A Poor History Lesson
It’s tough to be a historian and not to point out the historical inaccuracies that litter “sim” games like “Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War”. Made by Koei, who makes the other, long lasting (cough) “sim” games like Dynasty Warriors, has decided to go into Europe and do what they do best, bastardize history and create total chaos thanks to the fine art of button mashing.
You star as a created mercenary who, thanks to a one eyed innkeeper, gets your start during the hundred year’s war between France and England. The entire game, you control a squad of soldiers under specific disciplines of weaponry, be it swords, bows, maces, axes, etc. And in controlling them, you lead them into battle and fight hordes of your enemy troops until they bend to your will, capturing strongholds and killing generals for experience and gold. And along with that you see the hundred years war unfold, in it's skewed glory, just like "Dynasty Warriors", "Samurai Warriors", and every other sim game Koei has created.
If this description sounds good, that’s because the premise is not too bad, but poorly executed. As the mercenary, you need to lead your troops into battle, so you need to control a unit of whatever instead of fighting alone. But don’t think that this makes the game less like Dynasty Warriors, because everyone in your unit moves in unison when attacking the enemy, and you still need to smash the X button to kill enemies. Now it’s just times 30.
Although this is sort of unfair, as there are special attacks peppered in, as well as numerous disciplines that give a degree of strategy into the game. For example, a horseman with a spear can run through heavy troopers with maces real easily, while bowmen can strike down horsemen quickly. It borrows a similar mantra as Fire Emblem, with its rock-paper-scissors mentality. And it does break up the monotony to use special moves to try and strong arm opponents, such as using a special slash attack or your shields to block incoming charges from enemies. There is a degree of strategy, and utilizing the strengths and weaknesses of certain armies is the key to being victorious in this game.
But you’re basically doing the same thing all the time in terms of control. And it also doesn’t help that your objectives are often the same as well, capture fort X or kill General Y. The game is usually played on expansive maps, and you’re not the only one fighting at one time of course. Thankfully, the A.I, both friendly and enemy, is relatively competent in the fact that they can handle themselves and even gang up against you if you get close to an enemy base. But in the end, the objective is always the same.
And it’s kind of sad, really, because Bladestorm has some nifty ideas in it. For example, you can use points won in battle to expand your skill in a certain weapon, or use your well earned merc gold on upgrades in armor, weapons, or even a personal bodyguard. These little RPG-like elements do give you a purpose to keep going and improve your character, and from what I noticed it didn’t really have an effect on the battlefield.
Graphically, Bladestorm is fairly mediocre. Probably because it was made to have hundreds of soldiers on both sides on screen at once, the graphics were scaled down to keep a steady, smooth framerate, which it does. Environments are bland, enemies are all similar, and the cut-scenes are anime-like with the major players of each game looking like rejects from Final Fantasy. It also helps that they sound like rejects as well, as the voice over’s are atrocious. It doesn’t help that it’s poorly written either, but I guess that is expected from Koei, who is notorious for bad voice acting. Sound wise, everything else is standard and expected, from the thundering footsteps on the battlefield to the groans and moans when fighting a horde of enemies. The music loops though and it's annoying after a while, but it's sort of ignored when in the heat of battle.
“Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War” is the type of game that offers little to the table, but doesn’t lose much from its design either. It seems like a journeyman’s game, a type of game that is made for limited release by beginning artists to see what they can do. There is nothing special about it, nor is there nothing wrong with it. It’s just there, and it's worth a look if you want something different for a change. If anything, the bastardization of history that occurs is forgivable with some pretty lengthy gameplay.