Bladestorm: Nightmare is a re-imagining of Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War released on PlayStation 3 in 2007. Eight years later, Koei Tecmo has not only revamped the original game but also included a brand new mode "Nightmare”, which utilises the Bladestorm formula but also switches things up by introducing a more coherent story and introducing a mystical element.
Although Bladestorm: Nightmare takes place during the Hundred Years’ War, the Kings of England and France have come to a standstill where neither army is gaining much foothold. To turn the tide of war, both forces begin relying on mercenaries to change the tide of war for their side. As a mercenary, players can take on missions from both the French side and the English side. Whatever side missions you complete will lead to you siding with that nation for the final mission of the game. Unlike Omega Force’s other titles, you start the game by creating your own mercenary. Although the character creator is competent and has a lot to offer in creating your own individually unique character, it’s not as robust as something you will find in an MMO. Your mercenary also remains silent throughout the game, which puts a damper on the story presentation as I never felt that my character really mattered in the war.
The story itself isn’t anything to write home about, and even though you encounter characters such as Joan of Arc they don’t really bring much to the overall story. Most of the time, you are presented with a quick conversational cutscene and just thrust into mission after mission. The Nightmare mode on the other hand offers something more. During the Hundred Years’ War, monsters and warlocks begin to appear controlled by someone resembling Joan of Arc, forcing England and France to call a truce and join forces to stop this new threat. The story in Nightmare is not only presented better but its structure is more approachable. Unlike the Hundred Years’ War campaign, the Nightmare campaign follows a more linear campaign where you will go from mission to mission in large scale battles against goblins, skeleton warriors, and even dragons. These missions can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half, while the missions in the Hundred Years’ War campaign can only last up to ten minutes.
Unlike Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, Bladestorm: Nightmare employs a more strategic take on combat over the casual hack and slash from the Warriors titles. You start off with a group of soldiers under your command. Players are given the option to change the unite that they are using on the fly by approaching the commander of the unite and simply pressing the ‘X’ button and taking control of a different unite. This becomes one of the most important aspects of the games combat system. Each of the units has an advantage and disadvantage against other ones.
For example, when going up against archers you will have a distinct disadvantage using cavalry or anything else involving horseback. As much as I wanted to enjoy this mechanic in the game, I didn’t feel as though I was winning by skill or strategy but more on the fact that I had the better unit going into the battle. Indeed, the game can become extremely challenging when you can’t find a unit with an advantage over the ones you are up against. Chances are you will also fall rather quickly while on horseback against archers. I also felt that my contribution to the war was non-existent as I would go into a mission and clear out ten camps and strongholds, only to see them recaptured in the next mission. This made me feel as though there was no progress in the war for one side or the other.
It’s also important to understand that even though you have your own character you actually control an entire unit. I found that this really diminished the reason to have my own character as there wasn’t anything unique about it and felt that the game would have worked better allowing you to just control units and tell them who to battle and where to go, much like "Kessen."
Each unit has a set of skills that are mapped to the face buttons on the controller. These skills range from "charging" on horseback or launching a "volley" of arrows on the enemy. Another important aspect to consider is setting up the targets and dictating the paths your generals take on the battlefield. Particularly later in the game, you don’t want to find yourself with most of your army defeated leaving you alone with your unit, though luckily you can change orders anytime on the battlefield.
Your mercenary’s base of operations is a tavern. From this tavern you can speak to the locals and gather information leading to more quest and side quests to take on. You are able to visit a merchant to buy and sell equipment, upgrade your units skills and stats, read up on your diary, which serves as a battle log, allowing you to read up on the characters you encounter and the missions that you have taken part in.
One of the best aspects of Bladestorm: Nightmare is its upgrade system. The game offers you plenty of options to upgrade the units and even change up and upgrade the effectiveness of their skills. In order to upgrade your skills you will earn "SP." This is earned by completing objectives and capturing forts and bases from the opposition. Upgrading requires "Books" and these books can be bought from a merchant or acquired as loot drops from opposing generals. These books are used to unlock new unit types such as "crossbow" and "dual wield." The books each have their own abilities to level up; these abilities will increase the damage that particular unit will do or increase the defenses of that unit. The more you upgrade, the more skills you will unlock along with different stat increase. After time, upgrading battles becomes easier and the game progresses faster, even allowing you to take down the enemies that your unit has a distinct disadvantage.
Graphics and Sound
It’s unfortunate that neither the graphics or the sound design are that great. The voice acting is pretty much what you can expect from a game developed by Omega Force. Cheesy dialog and over acted scenes accompany the game throughout. The biggest offence Bladestorm: Nightmare presents however, are in its graphics. The graphics don’t seem to have received much of an upgrade from its original release back in 2007 and I will go as far as to say that the PlayStation 2 launch title Kessen looked better. The environments are bland, with almost no detail to look enjoy.
Bladestorm: Nightmare has a lot of great ideas that conflict with each other throughout the game. Although it looks like an strategy game, it plays like an action game and instead of controlling a unique individual character, I’m controlling a small battalion in a war that I never felt I was making a difference in. The games upgrade system is also vast and completing everything in the game will take more time than people may want to dedicate to it, though there’s still fun to be had with the fast-paced hack ‘n slash combat.