Bladestorm Nightmare marks the second game from Omega Force that I was really looking forward to in 2015. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve become a rather big fan of their work. Regrettably, this title is also the second game in 2015 from Omega Force that left me disappointed.
What makes it worse is that Bladestorm Nightmare isn’t particularly bad, just extremely dull and tedious.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Review copy supplied by Mindscape Pacific Asia
The 100 Year War
Bladestorm Nightmare is based in medieval times and is set during the 100 year war between France and England contesting the rightful heir to the throne. The war, seemingly without end and taking its toll on both sides, forces them to hire mercenaries in order to win the war.
Here is where the player enters the story in the most literal sense. You are asked to create an avatar using a decent range of customisation options and are dropped into the game as a mercenary, fighting on both sides of the war for the sole purpose of earning money and fame.
The story has very little to do with your character in all honesty. The text blocks that accompany the beginning and end of every battle reiterates the importance of mercenaries in the war but all that is shown in cut scenes are key figures such as the Black Prince or Joan of Arc, often bemoaning the fate of the people and how much they hate the war.
This would be interesting as I always love a story where neither side of a war are portrayed as particularly heroic. There are battles for the English where you burn down villages and French missions where you destroy justifiably rebellious citizens.
BUT it’s a little hard to feel invested in what the characters are going through when, one moment I fight side by side with the Dark Prince of England, only to smash his face in for France 5 minutes later. The only time I became remotely interested in the narrative is when OTHER mercenaries entered the story and more or less spoke on behalf of my character.
Actually, the 100 Year Bore
The story also disengages the audience by being too thinly spread. The first battle takes place with no ceremony and once completed, the player is dropped in a tavern where they save progress, listen to gossip, upgrade their classes, purchase equipment and eventually join equally unceremonious battles. I personally played Bladestorm for more than an hour before coming across my first scrap of story content.
This terrible pacing continued for the length that I played through. I would take part in meaningless battles for an hour before more story content revealed itself. This left me with very little enthusiasm to continue playing the game.
In fairness, Omega Forces games always tend to be a little lacking in narrative and focus on the combat. Sadly the fighting left me mostly unenthused as well.
Form up the ranks
The combat system in Bladestorm Nightmare is dramatically different from the Warriors games and adds a much more tactical approach that requires control of different unit types and co-ordinating multiple characters. While this seems exciting, it’s not nearly as interesting as it sounds.
Players control their avatar in battle while being shadowed by up to 50 troops marching in their unit. On the pre-battle menus you choose what troop you control, generally foot soldiers, archers or cavalry. But during battle, other allied units litter the map that you can command instead.
This is necessary as every weapon class has different strengths and weakness, similar to Fire Emblem or Pokemon. For example, sword wielding foot soldiers beat archers, archers beat cavalry, and cavalry beat foot soldiers. Each class of weapon levels up in battle and can be further upgraded outside of battle.
The classes also have special skills with a variety of effects that can be used after a cool off period and be levelled up. These range from status buffs, protective stances or heavy hitting special attacks.
In theory, this would force the player to be tactical and swap units constantly to more effectively conquer key areas on the map to attain victory. In practise however, it is much more efficient to concentrate on a single class since level 30-50 infantry troops are still devastating against level 10 groups of horsemen.
Once more this wouldn’t be bad since you are later given the ability to control multiple characters on the battlefield and swap perspective at the touch of a button, similar to Samurai Warriors 4. If different characters specialise in different weapon types, it would make for effective hunting parties since you can divide and conquer more land quickly or create armies to defeat powerful foes.
But for whatever reason, Bladestorm tutorialises this feature in the first mission and immediately takes it away. This forces players to play the game for several tedious hours before FINALLY giving control of a second character.
You can eventually control four characters but I never played that far as I found the game of too slow a pace to bother finishing.
Enjoy the scenery
The tedium of story and combat is further aggravated by having huge maps to explore. The landscapes are actually quite detailed with small earthy villages, medium size forts and castles of grey, large white cities, vibrant green forests, crystal clear rivers and grassy green plains seamlessly transition into each other.
At first, this is an impressive sight to behold, especially compared to the enclosed, corridor like maps from Dynasty Warriors. But after a few hours, the maps all begin to look the same and it becomes an aggravating waste of time running extremely slowly from one enemy encampment to the next.
The soldiers also have very little variation since Bladestorm Nightmare portrays them more realistically than any Warriors games. The armour looks more or less practical and fit the time period of medieval Europe.
But this more or less strips away the outrageous feats of battle from Dynasty Warriors, the fabulously ornate clothing and the full spectrum of colour they normally display, and leaves only a visually boring game with some nice landscaping.
And then a Nightmare begins…
In one final note, I did find one game mode particularly appealing. Bladestorm Nightmare adds a second story campaign, appropriately named “Nightmare mode”, which thematically feels very similar to Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate.
In this mode, France and England join forces to defeat armies of goblins, liches, ogres and griffons led by Joan of Arc who seems to have been corrupted by an unknown dark force. Additionally, your mercenary is wielding a blade capable of controlling demons and seems to have an idea as to why Joan of Arc is now evil. Nightmare mode is generally a much more satisfying experience since it strips away much of the tedium from the 100 year war story.
It has a much more linear campaign with your mercenary making their way through clearly defined chapters, unlocking more characters quickly and immediately giving control of a second commander in battle.
Playing this mode felt much more engrossing since your mercenary is elevated from the “background decoration of the 100 year war” to “silent protagonist with mystery sword of legend”. Admittedly the story is silly, but no more than your standard cross over game or zombie mode in a first person military shooter.
The enemies feel much less boring since rather than just variations of “dude in armour,” you battle liches casting horrible black magic, griffons slamming into you from above and Cyclops awaiting you in larger enemy encampments. Mechanically, they all operate the same as horsemen and archers but there is a lot to be said for a dramatic change in presentation.
The biggest flaw with Nightmare mode comes from the fact it was designed for players who have already played through the 100 Year War storyline. My mercenary was at level 50 when I started playing Nightmare mode on Easy, and I still struggled to kill some level 6 enemies.
That means you’ll have to play the reasonably dull main game for 10-20 hours before you can enjoy the much more satisfying nightmare mode.
Final Verdict: 5/10
While Bladestorm Nightmare attempts to incorporate interesting strategic elements into its hack and slash gameplay to deliver a unique experience, the terrible pacing of its main story and the long stretches of samey battles make the game feel like a chore.
While the large seamless landscapes are well presented, that same size only adds to the tedium.
I can only recommend this to the most curious of Dynasty Warriors fans looking for a little extra strategy in their battles. Otherwise for hack and slash fun, play any of the Warriors games, and for strategic combat with similar a rock/paper /scissors dynamic try Fire Emblem: Awakening.