempt to knock over the opposing player, run past him, or push him back. Each action depends on a roll of the dice, and depending on your current modifications and those of the opposition, the outcome might just backfire. Players can be stunned for a turn if they are hit hard enough as well. When you move a player and decide on an action an animation plays out his move and you find out if he succeeds or fails: knocking over the opposing player or being knocked over himself, successfully running past opponents and dodging tackles or being taken down, and more. If you try to perform an action and fail, then you forfeit your turn and the other team gets to go, so you’ll have to perform your series of moves wisely so as not to squander your turn.
While the gameplay sounds fine on paper, in execution the game and matches tended to load slowly. Even knowing that this is a turn based game coming in, Blood Bowl 2 really feels like it, and at times feels excruciatingly slow while waiting for the AI opponents to finish their turns. The animations are funny, bloody, and cool at first but do get a bit repetitive the more you see them. On average it was taking me at least an hour to complete a single match. A couple of times I approached the hour and a half mark, so this is definitely not a game you can expect to play for short stints at a time. After a few matches, I was desperately wishing that I could skip the animations and speed things along.
The graphics in the game are decent enough, but do feel a bit dated. As mentioned in the Gameplay section above, there are plenty of animations for each action, but once you’ve played for awhile, they do start to become repetitive, especially once you see them multiple times in the same match.
The sound effects in Blood Bowl 2 are great, from the grunts to the tackling and driving your opponents into the ground. The play by play commentary by Bob and Jim is well done voice wise, and while it tries to be lighthearted and funny the entire time, there are a few occasions where it’s pretty drab and after a while I tended to tune it out.
Blood Bowl II features both local and online multiplayer. During local multiplayer, each player takes turns controlling their teams in friendly – or not so friendly – one off matches.
During multiplayer gameplay, your team and players earn experience, gain levels, and learn new skills. If your player gets injured, or even killed, they’ll need to be replaced. Death is permanent for a player so you’ll definitely want to keep that in mind when moving your star player around. Players will also age and retire and you’ll have to hire rookies and get them ready in time before the older players retire.
You can set up your own leagues and competitions as well, and can set the number of teams and type of tournament. The Multiplayer leagues allow you to enroll a team and play against other players to see how well you fare. For those wanting a more consistent challenge, there is also a solo league which pits you against AI teams.
One of the new features of Blood Bowl II is the Marketplace. Here you can buy or sell players to and from other coaches during multiplayer league play. During certain periods, you’ll be able to put one or more of your players up for sale, or you can also assess players posted by other coaches and bid on him. You can even browse players not for sale and send a message to the coach of that team to make an offer. Players can only be bought or sold within the current league, and as mentioned before is only available during specific transfer windows.
As with campaign mode, be sure you set aside some serious time for a single multiplayer match. It took a short time to find a match, then each player gets 90 seconds to choose their modifications. After that, each player gets 8 turns with a 2 minute timer on each. Potentially, you could be looking at 35 minutes per match.
Blood Bowl II really sounds like a great concept on paper, and while it is fun it tends to be a bit tedious and take too long to play certain matches. Options to skip animations or speed up gameplay would go a long way to being able to pick this up and play the game during shorter gaming sessions without having to commit to an hour or more per match. The multiplayer Leagues and Marketplace definitely offer great replayability as you see how your team stacks up against others over time as you gain new players and lose current ones to death, retirement, or by selling them.
If you’re a fan of American football, team management type games, fantasy worlds, and aren’t averse to hunkering down for longer gaming sessions, you should enjoy Blood Bowl II.