- Release Date (NA): September 22, 2015
- Release Date (EU): September 22, 2015
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Developer: Cyanide Studio
- Genres: strategy/sport
- Also For: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Blood Bowl 2 is the long anticipated follow up to the cult turn based sports strategy game set in the Warhammer universe which was originally created by Games Workshop. An adaptation of the popular board game, one criticism of the original PC version of Blood Bowl was the steep learning curve and unintuitive interface that made it difficult to get into and which required a large investment of time and effort in order to grasp that basics of. Thankfully Blood Bowl 2 has resolved these issues making the game very easily accessible to new players, and thankfully it has done this without diluting the deep strategy of the original. One way it has done this is by introducing a progressive story driven campaign where you coach the legendary but now down on their luck and downtrodden Blood Bowl team, the Reikland Reavers, back to their former glory. The story driven campaign is brought to life and entertainingly narrated by Jim and Bob, an Ogre and Vampire pair who also commentate and call your Blood Bowl matches through the power of "Cabal Vision". The Campaign does an excellent job of introducing Blood Bowl's game mechanics and concepts at an easily digestible pace, with gameplay elements slowly opening up as you progress so you never feel overwhelmed by what is at its heart a deeply strategic and complex game.
Blood Bowls complexity not only stems from the actual Blood Bowl matches you compete in, matches which can be as deep and strategic or as simple and smashmouth as you choose to make them, but also from its team management and base building components too. You have a lot of options in how you customize each player in your team, not only can you level up members of your team as your season progresses and unlock new skills and buffs for your players, but you can also buy and sell new team members as you like. Blood Bowl being the hyper violent sport that it is, members of your team can also fall foul to injuries which may result in them missing matches. During a game players can even die permanently and these occurrences can not be circumvented if they fall upon you, they are permanent both in the single player and online game modes which gives your teams mortality an almost roguelike type of feel. You can also lose your players through retirement with them aging one year for every 8 games they play, by the age of 33 all players retire. This aspect however is a double edged sword when it comes to the marketplace in Blood Bowl 2. You can scout players in other teams during the games transfer window when playing in an online league and older players with a shorter life expectancy before retirement sell for less than younger players. However older players can be higher leveled with more skills so they can make a bigger impact on your team even though they are there for a shorter time.
The customization elements do not stop just at your team however, you can invest in other things that can give you a small but sometimes crucial advantage in the games you play too. You can buy things such as extra dice re-roll chances in game, you can invest in staff such as apothecaries to heal your players and perhaps even prevent them from dying and even cheerleaders to give your players just a little extra morale boost to buff their dice rolls. Other thing you can invest in can also provide more subtle passive effects such as giving you a higher chance to receive a ball at kick off and so on. You can even upgrade your stadium with things that will give you a home advantage and effect the crowd to make them more aggressive towards the opposing team. For example you can add a beer stall to your stadium so that crowds become more rowdy and aggressive, or even a roof to stop random attacks from winged beasts. But for the most part these customizations only have a minimal impact on the game, they only offer up as slight modifiers and mainly just add visual elements to the game so it never really feels like you are forced to upgrade to win, especially later on in a season when opposing teams might have a monetary advantage over you.
Another major difference between Blood Bowl 2 and the original game is the overhaul in both graphics and attention to detail. As expected this game looks far superior compared to the original, all screenshots having been captured by me, they are all in engine and are at the highest graphical settings on the PC. Performance wise the game runs very smoothly and in the extended time I spent playing the game I did not encounter any obvious bugs or glitches both on and offline. The stadiums you play in add a tremendous amount of atmosphere to the experience and are big, bustling, fully animated and filled with little details and flourishes, with lots of neat little Warhammery quirks for you to pick out. There are eight races in all to play with in the base game with more to come later in the form of dlc. Some may think that is a downgrade compared to the original which had over twenty available races but the races in Blood Bowl 2 are not just differently skinned clones of each other. Each race is individually animated and plays slightly differently from one another with different quirks and skills. The eight races are humans, Orcs, Chaos, Bretonnians, Dwarfs, Dark Elves, Skavens and High Elves all of which are distinct and well realized. The sound assets are also very well produced with Jim and Bob's commentary being a highlight of the game, with the rest of the sound assets from crowd chants to crunching tackle sound effects all doing their job of making you feel like you are taking part in an actual football game.
