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Blackguards is a turn-based strategy RPG from Daedelic Entertainment set in the world of The Dark Eye, a German role-playing fantasy universe (Yes, the real-people-wearing-capes kind of role-playing I was wrong! It’s pen and paper role-playing). The game has been released recently on Steam’s Early Access program and will be updated episodically with a new chapter of the story at the end of every month, with the first chapter available to play now.

Daedelic aims to produce a darker story in Blackguards than previous Dark Eye games like Chains of Satinav or Drakensang. Blackguards’ story revolves around three convicted criminals in prison and what happens after they manage to secure their freedom. You are quickly joined by two other characters, one a ranting dwarf named Naurim, and the other Zurbaran, the Black Mage of Al’Anfa. Your actions while playing can bring more characters to your group including an elf huntress, a witch, and a gladiator.

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As the story progresses you are given choices about how to interact with the world around you. In this first chapter these choices are mostly given through side-quests you find on your way to your goal, but they do feel like important decisions. Often Zurbaran and Naurim will have completely different views on how to proceed and will voice their disgruntlement when you don’t agree with them. This may lead to trouble in keeping the band of criminals together.

You progress between areas by using a world map that highlights important places like cities, towns and quest areas. When in towns you are shown all the people you can interact with without having to wander the area looking for them. These include healers, blacksmiths, significant townsfolk, trainers and traders, each of which will perform specific functions like healing your group for money, or hiring you to do something for them.

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Battles are turn-based and play out much like the Might and Magic or King’s Bounty series, and has you move your characters around a grid, choosing how to attack each enemy on the battle map. The maps are graphical eye-candy and have interactive objects scattered around them. If there are wooden crates or bushes you could have Zurbaran set them on fire so that anyone who passes through that area will get burned. You can topple crates so that your enemies can only attack you in one direction, or hide that tiny dwarf behind a tombstone so archers can’t hit him. This all makes the turn-based system much more entertaining and strategic, by adding a newness to each map so that each one is not just a grid on a pretty background, but feels part of its surroundings.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Blackguards is fun to play. The story is intriguing, the characters are interesting, battles are challenging, and the game works well. While the game has minor issues (I sold the same axe about forty times – don’t worry the trader paid me!) it is important to remember that it is still early access and therefore in beta. If only all early access games were as fully formed and playable as Blackguards is! For fans of tactical RPG’s, Blackguards is showing a lot of promise even at such an early stage. Daedelic have created a game that will be one to watch over the coming months.

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Peter ChildCarola Recent comment authors
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Hey Peter,

thanks for the cool review! Sounds like Blackguards is worth checking out. But in one point I need to correct you: The German role playing game “The Dark Eye” (German: “Das Schwarze Auge”) is NOT a life action role playing game, at least not originally. While there surely are life action players, it is actually a pen and paper RPG. I played it a lot while still at school, and none of us ever wore a cape while playing! :P