During the early days of the last console generation, developer Omega Force released a title based upon the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. That title was Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War and was a fundamental gameplay shift from the traditional action-based titles the team had worked on prior. Now more than seven years after its original release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Tecmo Koei have brought the title to a new generation of consoles with a whole new campaign and other enhancements. Does Bladestorm: Nightmare pass the test of time, or is this a game you should not pursue?
Bladestorm: Nightmare opens with the selection of two modes: The Hundred Years’ War campaign and Nightmare mode. Fans of the original title will find that the former is largely unchanged in its entirety with only the addition of new gameplay tweaks to keep it feeling new. Playing through this mode before engaging in Nightmare mode is beneficial, as the tutorials will help to understand the basics which are loosely glossed over in Nightmare mode. Thankfully, character progression and such carry over from one mode into the next, so that hard work spent leveling a given class is not wasted.
The core gameplay to Bladestorm: Nightmare feels like a mesh hybrid between Omega Force’s signature Dynasty Warriors series meshed with that of the Kessen from the early PlayStation 2 days. Gone is the direct control, where hitting triangle and square in rapid succession bring about a flurry of combos. Instead, the character you control is specialized in taking control of mercenary squads that roam the battlefield (or those that you can keep in your inventory as consumable summons). Taking control of a specific weapon type will confer upon you the level and skills of that weapon type. Specializing in one weapon type, such as swords, would give you a high level unit any time you pick up a sword & shield unit, but that level would reset if you swapped to a squad that used crossbows. Weapon compatibility and knowing each type’s strength and weaknesses is paramount to surviving the killing fields of France. Focusing enough on a single squad type might give you a poor disadvantage (spears versus bows, for example) but with a high enough level, the increased damage you take from being at a tactical disadvantage is negligible. My level 90+ polearm team found no trouble just mowing through squad after squad while only taking one damage per attack from nearly any enemy type, even on Nightmare mode’s hard difficulty.
Since you have less command over the direct attacks of your squad, the controls may feel weird at first. Once partnered with a combat squad, your primary actions are linked to the R1/R2 buttons. R2 brings your squad into formation and gives them a slight speed boost while running around the battlefield, so this will be held down during most of the scenario. R1 shifts into battle focus, making you and your troops attack accordingly. You won’t have an exact control over what they can strike, so using the movement stick to readjust and re-angle your approach will take some getting used to. Alternating between R1 and R2 was a common tactic I found myself using: extending the troops out in mass attack then holding in R2 to reel them in and back into slight formation before forcing them to advance once more.
To break up the monotony of Bladestorm: Nightmare‘s weaker combat, there are additional skills that your unit can learn as you level up their skill books in pre-battle management. Each unit type has access to three signature skills that give them a distinct tactical advantage. For the Roman Spears that I took with me throughout my playthrough, I found myself utilizing Mighty Arm to boost my unit’s attack power and Javelin which would give my units a short ranged attack but could eliminate multiple squads at a given time in one use. As every unit has their own skill types, it’s important to nurture and level these up for squad types that you have a tendency to play with. Once you start playing the Nightmare mode, new enemy types focused upon the mythical beasts and monsters you fight against will join your command, giving you more unique soldiers to take control of. With the ability to link up to four officers together each with the prowess to lead 50 troops, you’ll find yourself commanding up to two-hundred troops into battle by the time you see the credits roll.
While Nightmare mode is more chapter based and gets to the story much quicker, the original Hundred Years’ War is just the same as it was on last gen consoles. As a mercenary, you’ll be able to join England and France freely in small skirmishes. In order to achieve the next story mission, you’ll have to raise your fame to an adequate level. Only once the gauge is filled will select story missions pop up, giving you the option of advancing the clock of the war and seeing through new campaigns. On multiple occasions, my fame was filled to the max and I had to subject myself to nearly a dozen additional missions before the option to go to war in one of these mandatory missions came up. Since many missions are broken down to simply attacking particular bases (typically just one, but there are times when you’ll have to take control of an entire region), I found myself foregoing every other officer in the mission and making a beeline straight for the objective. Being direct might make the missions go faster, but you’ll miss out on fame and resources, both of which I was already capped out on until I could advance the story. With a very limited number of maps and battlefields to play on, you’ll be following the same battle lines you might have already tread through dozens of times before.
Nightmare mode, on the other hand, follows a quick chapter by chapter story that follows a similar presentation style to that of Warriors Orochi 3, narration and all. The tale of Joan of Arc and a mysterious evil doppleganger of hers that controls monsters to do her bidding and ravage France is over all too quickly. From opening moments to closing credits, Nightmare mode will be over in less than a dozen chapters which go by all the quicker if you already carry over a warrior from the Hundred Years’ War mode.
Bladestorm: Nightmare should feel fresh for those that have previously only done battle in ancient China or Japan. The premise leads to an interesting history lesson on what might have gone down between France and England so many years ago. That is, if you discount the dragons, cyclops and other mythical beasts in the Nightmare mode. If you’ve never played the series before, both modes should keep you engaged once you can put the copious amounts of grinding and retreading aside in order to see its tale to fruition. For those that have already fought by the side of Joan of Arc, the fun albeit short Nightmare mode might not be enough to justify a replay unless you’re jonesing for more squad-leading action.
[Editor’s note: Bladestorm: Nightmare was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 platform. Review code was provided to us by the publisher.]Bladestorm: Nightmare (PS4) Review,