If you ask the average gamer what they think of today’s selection of sports games, you’ll usually end up getting roughly the same answers. Most would agree that they have become little more than cash grabs for their respective publishers, as they put in as little effort as humanly possible each year while knowing they’ll make millions regardless of quality. It’s rare that we get sports games of any fashion that really go for something new, and even though we’re dealing with a sequel here it doesn’t change the fact that Blood Bowl 2 is once again a breath of fresh air.
For the uninitiated, the idea of Blood Bowl 2 is a knock off of American football but has a lot of quirks that make it its own beast. You have 11 players on each side of the ball doing their best to stop the other team from carrying the ball in to each respective team’s end zone. However, that is truly where all similarities end, as human teams will be facing off against orcs, dwarves, elves and more brutal creatures that turn the already physical sport into a bloody arena.
The biggest thing that makes this series mechanically different from Madden and other games of that kind is the fact that it’s a turn-based strategy game. Rather than having each teams acting at the same time on offense and defense, control will switches between teams where the player will have each member of his team move around the field and then roll the dice to attack an opponent. While the chances of success are random in nature due to the fact that we’re dealing with dice, there are things that you can do to increase your chances of landing attacks rather than being attacked. Having a player with higher stats take on the opposition while also parking teammates on adjacent tiles to give you stat boosts will typically tip the scales in your favor, though success still isn’t 100% guaranteed.
More in-depth mechanics are gradually incorporated into the gameplay as players will have abilities that will protect them from certain attacks. For example: if you have a player with higher stats go and attack someone with lower stats but has the block ability, the player being attacked can reduce the damage from being knocked down to simply being pushed back. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into each and every turn, and the randomness of the dice makes even the most confident of attacks have tension. To make the punishment of your failures even more brutal, simply failing an attack or falling down while it is your turn will result in a turnover and give the other team the ball even if you had just begun your turn.
While the randomness of the mechanics do work well a lot of the time, there are also instances where it can get very annoying. The biggest offender in this area is the chance percentage that a player has for successfully picking up a loose ball. When the game starts or you have successfully attacked the person with the ball, the ball will go flying and land on a new spot on the field. If you play your cards right you can get yourself in a position where you have your teammates protecting you while you go to scoop up the ball and make a dash for the end zone. However, most of the time your odds of picking up the ball are around 2 in 3, and those odds seemed lower in my experience as I found myself and the enemy team dropping the ball more often than not. This would be annoying on its own, but considering that each dropped ball results in a turnover makes it infuriating.
Still, these 16 turn games have the tendency to be perfectly matched and never result in blowouts. Blood Bowl 2 elects to have each touchdown be worth one point rather than the NFL’s 6 points, and there’s no such thing as going for an extra point, either. The aforementioned brutality of the mechanics adds a lot of twists into each match that can have some surprising results on the momentum of the game. For example: a successful attack has a chance to stun a player for one turn, knock them out for the entire match or even KILL them! Oh, and going out of bounds in regfular Football resulting in the play ending? Ha, not here! In Blood Bowl 2 if you push someone out of bounds they will be viciously stomped on and knocked out by the attendees. It sounds absolutely diabolical on the surface, but the game’s charming visual design and wry sense of humor make it funny more than anything else.
Speaking of sense of humor, Blood Bowl 2 has one of the best due of commentators I have ever experienced in a game of this kind. Jim Johnson the Vampire and Bob Bifford the Ogre ex-star player of Blood Bowl are the first to greet us as we boot up the game, and they also commentate each and everyone one of the game’s matches. Their commentary is consistently hilarious as Bob Bifford will regularly voice his wishes for more brutality to occur, while Bob Bifford will be making some dry humor puns that both work so well together. While I would have liked a bit more variety in what they said as they tend to repeat themselves even early on, that doesn’t change the fact that the overall feeling of each match is enhanced greatly by their presence.
Blood Bowl 2 also has a robust multiplayer component, where up to 128 teams can go at each other online. Due to the random nature of the mechanics of the game, many online matches can get really heated as your momentum can be completely snapped in half by a sudden failed attack. All of the injuries that can happen in the main game happen just as frequently online, and finding yourself suddenly down a few players in a close game never fails to be put me on the edge of my seat. This game has the mechanics and quirks to thrive in the online environment, and I can definitely see this one having strong legs in that field.
If you’re looking for a unique take on a beloved sport that will make you feel like you’ve just discovered a sweet new sport, look no further than Blood Bowl 2. The game’s brutal mechanics mixed with its diabolical humor make it a blast to play and really puts it into a crowd of its own. There are some balancing issues with the dice that could use some ironing out to make certain aspects of play less frustrating, but most of the time it’s the random element that makes things consistently exciting. Whether you’re playing online or offline, Blood Bowl 2 consistently offers rewarding turn-based strategy Football gameplay that I’ll be coming back to for a long time.