Blood Bowl III Review

Blood Bowl, based on a Warhammer board game of the same name, first came into my possession back on the X360. It was a broken, janky user experience with a central gameplay experience that was so much fun that I tolerated the all the extraneous annoyances. The multiplayer was fundamentally broken with certain skills causing desyncs.

Blood Bowl II came along and improved on many of the things that were broken in that console release, multiplayer was greatly improved, some skills were more balanced (I miss you over powered Shadowing ability) but the roster was pretty small in contrast to the final release of Blood Bowl, and it was hard not to be cynical about buying whole packs of teams that the devs added later. Especially ones that were in the previous game. On top of that the game failed to address one of the major AI complaints – that teams seldom (if ever) threw the ball, making it hard to learn good tactics against human players.

So, with that long intro out the way, Blood Bowl III has arrived this year and with it brings pretty much every problem from the previous entries, as well as some new ‘exciting’ ones.

I’m going to start off with the positives.

The gameplay itself remains as compelling as always – two teams of fantasy creatures line up to play an extremely violent version of turn-based American Football. Ranging from big ‘bashy’ Orc teams that tend to turtle around the ball carrier and punch their way through to the end zone, to the light ‘squishy’ Skaven teams that rely on speed and good dodge skills. Everything is reliant on dice rolls so even well armoured characters can slip, fall, and die – more importantly, it will end your team’s turn. This tension means that every decision needs to be weighed against how vital it is in either getting the ball from the enemy, or pushing it past them.

KO/Killing enemies, successful passes/throws, touchdowns give characters on the player’s team SPP which can be used to upgrade them with extra skills, or improved stats. Blood Bowl III offers the option for the player to choose whatever they want, while changing the cost but also offering a cheaper option that will give them a random one instead. It feels more balanced and it also can help some characters get upgrades that don’t always hit the big numbers in games.

The multiplayer is where the meat and potatoes of the game is with an emphasis on joining tournaments and leagues with other human players. It is competently put together and has a wealth of tweaked options that work well.

Now for the bad.

Blood Bowl III’s early roster is paltry, and it looks like it plans to release the new teams in a piecemeal fashion. Sure, this is what Blood Bowl II did but it feels much harder to reconcile that now.

While the on the pitch gameplay is solid, the same cannot be said for the mess that is the front end menus. This trash fire problem is laid squarely at the feet of the decision to make the whole of the game ‘online’. This will probably stop people hacking their team and making them invincible in online play. However, this also means that it can take upwards of 5 seconds to change between one menu and another, and a very long time to just confirm changing a player’s name. There are frequent disconnects from the main menu, which will kick you out. Sometimes menus just fail to load, and there is often moments where I held my breath, wondering whether the game had crashed.   

The vaunted new customisation feels very limited right now and with there being a separate currency used for unlocking them – I am worried about exploitative monetisation on a full priced title.

Finally, with the focus so heavily aimed at gate-keeping the multiplayer, single player now feels like a painful afterthought. Gone is the elaborate campaign and instead the game has 6 short selections with a tutorial as the starter. It is possible to play standalone matches and setup a few other things but this is limited by the AI in terms of enjoyment.

The AI remains locked into a run focused play so with the bigger teams it is feasible to just punch holes in most teams and it does little to teach new-comers how to meaningfully pull off the pass and rush game. I understand why this feels unchanged from the first Blood Bowl but it is a shame.

Blood Bowl III is a tough proposition, as a standalone game it is ‘fine’ but as the third installment in the series there is insufficient here to recommend over its predecessors and I doubt there ever will be.

Conclusion

Blood Bowl III has nothing here to recommend it for newcomers or veterans of the board game when there is a more complete package available in its predecessor.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Gameplay is good
  • Levelling system is well tweaked and more balanced
Bad
  • Awful online implementation that brings the interface to its knees
  • Suspicious Monetisation
  • No Lizardmen on launch
  • I miss the team photo option
4
Poor
Written by
AJ Small is a games industry veteran, starting in QA back in 2004. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made. He can be found on twitter (@badgercommander), where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.

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