jakub | February 24, 2023

‘Blood Bowl 3’ review: disem-bowl-ed


It’s a funny old game, Blood Bowl 3. Whether it’s the clunky UI, infestation of bugs, self sabotaging AI or the fact that things just, well, break, it’s not really clear whether I should be reviewing Blood Bowl 3 or recording my frustrating attempts to play the game as a performance art piece.

Blood Bowl 3 is deeply flawed, with a predatory microtransaction policy that asks you to fork out for any attempts at customisation even while the game itself is mired in glitches, bugs, stalls and general wonkiness that makes it nearly impossible to get through a match.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. I’ve long adored Blood Bowl, a series that’s fantasy football in the truest sense as races from the Warhammer universe come together to play a variant of tactical turn-based American football. It often involves hunting for the touchdown while trying to weave through a variety of orcs, ogres, Skaven and elves on the path to the endzone. Blood Bowl 2 is a quality game, although it was not without its own bugs are launch, and I’ve become quite fond of the RPG aspects of slowly levelling a team and then spending skill points to make them a formidable opponent.

Blood Bowl 3. Credit: Cyanide Studio.
Blood Bowl 3. Credit: Cyanide Studio.

How successful a player is at certain objects will depend on their stats. A huge Orc might have 4 strength and 2 agility, making them good at strength things (punching, mostly) and bad at agility stuff (dodging, handling the ball). A new quirk in Blood Bowl 3, which adapts Blood Bowl’s 2020 ruleset instead of the older set shown in Blood Bowl and Blood Bowl 2 is the addition of a passing stat. You can probably guess what that governs.

Mechanically, it’s an incredibly satisfying game to play, but there it can also be one of the most frustrating, as every action is decided by dice rolls and a simple dodge can easily led to your star player falling over and breaking his neck on the fantasy-themed astroturf.

Blood Bowl 3. Credit: Cyanide Studio.
Blood Bowl 3. Credit: Cyanide Studio.

Here, the only thing breaking is the, well, everything. Playing in the single-player experience is more like a comedy show than a serious conversation. A hulking rat ogre is a terrifying thing to be stood next to with a serious opponent as it has massive strength and is likely to do incredible damage. The AI, however, decided that agility was a state of mind and tried to dodge away every single time, eventually injuring itself severely in the process. In fact, the entire team full of Skavens – they’re rats, if you don’t speak Warhammer – just decided they didn’t want to punch anyone and continually dodged in the most outlandish of circumstances until the end of the match where I was 6-0 up and 8 of the AI’s starting team were lying at the side of the pitch, severely injured. One early turn saw some of the elves try to block my ball carrier. After getting a push result and failing to take him out as its first action, the AI then ended the turn without trying to move anyone else. Sometimes the AI seemed to lock up entirely, wasting a minute of the two-minute turn timer without making any moves whatsoever.

Honestly, this is probably the biggest reason to be wary of Blood Bowl 3. The AI is nonsensical throughout each of the small single player campaigns, each comprising of a handful of matches with some excellent cinematics stitching them together.

Blood Bowl 3 head
Blood Bowl 3 Credit: Cyanide Studios

These issues evaporate when playing a match online, but then you just have to contend with the user interface (UI) issues. Most of the choices in the game are selected from a circular wheel that probably works great on a controller but is baffling when used with a mouse. To pass, you need to first tell the game you’re going to pick the ball up and pass before you start moving. This might adhere to the rules of the game, but it doesn’t make for a fun experience when you’re constantly furious at yourself for not following the arcane commands to actually make the game do the things you want to do.

Sometimes, of course, it just won’t work. I’ve seen chainsaw-wielding players unable to use their chainsaw, or a player using a wizard at the end of his turn which somehow triggered him immediately starting his next turn while mine was skipped, and several more bugs which grate slightly. Combined, Blood Bowl 3 is currently frustrating to play.

Then there are parts of the game that have clearly been cut so they can be sold to you later. Generally it’s okay when you can see an area that a game will expand: the exemplary Company of Heroes 3 has clearly defined markers where you can see the DLC will slot into, but what’s already on offer is so good you can give it a pass. Here, it’s parts of the game that have always been standard. Mutations in Blood Bowl 2 came with a cool cosmetic change so that your beastman with three arms had, well, three arms. In Blood Bowl 3, a three-armed beastman has a disappointing two arms on his character instead, robbing the game of a tiny cosmetic change that was neat and helped to distinguish your players.

However, that’s not as bad as it gets for cosmetics: at the moment there is no way of levelling up or acquiring cosmetics for free – although sniffing around the internet there’s evidence that it’s “coming soon” according to Cynanide – and as a result pretty much every cosmetic will cost you real money. Customising an entire team will cost you serious amounts of cash and is, again, something that was previously free for all players.

This is killer because the presentation is a big step up. The menus are hard to navigate and the actual experience of clicking around on the field is harder than it should be right now, but the Super Bowl-esque highlight flashes as players are injured. There’s a little picture in picture you can use that has your coach emoting from the sidelines that I also adored, before realising that yes, you can choose between your coaches but that past the original 2, this will cost you money.

With each additional team costing you money, and two teams available for £10.99 at launch, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Blood Bowl 3 could cost you a whole lot. It’s a price to both patience and salary that even the most determined Blood Bowl fan could struggle to pay.

Blood Bowl 3 is available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. This review was played on PC.

Verdict

Bug-infested and content-light, Blood Bowl 3 feels like an open beta you have to open your wallet for. Unplayable as a single-player game and merely frustrating in multiplayer, it’s hard to recommend this even to die-hard fans.

Pros

  • Brilliant presentation
  • First game to feature Blood Bowl 2020’s ruleset
  • Blood Bowl 2 still exists and you can still play it

Cons

  • Sketchy AI
  • very little unpaid customisation
  • Feels half-baked





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