Cyanide powers their way to a TD by bringing Blood Bowl to PC's.
Many moons ago, Jervis Johnson and the guys at Games Workshop decided that it would be a good time to create a parody of American Football called Blood Bowl. The game would have orks, dwarves, elves, goblins, minotaurs, and just about every other fantasy race you could think of beating the heck out of each other and occasionally scoring Touch Downs. Over 20 years later, Blood Bowl is played all over the world, and has won many fans with its addictive combination of luck, strategy, and fun factor. Cyanide has brought Blood Bowl to PC's, and has done a great job of translating what makes the game successful.
Blood Bowl is a sports game, albeit a loosely structured one. Players field a team of fantasy players, drawn from one of 7 different races; orks, humans, wood elves, dwarves, lizardmen, chaos, goblins and skaven. Each team has a unique combination of player types, which feature different attributes including speed, strength, and armor value. In addition to their base attributes, each player may have certain skills that allow them to excel at various positions or specialties. These can include catching, blocking, passing, or more exotic traits like tails, horns, and chainsaws…
Once you've fielded your team, the gameplay is well handled. There is both a turned based mode (modeled after the tabletop game) and a real-time mode created specifically for the video game. Players will drive their teams downfield and attempt to score a TD, while maiming the opposition at the same time. There are several brilliant design touches that make Blood Bowl successful, but the true clincher is the turnover system. Unlike many other turn based titles, BB forces you to prepare for the idea that your entire team may NOT be able to move during your turn. A clock is running as you plan your moves, and any failed action (ie, dropped pass, failed handoff, one of your players gets tackled while moving) immediately switches the game to the other players turn! This forces you to be economical with your moves, and creates a lot of great "tension points" during the match.
The best thing about coaching a team however, is to see it grow and change as you play. In both the online and single player modes, teams will gain experience and suffer casualties through the course of play. "Star Players" will emerge on your roster, gaining useful skills and even attribute bonuses as they progress. Your team itself will gain notoriety (or suffer anonymously) in the form of a "fan factor" that will change as you win or lose games. You can add cheerleaders, re-rolls to help with key moments, and even bribe the ref during your next game! There is also a handicap/rating system so that teams which are disproportionately over or under skilled can be balanced out by temporary players, bribes, wizards, etc.
The multi-player league system is well envisioned. There are public games, as well as leagues which can be customized to suit each coach. You also have the option to run multiple teams, so you can feel free to experiment with your Dwarves' running game or your Elves' passing attack. The game also (mercifully) punishes coaches who disconnect by awarding them a loss AND tracks their disconnect rate. Whew.
Graphically, Blood Bowl looks good. It isn't a show stopper by any means, but the players do look pretty good when you zoom down to a close level. The little touches that need to be there to make this game fun make it to the screen… the stadiums look great, players move appropriately, and animations are smooth. Individual team members can be customized through a certain number of skins, and your team colors can also be changed.
The audio is well handled; the splash screen music that carries over to the menu is appropriately inspiring and encourages you to go stomp on the other team. More importantly (and somewhat critical as a sports game) the sound effects are top notch. The game has great effects for the player's voices, actions, and reactions. There is also a host of great sounds that surround the game, including crowd noise and reactions to hits, Touchdowns, and plays near the end zone.
The commentary is solid, and actually very funny in places, but it does suffer from a bit of repetition. It is not an issue though, as you can disable it if you don't care for it.
There are, of course, a few cons to the game, but I think they are relatively minor. Some have complained of connection issues online post-launch, although I have not experienced this myself. Cyanide has done a great job of patching game issues quickly, and they have issued small updates as glitches come up. The campaign mode could use a bit more personality; it is pretty vanilla at the moment. The menu system is pretty good once you are used to it, but the team management menu could use a little bit of help. The online menu system is, again, good once you get used to it, but could use a small facelift.
All in all, Blood Bowl is a resounding success and a solid translation. While it may not appeal to everyone, it is a great strategy/sports hybrid, and has had a loyal following for over 20 years. I'd encourage anyone with an interest in strategy and/or sports games to give it a try. Let's play Blood Bowl!