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Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War (PlayStation 3) artwork

Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War (PlayStation 3) review


"Bladestorm, while not technically or visually stunning, manages to bring simplistic gameplay and a degree of customization together in order to create a fresh game. Bladestorm is by no means perfect, but allows for a large amount of playtime, albeit with a bit of grinding along the way, that will keep you playing all the way until the terribly unsatisfactory ending. "



Bladestorm, while not technically or visually stunning, manages to bring simplistic gameplay and a degree of customization together in order to create a fresh game. Bladestorm is by no means perfect, but allows for a large amount of playtime, albeit with a bit of grinding along the way, that will keep you playing all the way until the terribly unsatisfactory ending.

Graphics:

As previously stated, Bladestorm is not a visual masterpiece. The opening cutscene is very deceiving; forcing the player to believe the entire game will look that good. After actually getting to play Bladestorm, the graphics take a noticeable drop, ranging from sufficient to appalling. The character models are placed on the former end of this scale, being fairly detailed, and having over one hundred individual models on the screen with almost no drops in framerate is quite impressive. The environments on the other hand, are incredibly plain with very little variation on each map. Trees look like paper, and when venturing too close to a forest, really show how flimsy they look. The draw distance is also quite poor, and the overly fogged areas do little to hide it. While traversing the countryside looking for the next base, it is not uncommon for bases to suddenly pop up on screen right before you reach it.

While battling, you get to look at a mini-map in the corner of your screen. This is usually a functional feature, but doesn't really impact gameplay much. The size of the mini-map is also a negative, being much too small to be genuinely helpful for finding your way. This is especially tough for Standard-Definition players, who will find the mini-map completely useless, and will be stopping the game every few minutes in order to access the full screen map. Even finding out which direction you are pointing can be difficult with the mini-map. There is also no indication on the mini-map of your objective, so in order to find out which base you should be flanking, you'll need to pause and open the full map.

Gameplay:

You control a mercenary, and as such, you are able to control many units on the field of battle. You can walk up to a unit providing you have the tome (book) to control it, and take control of the entire force. These units all vary in style, ranging from your typical swordsman, to archers all the way to driving elephants. The combat is played out in a rock-paper-scissors format, where units will either be really effective against the unit they are facing, at an extreme disadvantage, or be tied with the enemy. As an example, pikes are highly effective against charging cavalry, but very weak against archers. As your army kills others, you gain experience points, which allow you to become stronger and upgrade one of three special skills that a unit possesses.

With the exception of a couple units, each unit is given a basic attack, as well as three extra abilities. The extra abilities are either used once, or give a bonus for an allotted period of time. The basic attack is used by holding down one button, and your army will automatically attack an enemy within range. Special attacks are used by pressing a face button on the controller, each corresponding to a specific ability. After use, they will take time to recharge. Unless fighting an army of much higher level, or a unit that has an advantage against your own, the basic attack will suffice, and anything else is generally overkill.

Taking bases will be your primary objective while playing Bladestorm. There are occasionally tasks where you will be told to decimate a certain enemy, or find an item hiding on the battlefield, but these are rare. Each base has a certain amount of points, and defeating enemies guarding the base lowers this point total. Once the base points reach zero, a Base Commander will appear. He is always controlling a normal swordsman unit, but is a couple levels above the other troops defending the base. After he is slaughtered, the base is taken, and all remaining enemies are forced to flee. The base points can sometimes be a problem, as once you take out all visible enemies, there are often still base points left. The reason for there to be remaining base points is that each base is equipped with archers that can only be taken down with more archers. If you don't have any archers, you are forced to travel a ways away from the base in order to force more ground based troops to spawn.

The combat is really reminiscent of a Real-Time-Strategy game, except you are one of the units being controlled. Certain units are good against others, and you move from base to base. Once capturing a base, more of your own troops appear to defend it, as well as some that are able to be taken control of. You then advance to the next base. Some of the larger castles are no able to be taken right away, and you must first wait for your friendly AI to either blow a hole in the wall, or break down the doors. This usually takes a long time, and even once inside these large castles, there aren't enough enemies in order to make the base point count drop to zero, forcing you to go back outside to spawn more enemies to massacre.

Back at the tavern, there is a merchant you can buy armor or tomes from, and can sell unwanted treasure looted from the battlefield. In order to control a unit, you must acquire a tome for it. You can also buy and find pages that allow you to upgrade specific regiments from the unit. For example, within the Swords tome, there are pages for Swordsman, Swords and Shield, and Scythes. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses. You can also hire units from another man, meaning you won't have to look around that field in order to find your favorite unit.

Story:

You control a mercenary of unknown origins, who is able to accept contracts from either the French or English army during the Hundred Years' War. Along the way you will meet actual characters from the Hundred Years' War, including Edward the Black Prince, Joan of Arc and John Hawkwood. The story changes depending on which side of the war you favor and you will also receive a special weapon at the end which changes depending who you fight for during the final battle.

Sound:

The noise of swords clashing sounds just fine, but the real detriment to Bladestorm is the voice acting. Most of the voice actors attempted to revisit the old English style of speaking, but all of it sounds really uninspired. The French voice acting is slightly more tolerable, but hearing all of them speak in English, with the occasional weak accent really takes away from the cutscenes. Another problem is that during battles, other mercenaries will pop up on your screen and either challenging you to a battle, or congratulate you on your hard work. There are only a couple phrases that these mercenaries will say, and the character that pops up is random, so you will occasionally see a female with a male voice actor, that also voiced the barbarian that popped up last time. It is quite humorous, although not intentionally, and really breaks the immersion that games attempt to have.

Play Time:

Bladestorm is really a game that drags on. If you want to keep all the types of units the same level, it involves quite a bit of grinding, something uncommon in games like this. This would have been rectified if you leveled up all units at once, but this is not the case. The actual story missions do eat up a fair chunk of time, as in order to get to the next story mission, you need to beat a large number of side missions. These side missions have no real purpose, and if you play long enough, you will see the same ones over again.

Replay Value:

After completing Bladestorm once, there is really little incentive to restart it. You can continue playing after the story is finished, and there are even harder missions, leading up to one where every unit has a level in the 90s. These battles give you greater loot, meaning you can do more damage with stronger weapons or take less damage with enhanced armor. A lot of this armor doesn't really fit in the Bladestorm realm however, as Japanese armor was not abundant in Europe during the Hundred Years' War, but all the stronger armor is of Japanese make. This is mostly due to Bladestorm being published by Koei, who predominately publish Japanese based games.

Pros and Cons:

+ Large number of different units and customization
+ Simplistic combat
+ Large maps

- Bland graphics
- Poor voice acting
- Somewhat of a grind-fest

Recommendation (Buy):

Despite not doing all that much well, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War is still a fun game. It doesn't feature jaw dropping visuals, or spectacular voice acting, but has a decent combat system as well as a large variety of classes. Trying to maintain your units at the same level can become a chore, but for those that enjoy the combat, the hours will end up flying by. The story will not hold your attention, but having new scenarios to butcher enemies certainly will. The voice acting will make you chuckle, and traversing the large maps all while capturing bases will keep you wanting more.

Rating: 7/10

marter's avatar
Community review by marter (March 21, 2010)

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