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Review: Blood Bowl II

Some of the best sports games launched the past couple of days. With FIFA 16, Pro Evolution Soccer and NBA2K16, sports fans already got a lot of new games in their favorite genre. Blood Bowl II offers a different take on the sports genre. It’s based on American Football but goes its own ways with it. Forget everything you know about American Football and give this Warhammer inspired version a shot.

An experienced developer

Blood Bowl isn’t a new concept. In fact, playing American Football with Dwarves, Elves and other Warhammer characters came to be as a tabletop board game at first. Later on, the idea got translated to videogames with Blood Bowl I. The game was a small success but a small French studio called Cyanide studio, thought it could be better. They asked for an official Warhammer license but got refused, leading to an independently developed spin-off called Chaos League. Chaos League was a success among players but Cyanide Studio was forced to bring it down since they ‘stole’ the Blood Bowl idea. Now, years after the conflict, Cyanide Studio finally got the license and worked on Blood Bowl II.

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Cyanide Studio was a big fan of the original concept and saw room for improvements as well. It’s great to have such a motivated team to work on such a unique game as Blood Bowl II. The team did a great job and created a fun but difficult take on American Football.

Fun campaign

The moment we started up the game for the first time, we got introduced to two eccentric commentators. Bob Bifford (ogre) and Jim Johnson (vampire) deliver the commentary during the campaign mode. Their narratives are filled with jokes and interesting tips. Both monsters deliver a great job in bringing the world of Blood Bowl more to life. Thanks to this commentary you’ll always be excited to start up the game and dive deeper into the strategies and atmosphere. It’s a shame some of the commentaries are repeated a lot, more dialogues would have made things even better.

 

Time for something new

 

That being said, campaign mode is more than just commentary. In this mode, you’re the coach of a new Blood Bowl team. You need to grow your team by levelling up characters, giving them new abilities and by buying and selling players. Aside of dwarves and orcs, there are more playable characters such as the Elves, humans and lesser know Warhammer characters. Picking the one that’s best for your team is a lot of fun during the campaign mode. In campaign, you need to create a winning team and find ways to entertain the crowd while you’re on the field. There’s a lot going on but the game goes step by step. Newcomers will find it difficult to discover everything but it’s good to know that not everything is explained in just one match.

It’s not American Football 

As the name already gives away, Blood Bowl II isn’t a regular American Football simulator. First of all, the entire game is very bloody. During your matches against other teams, you’re goal goes further than just scoring as many touchdowns as possible in sixteen turns. During your game, you gain extra points by taking down the opponents. You can take them down with ‘simple’ tackles or hit them with your giant weapon, most of the times a giant sword or bat. But there’s more, you can even push the opponent out of the field, into the arms of the crowd. The crowd will then deliver some hits to the opponent.

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Besides ‘fighting’ your way trough victory, you can also cheat by buying the ref. Once a ref is bought, he can mess with the scoreboard or hit the opponents away so you can go score that touchdown. Blood Bowl II isn’t a fair American Football simulator; it’s more an interesting and more aggressive take on the sport. Don’t be afraid however, since all characters are fantasy characters, the violence never gets realistic. The blood and pain is brought in a child friendly way so younger players can enjoy their time with the game as well.

Turn based with dices 

Unlike the first Blood Bowl, which was played in real time, Blood Bowl II sticks to its roots. Just like the traditional tabletop game, Blood Bowl II is a turned based game. So how does that work in American Football? Easy, you select the player with the ball and chose what to do. Do you want to advance or pass the ball? Use your defence to protect the player with the ball and use your attackers to take down enemies that are standing in way of victory. This happens in turned based combat so you really need to think on how you would like to use your characters. The commentators also give hints on certain moves and will warn you if you’re doing something that might fail.

Failure coms together with dices, like in the tabletop game. Dices are powerful and decide everything. The percentage of success depends on the dices. For some moves, you need to roll four or up for example. If you’re lucky to get the right amount of eyes, you’ll advance. Toss a wrong number? The planned action will fail. The dices give an extra dimension to the game and thanks to those you’ll always see if you’re action has high chances to succeed or not. Thanks to this system it can occur that the enemy can stay ahead of you if the dices won’t fall right for you. It doesn’t happen that much but it could happen nevertheless. If you’re familiar with board games, this won’t be a problem but players who’re looking for a fair but brutal American Football game will need to understand that luck is a big part of the experience here.

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It looks and sounds great 

That being said, the game looks incredible compared to older games in the franchise. All characters are designed with a lot of love for detail and really come to life on your television screen. The grass, arenas and audience all look great so you’ll be sucked into the atmosphere directly. Also note that the soundtrack and sound effects during matches is near perfect and you know you’re playing an enjoyable game. The developers really put the systems to work when it comes to presentation.

Aside of presentation, the strength of the consoles is used to create thrilling matches and smart opponents. It works great but the opposite team needs a lot of time in order to work out their strategy. Waiting while it’s their turn can get a little boring for some. If you’re looking for faster matches, the multiplayer mode is the place where you’ll find those.

Conclusion:

Blood Bowl II is an interesting take on American Football and a must-have for Warhammer fans. It’s not a simulator but more an arcade take on the sports. Don’t be mistaken however, the game has a lot of different strategies and it isn’t something you pick up in a couple of hours. If you really want to become good at it, you’ll need to invest some of your time in learning the ropes. Once you understand the game and know what you need to do, this might be one of the best sports games at the moment. Don’t be afraid to try something different from time to time, Blood Bowl II is the perfect game to give you something you won’t expect.

7.5/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.