Blackguards preview - a tactical, turn-based RPG from Daedalic

Daedalic is known for adventure games—the kind where you point at things and click on them—so the announcement of a tactical, turn-based RPG was a surprise. Blackguards does share a couple things with, say, the Deponia series: it also involves pointing and clicking on things, and like Daedalic's classic approach to adventure games, it's a classic approach to fantasy RPG combat. There are modern ideas, sure, but they all tweak a formula fit for tabletops.

There's a story to Blackguards, and an absolutely gorgeous world map to explore, but the focus is party-based combat, with almost 200 unique battle maps. Movement is hexagonal, and I'm told that some of the maps are "very big." The few I saw were a good size—not as big as XCOM's, for instance, but big enough to tell the story they were designed for. One had the party free prisoners to distract guards while they escaped, and the other was a rescue mission with a turn limit.

Riot Pixels

Even the non-objective-based battle I saw had a twist. It took place in a crypt (a popular hangout spot for RPG characters), and nasties would keep popping out of holes in the floor. Characters in Blackguards can interact with objects on the map, and in this case, that meant covering holes with heavy slabs to block reinforcements. I'm told that's just the tip of the iceberg: in other maps, we'll destroy a bridge to cut off a flanking maneuver, or slash a rope to drop a chandelier. It sounds like whatever we expect to be interactive will be.

The skill system—and you'll have control of every party member's progression—is intricate. It's the kind of thing that I'd have to personally mess with for at least a few hours (like, three or three hundred) before meaningfully appraising. For instance, adding points to weapon skills comes with a supplementary decision: a slider which lets you balance how much you contribute to the character's offensive and defensive capabilities with that weapon. This is serious RPG business.

On that note, the story doesn't involve much sunshine. You are a guy with problems: your girlfriend was killed by a wolf, and you tried to kill the wolf (at least, you're pretty sure you didn't kill her instead), but no one is having it. Not only are you accused of murder, the guy torturing you is your best friend. Crappy day.

Being an outcast, your party of up to seven will be assembled from a group of degenerates—a lecherous, drunk wizard, a rogue with a drug problem, a dwarf with anger management issues, and so on. The story escalates with a "dark menace" threatening the world, and there are three possible endings depending on the moral decisions you make along the way.

I didn't get more than a cursory look at the story, so back to the combat—it's the nightmarish meat of this depraved world, anyway. Based on the few battles I saw, it looks like something I want very much. Visually, the spell effects are beautiful (especially a bolt of fire which leaves a burning trail that damages enemies and allies alike), and mechanically, it looks like a test for experienced RPG tacticians. Arrows and spells fly clear across the map, and hit point allocation did not appear generous. Use of cover, positioning, and tactical spells—I saw a few buffs, as well as an evanescent, magic wall used to block in or divert enemies—appear to be crucial.

Daedalic tells me that Blackguards is about six months away from completion, and should release this summer.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.