When you get down to it, a lot of things that make sense in the context of a board game don’t make sense in the inevitable videogame version. Blood Bowl – the Games Workshop take on American football, featuring fantasy creatures like Orcs, Lizardmen and giant rats, all wearing jockstraps – makes (pretty much) perfect sense as a turn-based, tabletop game, but, here on 360, it feels clumsy and underdeveloped.
Although it certainly appears to be painfully faithful to the board game, to an outsider unfamiliar with Blood Bowl’s rules it will all seem like gibberish to begin with. A couple of weak playable tutorials and reams of explanatory text don’t exactly help; after sitting through them, you will at least have some idea of how to play this, erm, ‘sport’ but, largely, it’s a really terrible introduction to the game.
It’s a shame, because the concept itself is actually pretty interesting. It’s a fairly unique mixture of sport and tactical RPG – you can either play it turn-based or real-time, the latter letting you tinker around with the otherwise strict and inflexible rules of the game.
Although the turn-based mode is a more accurate representation of the tabletop original, the version here can be horribly frustrating. Every minor mistake, every fumbled catch or knockdown results in your turn being prematurely ended, necessitating a tedious wait while the other team gets to have their go. It’s possible to speed up time with RB, but it’s still too long and too clumsy changing turns. Your team members will screw up a lot during the early stages – because of die rolls, not skill, we hasten to add – so the changeover needed to be instant. It isn’t, and the ridiculous AI just serves to rub in how smart its computer-controlled brain is.
Play it in real-time and the frustration essentially disappears. Mistakes are no longer a big deal – you simply pause the action, switch to another character and carry on. It’s entertaining enough, but the quickened pace and decreased emphasis on tactics seems to bypass the spirit of Blood Bowl, and the difficulty level plummets dramatically.
Played like this it’s sort of fun, and sort of funny, and if you don’t hate US sports and know what a Skaven is the game might be worth a look. If all the word elicits is a puzzled expression, however, this offers a clumsy and unfriendly introduction.
Jan 14, 2010
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