Daedalic, Daedalic, Daedalic. Is there anything you can’t do? It would appear not. After a string of successful point-and-click games, a role-playing game is something different, and in this case, different good.
Blackguards is a new RPG that Daedalic Entertainment are still working on as it currently sits in Steam’s Early Access program. It is set in the universe of The Dark Eye which is the Germans’ answer to Dungeons & Dragons and a very popular choice in the European pen-and-paper role-playing market. With many developers attempting to produce videogames mimicking the successful institution (both in the past and currently), and oftentimes not quite hitting the mark, it is interesting to see what Daedalic Entertainment can bring to the *ahem* table.
The story follows your character (whether you be male or female) as they witness the death, or rather, savage murder, of beloved Princess Elenore. In a rather standard plot twist, the town descends, and with her blood on your hands, you are ultimately named the perp and flung into a prison cell to be “questioned”, but really tortured by your now venomously angry friends. What’s worse is you don’t even know whether you did do it!
You are very much swept into the plot from the word go; aided by the now trademark flawless voice acting that graces all of Daedalic’s work. It is no surprise here that even with a bar set so high, there is no problem meeting it, and for an RPG where much of the enjoyment comes from the atmosphere and enactment, this does oodles to wrap you up in its charm.
Being that you are already hypnotised by Blackguards you will likely feel as confused and lost as your poor character, and with the chance of escape beckoning, you will no doubt jump on board (even if the dwarf helping you seems a little too eager). You help free another prisoner/new friend and with them now on board, you are well on you way to busting out of this prison and on to Neetha where hopefully all your answers await. Only one thing stands in your way: those damn guards.
It’s okay though, because you’re in a tutorial still and you get to learn all the combat, huzzah! The game works on a hexagonal grid for combat situations and much like its pen-and-paper mother, you have a movement, err... move and an action move per turn. Each member of your party gets a turn, as does each enemy and you will need to choose your actions carefully to result in a positive outcome, as in, not dying.
The exciting thing about Blackguards is that the environment is interactive, allowing you to be truly imaginative and creative with what you choose to do. If you want to cut the rope under the chandelier to knock out the guards below, go ahead! Just don’t guide your other characters over and forget as they will also be squashed. Not that that happened here, no sir. There are all sorts of things lying around that you can use to your advantage, so keep your eyes peeled and enjoy the choices. It really adds a nice layer on top of turn-based combat, and makes each fight unique, even if you’re repeating the exact same one.
Added to your interactive surroundings are all sorts of special moves, spells and powers that you are able to unlock and learn with the action points that you gain after each encounter. There is no shortage of customisation here, with talent trees and stats galore; if you like that sort of thing then you’ve hit the jackpot here. Once again it makes for a unique and personal experience and allows you to really experiment with different combinations to see what fits you best. That, to be honest, is what role-playing games should be about.
To top off all this excellent content, you will notice from the start screen that the graphics are very nice, very nice indeed. The cut scenes are well presented, the map screen is a stunning feature (a parchment set on a table), it all really hearkens back to its roots as a representation of the pre-videogame RPG and as a visual package, is quite something to behold.
While there are still a few kinks to be ironed out; some misspellings here, a little faulty lever there, and could really do with an option to change certain key bindings (for those of us without a middle mouse wheel), the game is still in beta so these will of course be changed in patches.
To be honest, Blackguards is very impressive and for those of you who love RPGs, this will make your heart beat a little bit faster. As for Daedalic, the company have produced so many gems in the past few years that it’s worth pondering whether they are in fact genius robots who don’t sleep. How do they do it?