Blackguards is a top-down tactical role-playing game developed and published by Daedalic Entertainment. The combat is turn-based and played across a map of hexes, with a separate node-based map used for travelling about the game-world between towns, points of interest and combat encounters. The game, like several point-and-click adventures from the same publisher, takes place in the setting of ‘The Dark Eye’, a popular German role-playing game thematically similar to Dungeons and Dragons. The game sprawls over five substantial chapters with an overall play time of 30-40 hours.
There is a strong focus on storyline, moral choices and interesting dialogue in Blackguards. While the opening seems somewhat clichéd this feeling swiftly falls away and, even if it didn’t, the quality of dialogue would make up for it. This story doesn’t set you up as a great hero, nor are your party paragons of virtue by any stretch, instead favoring somewhat suspicious and flawed individuals to join you. These companions are not as simple as they first appear, all with interesting tales to tell; often leading you to new quests which further the development of their characters.
Blackguards is a very good looking game overall, but a special mention must be made of the spell effects. Even the lowliest fire bolt is a spectacle, with a torrent of embers emanating from it in flight, illuminating the path of its passage, with a suitably impressive finale. The cut-scenes use the same art assets as the bulk of the game, which unfortunately means they don’t look quite as good as the gameplay – the textures look great at a distance but not so much in the perspectives the scenes adopt. That said, the cut scenes aren’t bad per se and certainly don’t detract from the game as a whole, particularly when you take in mind the generally good quality of voice-acting and writing.
My only real disappointment with the presentation of the game lies in the character creation. The system limits you to just five face choices per gender, each of which comes with pre-set hair. The range of equipment available is impressive however, so it’s fairly easy to make your mark on your character’s appearance before too long.
Many who play RPGs, particularly classic Western RPGs, will be to some extent familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons rule set in some form; whether they know it or not. The most obvious examples of games using the D&D rules are those with that name on the box, like the old infinity engine games (Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and co.), as well as Neverwinter Nights and many others. Many Western RPGs share much of the same concepts and skill systems though, like a structured level system with a few key skills like Strength, Dexterity, Charisma and others; most of which turn up in some form or another in the vast majority of RPGs.