Blood Bowl 3 is the latest iteration of a classic Warhammer board game which has made its way into the digital space. But is it any more than just an update of Blood Bowl 2?
I think that the answer to this is, ‘it depends’. It depends on what you were expecting, and what you would want from a sequel to Blood Bowl 2.
Blood Bowl at its simplest is ‘American football with monsters’. Set in the Warhammer universe, it’s a futuristic and brutal take on the sport, whereby each team has a set number of turns to score as many points as possible. Almost everything is done by dice rolling to validate (or fail) actions, so the positioning of units is key, as is the player’s decision on what should go where, and where to try or back away. Unlike real American football, however, you’re positively encouraged to injure, maim or even kill your opponents to take them out of the way and give yourself every advantage possible.
In fact, after a few turns, what starts with a reasonably organised formation is utter carnage with bodies everywhere. The focus is on the ball of course, or at least it needs to be to score points and win the game. Every player has a base level which is added to a dice roll which will indicate likely success in completing certain actions.
So, passing the ball? Dice roll for the throw and the catch. Running past defenders? Enter into a space near them and you’ll need to roll for every space you run through. Stacking defenders so adjacent spaces overlap becomes important as this reduces the potential for dice-rolling success, meaning sometimes you need to focus on taking people out to make some room and increase your chances of success.
Should you get stopped by an opposing player, you get a couple of dice rolls from special dice. Usually, you’ll choose from two, but you may find depending on the situation there is only one, or possibly three. These special dice let you decide for example if you accept an injury, down the opponent, down yourself or just push them back. Variability is here in every action, so no two games of Blood Bowl ever play out the same.
The gameplay is incredibly deep then, but sadly the presentation – while decent – doesn’t seem any different from Blood Bowl 2. Quips and into cutscenes from a commentary team and stadium shots position each game, and maybe this is the curse of the sports game sequel but it’s a very familiar presentation from the second game, and as such, fans upgrading are likely to struggle to see they’re playing a different version.
There have been a few controversies so far. Crashes and server issues have subsided, but microtransactions still lurk for all of the players you may want to design and customise. This is a shame but perhaps a way of sneaking elements of real-world money sink Warhammer into the game for extra realism.
With a game as complex as this, communication with the player on what is going on is absolutely key. The tutorial is lengthy but reasonable, and it does a better job in my eyes of explaining how to play than Blood Bowl 2 did. That’s not to say it’s easy however – there are an awful lot of mechanics at play here, and sadly the option to read it all is non-existent. By this I mean the text which shows things like the probability of certain actions playing out is so unbelievably small, anything short of sitting right next to the TV (or on a monitor) is going to be a challenge. This is a shame – a minor niggle really, but shouldn’t be happening in this day and age.
Whilst Blood Bowl 3 features a lot of monsters, sadly it also features quite a lot of bugs. Nothing game-breaking thankfully that I experienced at least, but there were a lot of graphical and audio glitches which given its similarity to Blood Bowl 2, was a bit of a frustration.
At its core, Blood Bowl 3 is an incredibly detailed, tactical game. It requires a lot of thought and strategy, and every game is different, however, it isn’t that different from Blood Bowl 2 to warrant an instant buy. That said, if you’re a fan of the original, having more teams, customisation options, and more story/career modes to play is probably going to be enough to do it for you.
Reviewed on PS5