There's fun to be had in this adaptation of the Blood Bowl tabletop game, but it strips away some important features.
- Addictive turn-based mechanics
- Delivers the look and feel of the Warhammer universe
- Fantastic risk-to-reward ratio.
- Messy menus and unhelpful tutorials will turn off newcomers
- Customization is all but nonexistent
- Real-time matches are unbalanced and chaotic
- No online league play
- Poor production values.
Have you ever thought that American football could use even more primal energy and a bit of fantasy violence? Have you ever thought, "This sport is fine, but what it really needs is a couple of rat ogres clawing at each other?" This adaptation of the Warhammer-themed Blood Bowl tabletop game delivers just such a concoction: it lets you pit your team of spike-armored warriors against a squad of slavering beasts and encourages you to digitally pound one another into a pulp. It can be fun and addictive because the board game is fun and addictive, so expect to spend some hours glued to your TV, cheering and cursing. However, an unfriendly interface, problematic AI, and a few other issues tackle Blood Bowl short of the end zone, and the inexcusable omission of league play and deficient team customization make this version far too stripped to make it outright recommendable.
If you've never heard of the Blood Bowl tabletop game, the idea of turn-based football within the Warhammer universe may sound a bit bizarre. Nevertheless, it's a surprisingly compelling formula--maybe because the raucous violence of Warhammer and the testosterone-fueled swagger of the signature American sport make such compatible bedfellows. In any case, you choose a team from a variety of Warhammer races--dwarf, skaven, wood elf, and so on--and go up against the AI or another player to prove your dominance. If you're an American football fan, you will need to make some mental adjustments before you can wrap your head around the terms and rules. What constitutes a turnover in your head isn't a Blood Bowl turnover (here, it means that your turn is over, not that you have relinquished ball possession); there are no downs, field goals, or two-point conversions; and touchdowns are worth a single point. If you're a newcomer, don't expect the inadequate tutorials to be any help--just play a bunch of matches until you get used to the intricacies of dice rolls, how cheerleaders affect gameplay, and all sorts of other small but important details.
There are a number of ways to play, though the classic turn-based rules provide the best experience. The Campaign mode is the most enjoyable of the offline modes: you guide your team through a series of matches and level up your players, which in turn lets you choose special abilities for them. Early play sticks to the essentials. You get limited time to perform your turn, during which you maneuver your players about the field in individual turns of their own. The basic flow is similar to American football and starts with a kickoff, at which point the receiving team attempts to score a touchdown while the defenders try to gain possession, or at least hold the opposition off until the half. Individual players can knock each other down, push each other back on the grid, and cause injuries, all while you try to run and pass the ball down the field.
Even in the early hours of a campaign or a competition, Blood Bowl is exciting. Dice rolls occur almost every time two players interact, making even the smallest acts, like running past a defender or tackling the ball carrier, tense moments. The gong that resonates dramatically when you relinquish your turn during a risky play will start to make your stomach drop, but pulling off a dicey move may cause you to cheer, or at least breathe a sigh of relief. As your characters level up, the tension continues to mount, and players will benefit from their improved skills and attributes. With the right skills, you can pick up a teammate and throw him down the field, strip the ball from the carrier, or receive dodge bonuses. The more elaborate the possibilities become, the more engaging the matches are--and the more obvious the differences between each playable race become. Leveling up players is a slow process, but it provides a distinct sense of progression that adds to the "just one more game" compulsion.
This addictive, nerve-racking gameplay is what makes the board game such a cult hit and, in turn, what makes matches in this adaptation so much fun. But when you look at Blood Bowl as a video game, it's less impressive. The menus are confusing and obtuse. Simple actions such as progressing to the next screen and distributing funds aren't player-friendly, because of cluttered screens and unintuitive organization. The poor tutorial and jumbled interface deliver a poor first impression, and even once you get used to them, they feel like dead weight designed to keep out newcomers. You will be able to get past these issues, even if you're new to Blood Bowl, but it'll take a bit of time to get accustomed.
- Player Reviews: 4
- Game Universe:
- Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior (PS2, PC),
- Warhammer: Dark Omen (PC, PS),
- Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat (PC, PS),
- Warhammer: Mark of Chaos (PC),
- Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command (DS, PSP),
- Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Battle March (PC, X360),
- Blood Bowl (PC, X360, DS, PSP),
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PS3, X360, PC),
- Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (PC, MAC),
- Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team (PS3, X360)