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Blackguards Preview: A Pleasant Romp with a Crew of “Bad Guys”

A “blackguard” is defined “as a person, particularly a man, who behaves in a dishonorable or contemptible way.  Seems like the perfect title for a game that stars a character imprisoned for something he may or may not have done.  That point is a little confused by the main character’s memories of fighting a wolf that didn’t leave a corpse as the prologue of the game.  (On a side note, stay away from narcotics, readers).  Along with a motley crew of fellow prisoners, drug addicts, and other outcasts, Daedalic Entertainment’s Blackguards is a turn-based RPG that tasks you with finding out what the hell happened.  It’s like a darker “Hangover”, set in a sword-and-sorcery fantasy world.

It's a good thing it looks so good.

Players will travel through the overworld, and various battle maps, from this screen.

I played five hours of Blackguards’ preview build, but I’m going to avoid talking about the story because there is certainly one to be told and I don’t want to spoil it.  I will say this: I often wasn’t certain when I was following an obscure means of progressing the main story and when I was just on a random side quest.  And, it might just be me, but I loved that.  The quests became more about filling out the world than ticking off a checklist on something that was obviously optional.  That and the missions provided me with a good amount of alternate income because money is scarce and items are costly.  Being appreciative of interesting quest progression and aesthetics is cool when you have money, but you’re an escaped criminal and money isn’t something you’re allowed to have at all.  Ever.

In the time I’d played, I hadn’t even been able to afford an upgrade to my armor although better weapons were a bit easier to come .  I longed for fights because I would be able to loot their bodies.  Occasionally, I felt a little grimy and bandit-y, until I realized that I was killing people as bad as, or worse, than myself.  Or goblins and wood trolls which aren’t people and thus don’t receive my pity.  Then the guilt goes away and the fun of looting promptly returns.

Un-upgraded abilities can't hit the broad side of the Sun from 2 feet away.

As you expend your experience, called “Action Points” or AP, you can learn new abilities and upgrade old ones.

And you’ll want to have as much fun as possible because, unless you like touch-and-go tactical battles, this game will make you sad.  Combat is tough.  After character creation, where you can pick between genders and three classes, you quickly pick up a dodgy dwarf fellow named Naurim who won’t shut up about a dragon and foppish mage named Zurbaran that sleeps around in an enemy country.  I don’t know what the party limit is but it often isn’t enough.  Enemies outnumber you and make good use of that fact, surrounding members of your party and cutting off any escape routes.  I’m sure I wasn’t being the most efficient with my strategies; there’s multiple types of damage from weapons and armors have varying amounts of protection against those different types of damage.  With the ability to switch between 3 weapon sets that you can set up before a battle, you can react to what your enemy is equipped with and deal the correct kind of damage.

If you were expecting something that would hold your hand, then you should find your mom or a girlfriend because Blackguard won’t do it.  Partially because of the beta’s lack of proper tutorials and partially because the enemies are unforgiving.  Thank goodness there are no flanking bonuses (I think).  Or else my lone, tanky dwarf would have been turned into dwarf-flavored Kibbles time and again as the enemies’ frequently superior numbers swarmed me like the corpse lice Naurim hates so much.

This early taste of Blackguards has gotten me extremely excited to see what the final product will look like.  There’s so much going on that it’d be shame not to see this game through to its completion.  The game is available via Steam Early Access, so if you want to pre-purchase the game while helping Daedalic Entertainment along through the development process, then follow through here.