It has come to my attention that, some ten or so years later, the Blood Bowl games are actually part of the Warhammer universe. If that sounded like a whole lot of something, allow me to explain: Blood Bowl, in particular Blood Bowl 3, is a strategy game under the guise of handegg but with the many races of the Warhammer universe, a fantasy slash sci-fi world of despair ‘n chaos and praising the Emperor (I highly suggest looking into it!). With that being said, I was a tad embarrassed not knowing this as even a casual observer of Warhammer media should be able to pick up on what’s about gibbing orcs and rats. Or at, I thought so anyway.
Developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Nacon, Blood Bowl 3 offers a fun and interesting tabletop game experience on the console. It’s just a shame that everything around the core gameplay is such a bother.
When I picked up Blood Bowl, I was a little surprised to see what kind of game it was. Not that it’s a bad thing, I like strategy and I love dice rolls because of what nonsense derives from it (never have me as your GM). To keep the idea brief, the game plays on an American football field with two teams vying for the ball to score a touchdown. Movement is limited to the grid and based on the number of available moves one of your units have, alongside dice rolls to determine even the most basic of outcomes such as escaping an enemy’s unit line of sight. Failing a single dice roll will immediately end your turn, causing much strife especially when things were going just oh-so good.
But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room, well the one covered in blood. Blood Bowl gives players the ability to violently beat-up their opponent’s units to the point of death. The setup is important, and failing dice rolls can completely turn the tables on you getting you glassed, but succeed and you’ll make it to the end of the field with fewer problems. Mix in different race types such as Orcs, Skavens, Elves, Humans, et al alongside unique unit types and movement possibilities and you have a really solid gameplay loop that makes many strategies viable.
And Blood Bowl 3 is fun. There’s a lot of opportunities for you to clobber your common man online or go offline with the AI. The strategic plays can be fun or have you screeching at the top of your lungs. The humour is the same crass and dark taste Warhammer is well-known for. So, it’s a bit of a shame that the game has quite a few issues wrapping the core of its gameplay. A lot of it I ran into within the first hour of gameplay.
One Dice Roll
Off the bat, Blood Bowl 3 will coax you into its tutorial. This mode is what I think was an attempt as showing how one plays the deadly sport, but I walked out of it confused and underprepared. Too little of the game is explained beyond basic movement and the tutorial’s presentation is less than stellar. Big text boxes line the screen with descriptions of what-does-what, but more than often you’re likely looking at the centre of the screen fiddling with the controls rather than looking at anything passively popping up in tiny, tiny text. In one instance, I couldn’t complete a particular action the tutorial wanted me to complete because the corresponding action (in this case, killing the enemy unit), quite literally wasn’t working. I had to back out and go back in to continue the tutorial.
Really, I’ve listed some of this game’s biggest issues. In the hours and matches I played, I couldn’t get the controls down. They felt clunky and unresponsive, such as not being able to select units consistently with one A button press. Holding down the A button should pull up an action wheel but that was inconsistent—sometimes it would show, sometimes it wouldn’t, and sometimes it would show up on the unit I have selected rather than the area I was trying to resolve. If it hasn’t been highlighted at this point, the user interface is fairly awful. Navigating it with a controller is cumbersome, and I didn’t feel that it communicated information effectively—because of the colour choices, sometimes I would forget which team pieces were mine if the opposing faction was the same race as my team. The game camera also has a tendency to move on its own to parts of the map without any reason as far as I could tell.
Which leads me to bugs. I ran into quite a few of them. At one point the ball simply disappeared from the map and neither teams could really do anything besides gibbing one another, forcing me to restart the game. Campaign AI takes quite a while to complete their turns and, in some cases, does nothing at all. Network issues still plague the game, and playing offline would mean no progression carrying over into the online side and vice versa. Network problems can be resolved, so I’m not too worried on that, but the online dependency on iffy services makes for an unpleasant experience. It also makes the Quick Resume feature rather useless, too.
It’s clear that Blood Bowl 3 wants to be a live service of sorts. There are planned races coming in the future and I’m almost certain with it, new campaigns. It also offers a cash shop that allows players to purchased one-time consumable cosmetics for their teams. Now I have mixed feelings on this. I play many a phone game, particularly gacha titles. I might be used to seeing a cash shop at this point, but anytime I see one in a priced game (and one I’m running into a lot of issues with) leaves me a bit miffed. Buying one-time items that only apply to players within a team feels even more egregious at that. It’s cosmetic, nothing game breaking, but we’re human and we like to dress things up, so seeing the pricing on this stuff sucks quite a bit.
It frustrates me that I have to leave Blood Bowl 3 with a middling review, but despite the solid core gameplay, everything around it frustrates me too much for me to continue playing. These issues may be fixed in the future, but at the moment I struggle to recommend this game to fans of Warhammer, strategy, or possibly even the more hardcore Blood Bowl fan.
Blood Bowl 3
Xbox Series X
- Fun core gameplay mixing strategy and random chance die rolls.
- Crude and dark Warhammer fantasy world where the races can stand each other for more than five minutes is pretty funny.
- Controls and navigation are no good.
- AI takes too long to think out actions.
- A cash shop that feels too egregious.
- Network issues and bugs abound.