Medieval mayhem in ‘Bladestorm’
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2008
From the Black Prince to Joan of Arc, the Hundred Year’s War produced a number of colorful leaders. Now you can join them.
In Koei’s “Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War,” you take the role of a medieval mercenary. Your job is to gain gold and glory leading squads of infantry, archers and cavalry during the prolonged struggle between England and France.
Koei is the company responsible for the ever-expanding “Dynasty Warriors” and “Samurai Warriors” series, which feature ancient Chinese and Japanese fighters who mow through enemies like dry grass. Those expecting “Dynasty Knights” will probably be a bit disappointed. The T-rated “Bladestorm” moves the emphasis from the all-powerful hero to the valiant squad leader. As a result, the game plays much differently.
You start off by creating a character — selecting, gender, face, voice and name — and then head into a tavern frequented by mercenaries. There you buy and manage your character’s skills and equipment, recruit followers, listen to gossip and — most importantly — accept new jobs. These generally involve capturing or defending towns, castles or people.
Since you’re a mercenary, you’re free to accept a contract with whatever side pays best or promises the most renown. Fighting with the strong side might pay more gold, but fighting for the underdogs pays off in glory — which has plenty of its own benefits.
After heading onto the field of battle, you can link up with any unit that you’re qualified to command. You lead them against nearby enemies using a standard attack command or one of several special attacks. You can switch units if your force isn’t carrying the right type of weapons to confront an oncoming enemy. For example, you can switch from cavalry to swordsmen if you’re confronted by a nasty pack of pikemen.
During combat, you typically spend most of your time issuing commands to your troops. You don’t do much to control your own character’s attacks aside from moving him around. That’s the disappointing part for those of us who love “Dynasty Warriors.” We really want to go toe to toe with scores of sword-wielding Frenchmen. This lack of personal control and connection may also explain why the battles start feeling so similar after a while.
The graphics are OK, though a bit dark and muddy at times. Also, some of the characters look like they’re on loan from “Dynasty Warriors.”
The battlefield interface works well enough after you get used to it. There’s a bit of a learning curve — especially with using the maps.
Console gamers interested in history have plenty of options if they want to relive events from World War II or ancient Asia. “Bladestorm” has a few flaws. but it finally fills the niche for those who want to get medieval without tripping over hobbits.
'Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War'
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
On the Web: www.koei.com/bladestorm