Maybe I’ve lived a sheltered life since my knowledge of the Warhammer franchise barely scratches the surface and I’ve only heard of the Blood Bowl series by word of mouth. I expected something like Mutant League Football from the days of Sega Genesis, but after delving into a little of the lore I found the game from Cyanide is actually based off the Games Workshop board game that uses a turn based system to outscore your opponent. Blood Bowl 2 is in principle more of a strategic RPG than a sports game where sheer brutality is encouraged, but does the game transfer well to the console with its heavy rule set and randomness of dice rolls or is it best left for those seasoned Blood Bowl veterans?
The basics of Blood Bowl 2 are simple with 11 characters on each side of the ball that are composed of whatever is the main class of your team. It could be Ogres, Dark Elves, Dwarves, etc that you’re moving around the playing field to block and attack while trying to run or pass the inflated pig bladder to get into the end zone. That is where the predictability of any organized sport ends and the random dice rolls take over. Want to move to a certain location on the field, have your giant take on a weak player for an impact block, or make a pass to an open receiver? You have to roll, and each roll there is only a certain percentage of success that is luckily displayed before you take the chance and move. With an 87% chance to move 12 spots you still have the risk of tripping over your own feet in the open field or getting taken out when passing too close to an opponent.
Every on-field decision is a pure risk and reward situation that keeps you conservative so that you can set up your next turn and hang on to the ball or stop your opponent from advancing. Any failure is a sure fire way for a major setback or turning the ball over in an instant. All moves keep you considering your team’s strengths and weaknesses and it seems like there are only 2 types of teams in Blood Bowl 2…speedy teams that utilize agility to score and bruisers that smash their opponents into submission. Each player on your team has different stats that can be leveled up by competing in games and with each skill point you’ll notice a huge difference in the way they play their position. Players need to keep an eye on their characters to make sure they aren’t taken out of the game with a significant injury, let alone die. The cost of replacing characters comes with a pretty steep price tag especially if you’ve been leveling them up through your season.
Newcomers will find the learning curve a little more difficult than your average strategy game as they learn the in’s and out’s of Blood Bowl through mostly trial and error. Sure, the campaign serves as a basic overview to test the waters, but it isn’t really a tutorial that leaves the player feeling equipped enough to face a player of average skill until after they’re completed over half of it. It is a lengthy experience, but one that will have you keeping up with other players once you venture out to play some versus mode. Add in the pre-game/post-game color commentary by ogre Bob and vampire Jim and it feels like a real life sporting event from the Netherealm. Their amusing voice acting is perfectly done to imitate real life sportscasters and gives Blood Bowl an exceptional personality. While the campaign is pretty fun with its typical underdog storyline, the real enjoyment comes from playing real life challengers. Players can create leagues with both AI and player controlled teams if they choose, but be prepared to play matches that will last upwards of 30 minutes if it goes quickly. AI teams seem to take their sweet time choosing their movements which becomes annoying when you just want to get through the match.
Visuals are superb in areas such as Jim and Bob’s commentary and the close up on-field interactions of destroying your rivals, but the general field view is average at best. Camera angles obscure animations and it is difficult to see some of your character’s special abilities. You’ll occasionally run into the visual and audio hiccup that pop up during a match like blood spurting where there was no contact, but they are a minor annoyance compared to the crazy load times. Players can wait up to 2-3 minutes for a match to load which is absolutely ridiculous.
Overall Blood Bowl 2 gives greenhorns and experts a visceral experience to test their tactical wits against AI or other players. Visuals get the job done despite some flaws and audio binds the experience together to make this surreal sporting event come to life. Despite the issues even an uncritical player can see players won’t be disappointed with the violent and exciting package that Cyanide presents in a way that is accessible to everyone.
Score – 7/10
Review code supplied by Microsoft Xbox.