Bladestorm: Nightmare Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on PC, Sony PlayStation 3 and Sony PlayStation 4
Remakes and remasters of older games have become a norm in the industry over the past two generations. The Last Of Us Remastered is a great example, packing in the incredible base game, all DLC and bumping it up to a gorgeous 1080p and a smooth sixty frames per second. But on the other hand you have the Silent Hill HD Collection, which can only be described as a complete disaster. Bladestorm: Nightmare is another remaster for the current generation of consoles that packs in both the original game and an extra campaign that sort of acts like a sequel. A good deal on paper, but in practice, Bladestorm: Nightmare pretty much describes itself: a complete nightmare.
This package is a remaster of the 2007 Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War and a sequel titled Nightmare. The Bladestorm series plays much like your typical Dynasty Warriors game in that you control one character on a large battlefield, but with the twist that you’re actually rather useless fighting enemies on your own. To combat this the player must recruit squads on the front line, at which point you gain control of every warrior present. It’s a simple and easy-to-use system that puts the player in control of who they take into battle with them. Unfortunately though, that’s pretty much where our praise for the game starts and finishes.
The original game, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War, is loosely based on the war that took place between England and France in the 14th and 15th centuries. Due to the longevity of this war, both sides hired mercenaries to fight alongside them and hopefully turn the tide of the battle in their favour. The player joins the bloodshed as one of these hirelings, and so it was time to choose which side we would fight for in the upcoming mission. Choosing between England and France is based purely on the difficulty of the upcoming level and the money you’ll gain out of accomplishing it, so holding loyalty to a particular side isn’t a good idea. But the most disappointing thing about this is that each side feels and controls exactly the same as its counterpart. The only difference between the two sides for the player is the change in colour of the army’s robes, which does very little to really make you feel like you’re representing an entirely new country compared to the previous mission.
The game’s sequel, Nightmare, introduces a brand new foe into the mix, but even this addition only feels like a cosmetic change. In this add-on, England and France have called a truce and combined forces after an army of demons attacks the Earth. All in all, Bladestorm: Nightmare’s two stories have the potential to be great. The Hundred Years’ War could have explored a period of history that very few pieces of media touch, but instead it restricts its storytelling to the odd cutscene before one of the more famous battles. Nightmare could have been a fun little side story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and lets the entertainment speak for itself, yet it simply feels like a cut and paste job of the original game with a few demons thrown in. Musou games are never talked about for their story, but when there’s potential to tell an interesting tale about a time that few games explore, it can only be chalked up as a huge disappointment and a big missed opportunity.
Gameplay in both campaigns is generally very simple, but the tutorial that greeted us at the beginning of the game made things a little too confusing. Information is thrown at the player left, right and centre and it can feel overwhelming, particularly to first-timers like us. This left us feeling a bit lost in our very first mission, where we weren’t entirely sure what was going on or even what we should be doing. But the more you engage with the game, the more you learn. Bladestorm: Nightmare’s gameplay boils down to this: the player forms a squad with nearby combatants, who then take over enemy bases on a large map, and eventually make it to the target settlement which triggers a victory once it has been conquered… And that’s it. Every mission in the game plays out in exactly the same way, which meant the game began feeling repetitive as early as the third and fourth missions. Quite frankly, the game’s entire mission structure sucks any possible fun out of the experience and turns it into a slog.
You could say that the variety in the game comes in its combat and the different squads you can take into battle, but Bladestorm: Nightmare’s encounters felt only one step above a button masher. The player has access to an assortment of squads, from basic warriors with a sword and a shield, to horsemen and a group of archers. While each group has a different collection of attacks, the basic loop the player goes through in combat leaves a lot to be desired. The player performs basic attacks with the press of the RB button with special attacks mapped to the face buttons, which have a cool down. Whenever our squad encountered an enemy base, we found a lot of success in simply spamming the basic attack while the cool down timer on our special attacks finished, at which point the majority of enemies would be wiped out with a use of one of our special moves. The combat is far too simple for a game that places so much emphasis on it, with the only ounce of variety coming in which type of squad you’d like to take into battle. It’s been a long standing criticism of musou games that everything about them just screams repetition, and unfortunately Bladestorm: Nightmare falls victim to it too.
We played the Xbox One version of the game, but you wouldn’t think it was a game from the current generation had you seen it in motion. Bladestorm: Nightmare’s graphics and presentation are absolutely deplorable, we’re talking early Xbox 360 levels here. And when you combine bad graphics with muddy textures, a huge amount of texture pop-in, sparse landscapes, dull environments, a frame-rate that goes up and down more than a rollercoaster and translation issues in dialogue, it’s easy to see how many issues this game has. We weren’t expecting top of the range graphics from a remaster, but to see something looking as bad as this on the market in 2015 feels like a big step backwards.
Bladestorm: Nightmare is almost impossible to recommend to anyone but the most die-hard fans of musou games. While the game’s story and setting does have some potential, it takes a backseat to the action and is left to a few throwaway cutscenes before battles. Gameplay becomes tedious far too early, and when combined with a combat system that requires little thought, it makes for a boring experience. When you throw all these monotonous elements into a game that also isn’t very easy on the eye, then you get an example of a bad videogame. If you are a huge fan of these types of videogames then maybe you’ll find something to enjoy, but anyone else should stay very far away.