• Koei’s Dynasty Warriors franchise is incredibly popular in its native land of Japan and well known around the world. However, the publisher hasn’t enjoyed much success in Europe. As a result of Koei’s push to make it big over here we have Bladestorm, a strategy based action game formed on fantasy European history of the 14th century.

    As you embark upon Bladestorm’s campaign you are treated to some impressive cinematics which soon set the scene. A bitter blood feud is raging between the English and the French over the true successor to the French throne. Both nations’ forces are stretched to their limits, leaving their respective leaders, Prince Edward and Joan of Arc, no choice but to look for support in any way possible in an attempt to get the upper hand over the opposition. Mercenaries prosper from the booming market as both sides compete to secure contracts with mercenaries by offering up large sums of money in return for their services.

    Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War

    Once the plot is established you’re ushered into a snug tavern where you, first of all, are presented with the opportunity to create your character. However, choices are limited to a mere handful of pre-defined types with the only true customisation stemming from the ability to name your character; certainly not the greatest creator ever. From then on in the tavern is you’re most useful asset with it serving as your gateway to pretty much everything you need, from gaining access to the battlefield to catching up with the latest gossip amongst the locals.

    Your first encounter within the tavern is with Barkeep, the go-to guy for securing battle contracts, chatting to him will reveal all the details for any contracts that are open for you to sign up for such as which side you’ll be fighting for, the objectives of the contract, pay, duration and many more crucial particulars that all go towards helping you decide who you want to do battle for.

    When you have agreed upon a contract you’re sent to join the ranks of whichever army you struck a deal with, although those who you fight against during one battle could very well be who you’re helping during the next, such is the life of a mercenary.

    Unlike Dynasty Warriors you’re not a one man war machine, going solo against an enemy of thousands isn’t the smartest of ideas. In order to complete your contract objectives and make pay day you’re going to have to take up a commanding role. There’s a wide variety of different squads available for you to take charge of, from foot soldiers to cavalry, archers to elephant troops, the choice is yours. You can command only one squad at a time but you can switch whenever you see fit during battle, depending on which unit you feel will fare best in different situations.

    Each unit has specialized skills which can be used at strategic times during combat along with the generic attacks. The skills can provide either an offensive or defensive advantage, if used at the correct time. It’s an element of combat that really helps to add an extra level of strategy to proceedings.

    Almost as if being a strategy and action game wasn’t enough there’s also an RPG aspect to Bladestorm making it an all-mighty strategy based role playing action game, quite a mouthful. However, unlike most games that boast an RPG element, Omega Force has actually done a decent job of implementing a character levelling system into Bladestorm. Your character has a book for each type of combat, such as spears, blades, maces, etc. You are then able to level particular traits within each combat book, strengthening your abilities to command. By studying your combat style you can decide which traits to improve upon in order to better your performance on the battlefield. It’s a feature that you have to master in order to truly dominate and is a welcome addition to the game.

    While Bladestorm certainly sounds like a pretty good strategy game it is marred by quite a few things. The first of which you’ll notice is the visuals. Environments and character models alike are incredibly weak, while some compromise is expected in order to allow for mass on screen battles the team certainly could have tried harder. This game definitely isn’t a showcase of what the 360 is capable of.

    Lacklustre graphics often go hand in hand with lacklustre sound and this is no exception. The voice acting is comically poor. Dodgy accents coupled with dodgy scripts make for a less than appealing listening experience. Luckily, combat sound effects aren’t too bad and provide a good backing track for pummelling opponents into the ground.

    The action as whole is also quite a letdown and becomes incredibly tedious after just a few hours of play. It soon dawns on you that you’re simply repeating the same dull task over and over again, there’s nothing to differentiate the formula. Just capture bases. That’s it. Levelling your character soon becomes your primary aim, although that too soon loses its sparkle.

    Bladestorm is a game suffering an identity crisis. It simply tries to be too many things and as a result delivers poorly in all aspects. This strategy based role playing action game holds no place in my heart and while not a terrible title it’s not really worth your time either. Rent it if you’re a strategy fan with money to burn, otherwise avoid it and save yourself the disappointment.

    Score: 6/10

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