Review written by Joseph Rositano.
During the previous console generation, Koei experimented with their Warriors franchise. Previously focused on the stories of China’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel and the Warring States period of Japan, the publisher released a number of spin-off games including Dynasty Warriors: Gundam and One Piece: Pirate Warriors. Before these, however, came a game loosely based on the Hundred Years’ War called Bladestorm. Originally released in 2006, Bladestorm took the standard Dynasty Warriors formula and added a new twist – instead of being one vs 1,000, the game allowed players to command an entire battle squad. Now in 2015, Koei has released a remastered version dubbed Bladestorm: Nightmare. Unfortunately, even with new bells and whistles, the game suffers from the same criticisms of the original.
Bladestorm: Nightmare is touted as having a focus on strategic gameplay. At first glance, this holds true – there are several different squad types that players can command including a sword squad, bow and arrow troop, and horse riders. The general idea is that each squad will be stronger or weaker against other squad types. The bow and arrow troops, for example, excel at long-ranged combat and are ideal for use against the fast moving horse riders. After the first few battles, it quickly becomes apparent that squad classes hold almost no strategic value. You can play the entire game without switching squads and will have no difficulty in defeating enemies you’re supposedly weak against. This is in-part due to the game’s leveling up system. Throughout the game, you will acquire books dropped by defeated foes. These books allow you to control new squads and sub-classes, upgrade their overall strength and abilities, and increase the number of troops you can lead. Just by upgrading your squad by a fraction, you’ll soon be tearing through the battlefield ignoring much of the strategic hints the tutorials mentioned.
The battlefield itself feels incredibly barren. Most objectives require you to capture enemy strongholds and expand the territory of your affiliated side. This, in itself, becomes repetitive over time, but grows even more tiresome due to the lack of activity between strongholds. Far too often you will find yourself walking for several minutes without encountering enemy troops or anything remotely interesting. There’s only so many trees and rock formations you can walk past before things start looking the same!
For the remastered version, there have been a couple of additional features added. The first major addition is the ability to control up to four squads at once. This works similar to Samurai Warriors 4 and the Samurai Warriors: Chronicles spin-off games; you can command an AI squad to focus their attention on other bases or assist you in a full assault. You also have the ability to switch between the squads you’re controlling completely on the fly. To a point, it helps cover more ground easily, but the AI is also quite limited. More often than not, the AI is easily defeated by enemy squads, but if you’re controlling them then you will not have any difficulties. It feels like you have to babysit the AI rather than trust it to carry out orders.
Another new feature is Nightmare mode. This drops the historical route and replaces it with an all-new story with fantasy elements – the French and British decide to join forces in order to tackle the threat of an undead army. The mode adds more variety to the game as it brings the ability to command undead soldiers and fight mythical creatures including goblins, griffins and even a dragon. Unfortunately, it’s mostly smoke and mirrors as the gameplay remains unchanged.
The original Bladestorm was never known for its groundbreaking visuals, so it’s not too surprising that Nightmare hasn’t received any improvements. This is a shame, as it feels like a missed opportunity to really make the franchise stand out. Instead, at times it looks like a pixelated mess, even by last generation standards. Frame rate drops are also noticeably when multiple squads are on-screen. The soundtrack is pretty average – it gets the job done, but is forgettable. In Dynasty Warriors tradition, the voice overs are a horrendous mix of French and British accents.
Bladestorm: Nightmare falls short in the same areas that affected the original. Despite having a focus on strategic gameplay, these elements can be ignored almost entirely and you won’t feel challenged. At times the battlefield feels like it’s a barren place and the game in general lacks polish and overall refinement. If you enjoyed the original and like the idea of Nightmare mode, or the ability to control up to four squads at once, then it might be worth your time to re-invest in the series. Otherwise, it’s an average experience that you’ll quickly forget.
Includes a historical campaign and fantasy Nightmare mode | Control four squads at once to cover more ground | Control the undead and fight mythical creatures
Strategic features can be ignored | Visuals are dated even by last generation standards | Need to babysit AI squads