Many traditional sports games release a new installment every year, with mixed results on whether or not they feel different enough to warrant beyond a roster update. So I’m surprised by Blood Bowl 3, the latest digital adaptation of Games Workshop’s ultra-violent board game parody of American football, set in a wacky alternate version of the Warhammer Fantasy universe. Compared to the previous version, which came out almost eight years ago, it offers shockingly little reason for its own existence. I like the intense and hilarious premise and mechanics of Blood Bowl itself, but what we have here is basically Blood Bowl 2 again, but worse.
If you’ve never played Blood Bowl, you might just be able to dabble in the absurd novelty of the concept for a while. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and Minotaurs line up on an iron grid and attempt to punch, pass, and juke their way to a touchdown, with often brutal results. Since this is Warhammer, players can be seriously injured and even killed depending on how the virtual dice fall, which has the potential to create bitter and satisfying rivalries in long-running leagues.
What we said about Blood Bowl 2
Blood Bowl 2 is a great, satisfying, irreverent martial arts melee that leaves a bit too much of the outcome to the six-sided dice. The inclusion of some seemingly unfinished playable races is definitely a stumbling block, but a campaign of spectacular presentation and deep, crisp multiplayer league options flashes this game into the end zone. – Leana Hafer, 09/22/2015
Read our full Blood Bowl 2 review.
From moment to moment, the turn-based mechanics are fun, tactical and exciting. A lot of my criticisms of Blood Bowl as a video game still stand, as I think using six-sided dice for everything can feel a bit too random, and that works better when you’re leaning over a table and having a few beers with friends than in a video game against the AI. Sometimes the outcome of a game depends too much on luck and too little on player skill.
But all of that could have been said about 2015’s Blood Bowl 2. In fact I said it. And I’d heartily recommend the Legendary Edition, which you can get on Steam, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One with all the DLC for the same price, or less, than this lackluster sequel. Across the board, Blood Bowl 3 feels like a much less polished game. It just isn’t that bombastic or flashy, whether you’re looking at the overlays or at the menus on the pitch. Even things like symbols that give you choices during certain games, like using a reroll or apothecary to avoid getting injured, are smaller and harder to read.
It also looks worse overall. Obviously the higher graphics settings have increased fidelity and use more modern rendering techniques, but watching Blood Bowl 2 and 3 side by side I simply prefer the former. The colors were more saturated and direct, the whole game was more readable. And I could be wrong, but it seems like the player models and animations haven’t changed much.
Casting duo Bob the ogre and Jim the vampire are back in Blood Bowl 3, but they’re mostly seen and heard. We don’t get to see her joking at the desk that often anymore. Many of their lines are recycled from the last game, and most of the new ones are specific to certain games or competitions. I got tired of them quickly because whenever one of these scenarios came up, they repeated themselves over and over again. Matches end largely without fanfare or analysis, summarily throwing you back into the menu even if you’ve just defeated a major antagonist.
Everything feels kind of, for lack of a more precise term, half-assed, including some pretty major omissions. Often the score shown at the end of the game summary does not reflect the actual game score. Most AI team or randomly generated player names aren’t even capitalized properly! It might seem like a minor nitpick, but I would expect more attention to detail from a fan game or mod. Come on, am I wrong?
flag at stake
Not everything in Blood Bowl 3 is a step backwards. At least compared to the launch day version of Blood Bowl 2, there is more variety in teams and player types. But even then, a lot gets recycled. The Chaos Chosen now have five player types instead of three. But two of them, the ogre and the troll, were simply copied from other teams.
There’s also the Chaos Renegades, a new team type made up entirely of Chaos-worshipping variations of players from other teams. But they don’t even get Chaos-themed starting abilities, and much like Blood Bowl 2’s Chaos roster, the new Black Orcs team only has three player types. This is offset somewhat by the large variety of interesting abilities that you can eventually use to customize players as they gain experience, but I don’t see myself playing Blood Bowl 3 long enough to realize the full potential of this system.
Blood Bowl 3 screenshots
You can still create your own leagues and competitions with custom rules, up to 128 teams and playoffs like the previous game, which is neat. However, progress cannot be transferred between your offline and online profiles.
There are six single-player mini-campaigns with a kind of flat premise about a clash of sponsors, and the first two are actually pretty good! As for the others, even after winning the championship several times in the previous ones, which had taken me a few hours, I was not able to unlock them and when I mouse over or click on them there is no indication of how be unlocked. Maybe they’ll come sometime after launch? Maybe it’s a bug? Blood Bowl 3 doesn’t seem interested in telling me.