The Double-A Team is a feature series honouring the unpretentious, mid-budget, gimmicky commercial action games that no-one seems to make any more.
Last week we looked at The Adventures of Tintin, a film tie-in no one has ever heard of. Today, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War, which I bet you haven’t heard of either.
You can catch up with all of our Double-A Team pieces in our handy, spangly archive.
How many of you played Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War? I don’t know anyone who has! Surely it’s not that obscure. Only game I ever got 1000 Gamerscore in, I’ll have you know. Mind you, it did give me 150 points just for saving my game, so…
Bladestorm is what happens when you cross Dynasty Warriors with Total War. It’s a sort of history game and a sort of strategy game, but in which neither element really matters. I can’t remember a single historical detail from it, come to think of it, except that Joan of Arc was in it and she looked about as menacing as a daffodil. Ha, she had a rubbish French accent too.
But that was Bladestorm! All the lords and ladies, and kings and queens, looked like unruffled teenagers. It was po-faced Western history imagined with Japanese excitement and delicacy. Exclamation marks! Melodrama. Brooding. It’s all in there. And even though they looked harmless, it didn’t stop them batting away battalions like Sauron on Mount Doom.
There’s pretence of strategy for a while. You pick a unit type to command – a division within a larger army. You can choose units like spearmen, foot soldiers, archers, and cavalry – eventually – and they all have pros and cons in different situations. They have a few moves you can deploy and you can level them up the more you use them, not that I ever found a particularly strong correlation between level and power. I didn’t really know what I was doing for the most part, to be honest, but it didn’t seem to matter once I became invincible.
I say invincible but I think I could die – It’s hard to tell. As soon as I got myself mounted and started running cavalry, I tore through enemy ranks unchecked. I’d canter around, like a careful Olympian in the dressage pit, then give the order and charge, wedge formation, right into enemy flank. And boom! They’d go down like pins in a bowling alley. We’d smash through them, combo meter firing like a popcorn machine on the screen. One hundred, two hundred, five hundred. Level up, level up, level up. It only exacerbated the issue!
Soon I swept across battlefields like the army of ghosts in The Lord of the Rings. Nothing could stand in my way. I’d even get a bit peeved if an enemy division wasn’t perfectly aligned in my charge path to help me rack up another monster combo. It totally undermined any historical set-piece the game tried to present me. Oh yes, Edward the Black Prince, I will help you against the French (I’m a mercenary, you see, and famous historical figures come to a pub to ask me for help), only, I probably won’t wait for you, to hear all your cheesy banter, but completely wipe the battlefield clean before you even arrive. Boom. You’re welcome. Toff.
It was hilarious fun. Complete reckless abandon, where you cared less about persevering and more about persevering in style. And from what I can gather, I wasn’t alone in feeling as though I’d broken the game and become way too powerful for it. Which makes me think maybe that was the intended outcome all along. What if Omega Force planned it that way? What if the idea was to give you a pure power fantasy – the feeling that you, a lowly mercenary, could turn the tables of history? That would be pretty alluring wouldn’t it?
Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War isn’t playable on Xbox One back compatibility, it looks like, but is available on PS4 via PlayStation Now. Alternatively, there’s Bladestorm Nightmare, an expanded and enhanced version made for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.