Aside from base building and team management the meat of the game is of course the Blood Bowl matches you compete in which are entirely turn based affairs. Each match is divided into two halves and each half consists of 8 turns per side, with each player only having two minutes to complete each of their turns. Even with this time limit each match can be upwards of 40 minutes in length so be prepared to invest some time for each game you play. You can field up to 11 players per game of different classes but are limited in the amount of each class you can field so that the matches maintain a fair balance. For example you can only field one Ogre class and Star player at a time so your team can not consist entirely of overly powerful players that are hard to tackle. Other classes include throwers, catchers, linemen and blitzmen, all of which have varying stats of movement points, strength, agility and armor ratings reflective of their class. Each match begins with a coin toss with the winning team deciding if they want to receive the ball or kick it off into the oppositions side. After that each team configures their formation for the match, although you have a couple of set formations to choose from you can position your players as you like within the scope of the rules and even save custom formations for the future. The objective of a game of Blood Bowl is simple, score a touchdown by running the ball to the end of the opposing teams end zone, and of course the side who scores the most touchdowns wins.
Once the ball is kicked off certain things can take place, a player in the receiving team may catch the ball, it may fall somewhere in the receiving teams half of the field or it may land outside the boundaries of the game area. Although the team who kicks off objective is to get the ball as far away from any opposition players as possible without any players catching it, if it falls outside the play area the coach of the receiving team can throw the ball to any player of his choosing. With Blood Bowl being the kind of game it is random occurrences may take place that can even influence the outcome of the kick off, with even customizations to your staff or stadium having an effect on what happens. Things such as the crowd throwing rocks and other objects at either team or your cheerleaders spurring players on can all lead to random events that can cause something unique to happen which makes how every match unfolds unique and unpredictable. For example during one match I had a biased referee who interfered with the match not by making bad calls, but by actually randomly running up to players on my team and attacking them! But of course you can not just win matches by hoping random events and your stadium add ons will help you. There is a lot of strategy to learn to maximize your chances of success. Team placement is very important, building lines of defense in the right places to block paths or just to add the chance of a passing opponent being stopped are vital. Tackling is fundamental but not every tackle needs to be a KO or death tackle to swing a game, even being able to nudge an opponent a single square can open up a pathway to victory.
Any move you make can result in success or failure due to random dice rolls and percentage chances all of which are clearly displayed on the game grid before you make any move. Running past an opposing player, running further than your movement point allocation, passing a ball, catching a ball, tackling another player and so on all have a chance of failing and if you do happen to fail in one of these actions, your turn ends immediately in a turnover event regardless if you have team members with remaining moves or not. So for almost anything you do there is a risk reward element with some things posing more of a risk than others depending on various factors. This gives you a lot of flexibility in each game as I have won matches by being cautious and by making last minute risky moves that paid off. The developers have done an excellent job of implementing all of these random elements into the game in such a way that it never really feels unfair but instead it feels organic and believable in that you could imagine these random events taking place in a real game of Blood Bowl. Out of the many games I have played no two have really been the same because of this randomness and you have to adjust your strategy on the fly depending on what may happen. For instance in the course of one turn you may lose one or more players due to them being tackled and stunned, KO'd, injured or even dying. Your opponent my fail a pass or a tackle or lose the ball due to a fall which all of a sudden turns the tables of the match in an instant flipping your strategy from defensive play into offensive play.
In the campaign and single player league the AI does a good job of offering a challenge but of course for most people the real challenge and fun of Blood Bowl lays in its online league mode. You can either play in one of the official leagues or create your own for your friends and communities you are involved in. The online leagues offer a lot of depth and statistical information for those who enjoy tracking that sort of thing, with detailed league and tournament statistics which include win, draw and loss records, total matches you have played and you can even track how you perform against individual races in the game. I already touched on the trading aspect of the league where you can scout and buy and sell players from opposition teams, you can even make offers for players who may not be on sale if they happen to catch your eye. Most importantly however, the online games played out without any bugs or issues for me which is commendable in an age when so many games ship with various bugs and technical difficulties, especially when they contain online aspects.
I could go far more in depth about the nuances you will encounter in Blood Bowl 2 but it would just be me further singing the games praises as I found very little here to criticize. This is a sports and strategy game based in the Warhammer universe that will even appeal to people who are not particularly interested in sports, strategy or Warhammer games. The developers have done an excellent job in making this complex game easily accessible and easy to pick up and play for anyone who cares to give it a go. They have removed the daunting elements of the original Blood Bowl and have modernized it with added extra features to the game that make sense and which do not feel tacked on and are true to the games spirit. Blood Bowl 2 could very well be the next big game in the Esport scene but you do not need to be a pro gamer to get the most out of it. An impressive effort overall I would highly recommend Blood Bowl 2 to anyone looking for a solid and competitive multiplayer game that does not require a steep learning curve or investment of time to master.
- Much more accessible than the original game for beginners.
- Lots of depth and team development and customization options.
- Enjoyable in both single and multiplayer.
- Commentary adds a lot of atmosphere and humor.
- No two matches feel the same.
- Decent CPU AI.
- Far smaller variety of races than the original.
- Dice roll failure states can be frustrating.