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Score: 80%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

The studio behind Blackguards, Daedalic Entertainment, are masters of the form with a large and impressive library of games. Known for creating rich visuals in their adventure games, it's no surprise that Blackguards is visually striking. The continuity from Daedalic's world of The Dark Eye will make fans of titles like Chains of Satinav happy, although the format of Blackguards is quite different. Daedalic really went to town on art throughout this game with detailed illustrations on load-screens, rich 3D battlefield scenes, and animated scenes that bring you deeper into the story at certain points during the game.

If you've played other Daedalic games, you know that they generally pay special attention to sound, music, and spoken dialogue. Blackguards is no exception and the voice acting, in particular, is fantastic. Even a stray NPC in the smallest town has a line or two for you, and the main characters end up delivering tons of dialogue. It's at least equivalent to a major movie script, and perfectly extends the great graphics throughout this game. Our only complaint would be that the interface is a bit crowded if you aren't playing on a large screen. Spell details and smaller text is also hard to read on small screens, so this is a game that really shines on a desktop setup with a decent-sized monitor.

The Blackguards' first DLC, "Untold Legends," adds more battle maps, items, and music without dramatically changing the game's feel or playing style. It will be interesting to see if future expansions bring even more variety or introduce new corners of the world of The Dark Eye.


Blackguards will appeal primarily to fans of turn-based, tactical role-playing games. Imagine something like Fire Emblem mashed up with Diablo and you're well on the way to a good mental picture. The depth of a full-blown RPG, complete with dice roll mechanics, can be found here. Character development brings a dizzying amount of options, ranging from base stats to skills to weapon talents to magic and special abilities. Any single character can be customized so greatly that it almost doesn't matter where you start out, which is one reason that the Untold Legends DLC is about additional maps and items rather than customized characters. All the depth you'll ever need to develop your character is already built into the core of Blackguards.

If Daedalic knows one thing, it's how to tell a story. Many tactical games suffer in this respect and end up feeling like nothing more than a series of battlefields. The core quest lines in Blackguards are well plotted and are even broken up with 3D-animated scenes to elaborate on dialogue picked up in towns and with NPCs. If you simply play through the main story, you'll miss out on quite a bit of character development and loot, but you'll come away with a real experience that feels intentionally plotted and planned. Maybe it's just our fascination with bright shiny objects, but we had a hard time avoiding the temptation to keep tweaking characters, items, and running down side missions. It's a bit like Skyrim and its ilk, where players may find it hard to strike a balance between immediate gratification and seemingly infinite depth. Blackguards rewards a patient style of play and generally leaned too much on mechanics for our taste. Not to say we can only be happy running and gunning, but this is a game best suited for folks who like geeking out on stats as much as they like the heat of the battlefield.


Tactical games represent some of the world's tougher intellectual exercises thanks to variables of power, placement, and movement. Any strategy gamer will appreciate the battlefield mechanics of Blackguards, but may not be signed up for all the associated character tweaking that draws heavily from traditional RPGs. The time between battles is spent modifying character loadouts and abilities in anticipation of the next big challenge. There are even ways to equip secondary weapon combos that prevent you from losing ground if a battle shifts from ranged to close combat, or vice versa. Switching weapons eats up time you might otherwise be attacking, which seems reasonable. Much like a pen-and-paper RPG, the rules of engagement in Blackguards are rigorous and lengthy.

Even for fans of deep strategy gameplay, Blackguards may feel slow. There's a reason that games like Diablo have succeeded with hack-and-slash gameplay over the top of relatively authentic RPG mechanics. If you're going to devote a day to sitting around the table exploring a dungeon with friends, traditional RPG gaming is still incredibly fun. Combining that depth with tactical gameplay feels a bit overkill. The learning curve is generous through the game's tutorials and the difficulty setting can be modified at any time, so it's not like Blackguards is actually too difficult to play. Whether you'll love the game or just tolerate it comes down to how much time you want to devote to really perfecting your characters. It also comes down to how much you care about perfect performance in battles. Both for the core experience and the DLC, there are plenty of battlefields that you'll escape by the skin of your teeth, which we viewed as realistic considering the odds were generally stacked against our party. Like any RPG, a lot of what you take away from Blackguards depends on the attitude you bring to it.

Game Mechanics:

Blackguards reminds us how much more can be packed into the control scheme of your average PC game, compared to what's possible right now on consoles. The menu system alone is a whopper, with layers of abilities and descriptions of abilities you can pore over for quite some time. Daedalic struck a nice balance between cluttering the interface and providing sufficient depth in the game. Navigating through the world map is simple, and once you reach towns, you're treated to a static street view with dialogue markers on characters you can interact with at inns, markets, or to pick up quests. The character sheets and inventory present a much deeper set of options, but still allow you to click-and-drag items around for simple sorting, selling, and equipping. It's a bit daunting once you realize that there are several tabs to each character sheet with potential upgrades and abilities, most of which can be mapped to hotkeys for battle.

The battle system takes some getting used to, but doesn't stray too far from the traditional set of options. Movement happens on visible tiles, with space clearly defined as the range you can move and attack, versus just moving a long distance without attacking. Almost every attack has a strong and normal variation where the potential for strong attacks to hit is generally lower. Magic doesn't have the same set of options, but can fizzle in some cases if the "dice roll" doesn't pan out for your attack. Characters have to equip healing and ancillary items to use them in battle, and can interact with objects in the battlefield. This last ability turns some battlefields into puzzles, or gives you ways to lure enemies into traps with careful planning. The depth of its battles really defines Blackguards; everything else is really window dressing, a veneer over what amounts to a deep, tactical-RPG experience. If that's what you're signed up for, you'll enjoy yourself, but don't come expecting a game that's 80% story with some filler battles, or a fast-paced lootfest.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP 32 Bit; 2 GHz Dual Core; 4 GB RAM; nVidia GeForce 8600 GT, ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT; 20 GB available space; DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card with Latest Drivers

Mac OS X Version 10.7 or higher; MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac older Mac Pro release year 2010 or newer; 4 GB RAM; Intel HD4000, nVidia or AMD graphic card; 20 GB available space


Test System:

Mac: Lion 10.9.1; 2GHz Intel Core i7; 8 GB RAM; Intel HD 4000 with 1024 MB VRAM.

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation 3 Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Sony PlayStation 3 Deception IV: Blood Ties

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