More than five years ago, I reviewed the first digital version of Blood Bowl, a traditional table-top miniatures game based on high fantasy football. That game was reissued about a million times, including multiple versions on the PC and a recent mobile release. While all of these versions offer an interesting challenge and unique gameplay, each was hampered by various issues that kept the title from greatness.
Now, Blood Bowl 2's kick off date is imminent. Can this update fix the problems of a 5-year old game based on a 30 year old ruleset? Based on recent press, I'm confident that it can. Let's look at the issues that plagued the earlier (primary 360) title and how the sequel looks to fix them.
Lack of Polish
That very first version of Blood Bowl seemed rushed and/or amateurish. Menus were rather clunky, with little contextual information. Things unfolded behind the scenes, making a fairly straight forward ruleset seems chaotic. Some things were nearly broken, including the tutorial which allowed one to get permamently stuck.
The developer, Cyanide, hasn't changed, but there is hope that the studio has refined things in the past five years. From the highly detailed developer's blog, it's clear that a lot of thought has gone into the title. From a distinctive and clean visual style to technical descriptions of the AI, Blood Bowl 2 doesn't look to be a cash grab. It also looks to have received a bit more attention than the studio's other releases. Compare the website to the relatively barren Front Page Sports Football site.
Online play in the initial release of Blood Bowl was limited to one-off exhibition matches. I noted in my review that online leagues would have been an outstanding addition.
It looks like someone at Cyanide had similar thoughts. From the press information, online leagues look to be a huge focus. Individual and league stats will be kept. Championships will be customizable, including various types of ladders and brackets.
Just as interesting is the marketplace system, which allows you to sell and buy players. While this seems to borrow heavily from other modes (UT, Diamond Dynasty), there will be no micro-transactions, according to the developer.
I learned more about Blood Bowl by finding a pdf of the original tabletop rules than I did from the original's built in tutorial. I suppose part of the fun of that title was the grueling climb that was the game's learning curve, but I'm sure it would have gained a bigger following if it were more accessible.
It looks like the developers are acknowledging the complexity of the game; there's a specific sub-page for new players. Still, I'm hoping that the tutorial and UI are more user-friendly. Cyanide's description of "Tactile Feedback" under the New Features tab looks to address that concern.
Also, I suspect the reimagined campaign mode will guide players through the basics. The campaign in the first was very deep--and very confusing.
Outside of the annual AAA releases, there isn't a sports title I've been looking forward to as much as Blood Bowl 2. The framework was in place for a great game back in 2010; unfortunately the execution was't terrific.
If you haven't tried the original, it's usually cheaply available on one of its various platform. It may be worth it to try out this complex but rewarding game, ahead of what should be an all around better version, releasing this fall.