There’s a large community of gamers out there that doesn’t use controllers, TVs, or consoles to play their games. Among that community lies a company called Games Workshop, who has created some of the biggest and most successful tabletop games in the business. Games Workshop controls the biggest chunk of the tabletop gaming market with its large catalog of successful games including: Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Mordheim, Battlefleet Gothic, Great Battles of Middle Earth, and of course Blood Bowl.
Throughout the years, Games Workshop’s tabletop games have seen many video game adaptations—PS2 had Fire Warrior on PS3, there was Space Marine, and PC saw the rise of Dawn of War, to name a just a few. Not all of these adaptations have been successful, and in fact there has probably been more lemons than lions (I think that is a phrase—you get the idea!) over the years.
As someone who is into both tabletop gaming and video gaming, I consider myself “a pretty well rounded gamer,” so imagine my excitement when I got the opportunity to review a game that is the love child of both of my gaming worlds? First off, let me talk a little bit about the concept of Blood Bowl.
Blood Bowl 2 is a turn-based strategy mash-up of American Football, Rugby, and Warhammer. What this basically means is Orcs and Goblins, Elves, Dwarfs and other fantasy creatures are battling for control of the pigskin on an American Football field. If that doesn’t sound crazy to you, then you might in fact be crazy, but crazy in this instance doesn’t necessarily mean bad.
Upon starting the game, I was greeted with the two Blood Bowl commentators—Jim Johnson, the Vampire, and Bob Bifford, the Ogre. The animations for the two commentators as they spoke from behind their desk isn’t anything special to write about, as it was a bit stiff, but the dialogue was seemingly well written and humorous, so I appreciate the idea.
In Blood Bowl 2, there are 8 different races you can play as: Humans, Orcs, Dwarfs, Skaven (Giant Rats), Dark Elves, Chaos (Demons and such), Bretonnia (other Humans), and the High Elves. Each race has positive traits and negative traits, with the exception of the Humans—who have no traits at all. The Dwarfs, for instance, have the strongest defensive capabilities in the game, but are very slow due to their stubby legs making it difficult to move the ball down the field. It is impressive how different each of these races feels when you play them, and your choice on who you play on the pitch will depend entirely on your playstyle.
The campaign i is less of a finely tuned single-player experience, and more of a Call of Duty-esque, long-winded tutorial that teaches you the basics of the game and how to best utilize your players on the field. The Warhammer Universe is rich with content, and while I understand that Blood Bowl is about literal fantasy football, I feel there could have been more of an effort to create something memorable, by tying the universe into the story more meaningfully.
In the campaign you play as the Reikland Reavers—a once proud human team that has been on a losing streak for a number of years. Beyond the backstory of the Reikland Reavers, there isn’t really any narrative to be seen in the game. There is a very loose plot that is delivered by the commentators regarding your team’s sponsors between games, but it feels more like an afterthought than a full blown narrative.
Your season begins with the mass firing of the entire team, so you get to build up the new roster. Each team you build can consist of a maximum of 16 players, split between 5 different classes. It is important to build your team around the way you choose to play; for instance, I chose to have as many passers and receivers on my team as possible, so that I could throw over the top of defenders if necessary. As you will find out though, tossing the ball can be a serious risk.
Much like the tabletop version of Blood Bowl, just about everything in Blood Bowl 2 is determined by dice rolls. If you choose to throw the ball there are two separate dice rolls that take place. First, a roll happens to see if your passer throws the ball successfully, and then another roll takes place to determine if your intended receiver catches the ball. There is something to be said about the difference between rolling physical dice yourself, and having simulated dice results. Both can be incredibly frustrating, but there is something satisfying about actually rolling the dice yourself that gets lost out on in Blood Bowl 2.
While playing I did find myself appreciating the nods to the much larger Warhammer Universe mixed throughout the commentators dialogue, as well as the moments where the commentators were hilariously self-aware of how bizarre of a concept Blood Bowl really is. What I didn’t appreciate, however, was the same lines of dialogue from the commentators every game, over and over again. You can only hear “That player is about to get punched above, and below the belt at the same time!” so many times before you feel like you are being punched above and below the belt at the same time! And not to punch the game above and below the belt at the same time, but repetition is one of the issues that drags the Blood Bowl 2 experience down.
There are very few animations in the game for take downs, and you are unable to skip them, so be prepared to watch the same takedown animation every time a block is made. You should also be ready to experience a lot of possession turnovers throughout the course of each game, as fumbles and live balls become a pretty common occurrence.
On the visual side, Blood Bowl 2 isn’t spectacular by any means. Graphically, it looks like a title that belongs on previous generation consoles and rather surprisingly suffers from dips in the frame-rate when blocks are carried out in crowded areas of the field. The sad part is that the Blood Bowl universe itself is actually pretty interesting looking. There is a quirky nature to the character and world design that makes you want to see more. Unfortunately, the textures are flat, and just lack any sort of visual oomph to make the world pop.
Setting aside all this negativity, it isn’t all bad news for Blood Bowl 2. There is some fun to be had, particularly by those who are fans of the Warhammer Universe and turn-based strategy games. Being such an outlandish and wacky concept, Blood Bowl 2 could have been a truly unique and interesting experience, it is too bad that the overall presentation is muddled by lackluster graphics, animations, glitches, and a weak single-player campaign. It feels like Blood Bowl 2’s gameplay was copy and pasted right from the tabletop it originated from, but I can’t help but think that the game would have benefited from being further differentiated from its source material.