Bladestorm: Omega Force's Secret Weird Masterpiece
Let's talk about Bladestorm, shall we?
First released in 2007, and later reimagined for modern consoles and PCs in 2015....Bladestorm is a hell of a weird thing. It's part Dynasty Warriors, part Sid Meier's Pirates, and part Open World action game...and it's also set during the Hundred Years' War.
Bladestorm made me realize that the folks at Omega Force really wanted to make a giant open world game...something that's finally coming to fruition next week in Dynasty Warriors 9.
It's weird, wonderful, hilarious, and crazy...and strangely overlooked.
I would probably never have played this game if it didn't get a demo on the Xbox 360 back in 07. At first glance, it looks like it's a weird strategy game, and I'm not that great at the strategy genre.
But it's actually a big crazy action-y thing.
In Bladestorm, you create your own mercenary with a comically elaborate character creator, and then take them into the world of the Hundred Years' War. You'll hang out in a tavern run by a man with an eye patch and a Castilian accent, and accept missions for both England and France in your quest to build renown, gain better equipment, and level up.
The actual gameplay takes place on vast maps dotted with fortresses. You control your character in real-time, and you can take over squads of friendly soldiers on the battlefield and run with them into battle. Basic attacks work Diablo-style, by holding down a shoulder button, and you have several abilities to activate that work on cool-down timers. It's less frenetic and button-mashy than Omega Force's other games, but no less fun.
The game has just enough strategy elements and just enough action elements to please fans of both genres, and it's quite fun to level up and watch the story twist and turn depending on which side you support. Also Joan of Arc is there.
The original release of Bladestorm was lost in Koei's catalog amidst a sea of Dynasty Warriors games, and in spite of numerous sequels in their other franchises, I was convinced we'd never see it again.
Then, implausibly, a second game came out in 2015 called Bladestorm: Nightmare. A second game which was in development for six years.
Was it a passion project that the team worked on between Warriors games? How did this get six years worth of budget?
Nightmare's long cycle is apparent in the fact that it came out on PS3, in addition to PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
It contains the entirety of the original game, plus a whole new campaign that adds...a bunch of fantasy elements??!! If you ever wanted a game that had Joan of Arc but also wizards and dragons, well, here you go.
The weirdest thing about the modern versions of Nightmare is how it looks.
All of the assets got an overhaul for the newer machines. So, we've got higher-res textures, slightly smoother models, all that sort of stuff.
And then they just went NUTS with post processing and special effects.
The result is a game with tons of bloom, dramatic lighting, tons of weird particles, and a strangely jagged look that makes it seem like the game is running at a low resolution...but which I think is just the result of hitting it too hard with the effects stick. Any sort of anti-aliasing solution the game had is totally destroyed as a result.
Also, the game didn't perform that well on launch. It seems fine on my Xbox One X now...but I remember it being a strange lurching thing when I first tried it out.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION
Omega Force has been quietly building towards making a big open world epic, and they're finally getting there with Dynasty Warriors 9. If you go back through their catalog, you'll notice little bits and pieces of this showing up in other games.
Bladestorm gave me the first inkling of this future, when I realized how big its world was. In 2007, it wasn't uncommon for games to have a big world but only show you some small piece of it. In Bladestorm, even though you're fighting in one area at a time...the whole map is just going on around you. And a time limit in the form of a day/night cycle prevents you from making too big of an impact by just sprinting across the whole map in one go.
It lends the game a unique feeling, where you feel both the macro and the micro consequences of your actions during the battle.
PLEASE TRY IT!
If you've ever liked a Warriors game and you want something that's like that but also a little different, I'd urge you to give Bladestorm a try. Or if you just want to mess around with a fun character creator.
Nightmare has a free demo available on PS4 and Xbox One. And I'm finally personally playing my copy after neglecting it for two years. >.>
It's an endlessly charming game with a good grindy center to it, and I'm happy it's still around on modern hardware even if it's slathered with a hilarious number of effects.