Ladies and gentlemen, ghouls and goblins, prepare your alcoholic tonics and ogre-sized finger foods, because the Blood Bowl is on. Cyanide Studios returns to the blood-smeared fields and brings back the underrated turn-based sports franchise for its second iteration, Blood Bowl 2. Like the name implies, the game is a brutal and comical amalgam of football’s physicality, turn based strategy, epic fantasy and tons of rolling dice. It’s not everyday the sports teams in a video game comprise of high elves, orcs or dwarves, but when it does happen, players will know the Blood Bowl has begun and they are in for a smashing good time.
Blood Bowl 2 is a turned-based sports game. Each character moves a certain amount of squares according to personal stats and the All-American sport is morphed and skinned in a high-fantasy palette. Just like the more mainstream approach of football video games, Blood Bowl 2 pits two opposing teams against one another and each side aims to score a touchdown on the opposite end of the field. That’s pretty much where the similarities end between real football and this game.
There are eight unique races in the base game, stretching from humans to orcs to the rat-like Skaven. Each race functions similarly, but individual skills, abilities and character stats drastically change how one team is played versus another. Humans are the average and easiest team to pick up and play as. While not particularly strong in any one field, the skills of the catchers, passers and linemen are diverse and balanced enough to work with any situation. Opposite human versatility, the Chaos team, which is filled with heavy bruisers like Beastmen and Minotaurs, seek to fight it out on the football field. Disabling the enemy squad might be a Chaos team’s first goal before actually scoring a touchdown. The range of play-styles in Blood Bowl 2 is both Cyanide Studio’s biggest draw and big flaw. Each race is a weapon hidden in a puzzle, waiting for players to unravel their mysteries and harness the power of a team’s skills. However, the depth in team and character building can prove to be a high learning curve for newer players. Hours of investment can easily turn into frustration amidst losing game after game.
Fortunately, the campaign not only serves as an entertaining parody of an ESPN show, but as a thorough tutorial for new comers. Players will take the role of head coach for the Reikland Reavers, a once well-established Blood Bowl team, and lead them back to their former glory. The campaign is fun and original for an extended tutorial, but it can also hit an occasional lull when a match requires players to complete an obligatory objective alongside having to win a game. Even without these objectives, a game can drag on. Blood Bowl 2 sparingly drops new information to its players with each new match. When the campaign finally allows the player to experience a real Blood Bowl game, things can get crazy.Dice rolls dictate everything. Each player is allotted a certain number of movements based on their stats, but actions such as attacking, passing and even picking up the ball are under the scrutiny of the all-mighty dice. And yes, it’s fantastic. The dice roll variables are excellent juxtaposed to team placement, movement and planning. Even the most precise and tactical players have a chance at failing a play. Blood Bowl’s organized chaos epitomizes exactly what the game is about and why it’s so much fun.
Once players have finished their fill of the campaign, the online leagues and tournaments are the very next avenue of Cyanide Studio’s blood-sport. Blood Bowl 2 supports an extensive multiplayer feature where people from around the internet may host or join player-controlled leagues. In a league, Blood Bowl fanatics can participate in different kinds of tournaments to boost their standings, gain experience for their personal team and even gain some Blood Bowl fame as the best player in a league. Players can create their own team and join an online league at any time, but plenty of practice beforehand is definitely recommended.
Cyanide Studio’s first Blood Bowl game was released over five years ago. While a fun title, it had some rough edges that are thankfully addressed in Blood Bowl 2. The biggest change is the user-interface. The UI in the first game bogged down the entire play-screen with confusing symbols and unexplained dice rolls. Blood Bowl 2’s interface is much cleaner and sleeker. The developers even added a small preview videos of each dice roll, so players know whether their attacks are successful or not. The graphics have also been nicely overhauled; from the different races to even the football fields, each piece of Blood Bowl 2 is comically in-tune with the fantasy aesthetics. Even the announcers, Jim Johnson and Bob Bifford, return with the same hilarious tandem they brought in the first game.
The Blood Bowl franchise is an overlooked, yet interesting series. The fact that it warranted a sequel is great for fans and even better for newer players looking to join the blood-sport’s pandemonium. The game may look daunting for these new comers as strategy, micromanaging and finding the perfect league won’t come without practice. The high-learning curve is a constant theme throughout Blood Bowl 2, but Cyanide Studios does a great job easing players into the game through the story mode. Blood Bowl 2 becomes a greater game as players sink more hours into it.