Blood Bowl Review

by on March 26, 2010

Game: Blood Bowl

Developer: Cyanide

Publisher: THQ (UK version)

Available on: Xbox 360, DS, PSP and PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)

Blood Bowl is originally a Games Workshop two player turn-based board game which plays out a little like American football with a dash of murder thrown in for good measure. The game has been brought to the virtual realm of computer games which is always a tricky journey in my experience. Coming into this review I had never played Blood Bowl the board game which meant I knew little of the rules and would be in for somewhat of a surprise. What did I think of it then? Read on for the full review.

GRAPHICS: The graphics in Blood Bowl are colourful and vibrant doing a decent job of presenting the game from afar. The grass looks rich and the different Warhammer characters found in the game look interesting enough to please your eyes. Technically the graphics are poor and upon closer inspection do not hold up well compared to the current generation of games. However  the game is played from a birds eye view ensuring most blemishes are unseen, ensuring the look of the game is pleasing if not spectacular.

SOUND: There are various sounds to be heard in Blood Bowl from crunching tackles to the swish of an elegant dodge but what stands out the most is the comedic commentary. Every match is voiced by two commentators that are not afraid to share their opinion, the chatter between the squeaky Goblin and a deep throated Orc really add to make the “world” of Blood Bowl feel realistic. Whilst the commentary is a welcome addition, the repetitive nature of said commentary is not. I probably heard every line of commentary in just one or two games.

GAMEPLAY: As mentioned Blood Bowl is a board game, the goal is to move the ball into the opponents end zone and score touchdowns. There are various ways of reaching the end zone with strategy generally dictated by team and race. The Wood Elves are swift at dodging attacks and have a good ability to throw and catch the ball whereas the Chaos race are big and tough, tearing down anyone that gets in their path.

Coming into the game I had no idea of the rules but entered an exhibition match to see if I could learn as I play. Whilst I picked up the basics like passing and moving, I was otherwise lost in a world of dice rolls with no idea to why my players were being stomped. I soon entered the tutorial mode for some guidance. The first couple of tutorials were interactive with videos depicting what I needed to do to pass and move but unfortunately only covered basic mechanics, to learn the more complex rules I had to wade through pages of text and memorise key points. The learning curve is about as steep as Everest at first and I would imagine players new to Blood Bowl will feel a little daunted by the rules and mechanics of the game. I stuck with the game and after 5-6 games of getting my face stomped I started to play better, wary of how mine and my opponents actions effected the game I was able to to use strategy to achieve blocks on my opponent and string together attacks to score touchdowns.

The campaign mode is where most of the single player fun is to be had, you start out with a small budget to put a team together and take them from tournament to tournament with the final goal of the Blood Bowl itself. Prize money is earned which can be spent on new players, cheerleaders, potions and, if your feeling dirty, bribe the referee so he looks the other way while you attempt to kill the opposition.

I found the campaign mode enjoyable but always felt strapped for cash, players seem to be killed on a game by game basis meaning expensive replacements were needed or I faced being a man down in the next game. The players that I did manage to keep alive earned rewards for playing well in games, opening up new abilities like being able to dodge or catch more often. All of a sudden my generic team with random names had some character and I found the campaign mode enjoyable, it drew me in as I found myself calling my players by their names. Blood Bowl has a reasonable amount of depth but, once I got  used to the rules/mechanics, I (strangely) found myself thinking that more would actually be welcome.

If you are feeling competitive you can play with a friend or venture online. Playing the Xbox 360 version of Blood Bowl I found that the community was small at best and online matches were almost non-existent. I’m assuming this is down to the Xbox 360 version being released a fair few months after its PC counterpart and as a result most fans of Blood Bowl are busy with that version. Looking beyond that, if you do have friends on Xbox live and they own a copy Blood Bowl then you will find some value in the online component.

Something which is only possible on the virtual version of the game is the real time mode. Blood Bowl is traditionally a turn-based game but the real time mode cares not for tradition and opens the game up to an interesting if slightly confusing mode. The real time mode feels somewhat tacked on and I found little enjoyment in it, saying that I can see why the mode was included as it does offer something a little different.

LONGEVITY: The campaign mode lasts reasonably long and can vary depending on how much time is taken between games to invest in the team, it is all down to individual player. The real longevity should come in the online mode but as mentioned the 360 community is almost non-existent.

VERDICT: I really enjoyed learning how to play Blood Bowl, it truly is a fun game to play and good times are to be had in the campaign mode. I do suspect that I enjoyed the essence of Blood Bowl rather than the computer game it is housed in. I feel an opportunity has been missed to make the game a little easier to learn, the lack of interactive tutorials may keep new players away. If you are interested in Blood Bowl then go for the PC version as it  has downloadable content and an existing community which the Xbox 360 version lacks.