I love Blood Bowl. As a setting, it’s wonderful – the various peoples of the disparate Warhammer Fantasy universe, all united in their love for one thing: violence. And Blood Bowl of course. And there is plenty of violence in Blood Bowl – from the very top of imperial nobility to the most wretched of chaos, all love the game, and all can be very proficient at it. Except halflings, of course.
Blood Bowl 3 is the next game in the Blood Bowl series and has had a troubled development. Initially announced in August 2020 and slated for release in 2021, it’s been pushed back a couple of times and is only now getting a full release. There are quite a few changes in this entry to the series that sound great: vast new customisation systems, a ruleset that is closer to the board game and a single player campaign that is available to all factions, as well as smaller things such as pitches that add special effects to the match you’re playing in. So, how does it stand in comparison to the previous games in the series?
Lets Play Some Blood Bowl!
For those unfamiliar, Blood Bowl is American football in the Warhammer fantasy universe. All the various people that inhabit the world have Blood Bowl teams that represent them – from Dwarves to Orcs, from Elves to Humans. Blood Bowl 3 starts with 12 different factions you can choose from, reduced from the amount Blood Bowl 2 had by the end of its lifespan but more than it had at launch. There are a good variety of teams you can use at launch, but there are some missing that people will miss – Lizardmen and the lack of any undead teams in particular.
Once you’ve loaded up Blood Bowl 3 for the first time, and chosen whether you want to play with an offline or online profile and logged in, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose a team. As mentioned, there are 12 different teams to choose from that offer a good variety of playstyles – from the bashy dwarves to the dodgy elves. I usually opt for bashy teams, and this was no exception – I went for Orcs. With your team created, you then need to choose players for them. I used a strong frontline of big un’s, with a troll as its centrepiece. Behind this, there were blitzers to exploit gaps and go for a touchdown, and finally lineman to fill out the flanks and reinforce the frontline. I also hired a spare goblin to chuck using the troll now and again for a hail mary attempt at a touchdown.
With the players purchased, you then need to decide on additions such as dedicated fans or re rolls you can use – generally you won’t have a tonne of money spare once you’ve picked your initial team, but as you win matches you’ll gain more gold over time and you can return here to buy more. Next up, Blood Bowl 3 adds a deep layer of customisation to the team, and to individual players. Starting with the team customisation, you can adjust the colours your team uses, the stadium they play in, cheerleaders they use, and coach that they have amongst other things. It really helps you to be able to put your own stamp on the team and would be a welcome adjustment if all the options weren’t locked behind a microtransaction store. In addition, you can then adjust the individual looks of a player, from their heads to arms and so on, just like you might with models on the tabletop. Once again though, it’s a huge, missed opportunity due to all of the options being locked behind a microtransaction store and I’m really sad that what looks like an incredible system for truly making a team yours is once again going to be predicated on spending a tonne of money in the store.
A Fumbled Opportunity
Blood Bowl 3 does come with a single player campaign – 15 matches, plus a tutorial, that will match you against various teams and star players from Blood Bowl history. It’s a fun campaign to begin with and has a fun vein of humour that runs through some of the commentary and blood bowl commercials that appear before a game, but it does begin to drag fairly quickly. There aren’t really many stakes or interesting scenarios and I feel a lot more could have been done here, and the rewards for completing the single player are pretty weak overall. This would of been a great opportunity to offer some free cosmetics as a reward for completing the matches and would tie into the new cosmetic system really nicely – instead In addition, they’re all straight knockout cups – no leagues or ladders to be seen.
The main issue where Blood Bowl 3 really falls down when playing single player is that the AI is absolutely terrible. I completed all the campaigns, and the AI didn’t score against me a single time. There were a couple of times that I think the AI could have legitimately scored with the ball carrier free to push to the touchdown area, but they instead brought the player back into contact with one of my players for no real reason. I’m not even a particularly good Blood Bowl player, as I’ve got a few hours in the 2nd game but overall I’m a very weak player that relies more of destroying the enemy team as opposed to actually going for the ball. These issues run quite deep, and it definitely feels like a much worse AI overall compared to Blood Bowl 2.
The issues don’t stop here though, as there are other problems you’ll encounter when playing in single player – the AI will take forever to decide on re rolls, or whether to move a player. It’ll make utterly braindead decisions which make its positions worse, not better. The game just freezes at times and soft locks as the AI will just use its entire timer instead of actually playing a move. There have been some hotfixes in the lead up to launch that have helped with this, but its still pretty prevalent overall unfortunately. There are also large amounts of bugs such as players just swapping positions in the same two squares, the AI taking its riskiest actions first constantly, and also choosing to re roll what are 2 perfect options on the dice all the time amongst other things.
A Difficulty Atmosphere In The Stadium
The most important of the new changes in Blood Bowl 3 is that it uses the same system that the board games does now, allowing it to match up better with the rules and make things a bit easier for a person who has learned one of the games to then use those skills in the other. This is a great change, and I hope it does help people to transition from one to the other. Some of these rule changes are quite major – for example, you can now use as many re-rolls as you want per turn, instead of being limited to 1. This adds an additional layer of management – do you use all your re rolls on 1 important play? Or do you instead just use them sparingly over time? Another major change is that the passing skill has been added, instead of just relying on agility – it allows for a bit more finesse with skills on players, but does end up nerfing to a small degree some of the factions such as elves that automatically had extremely good passing, and now their general players are a bit worse at it.
Next up is the overall atmosphere of the game. In general, the new graphics don’t feel like a huge upgrade over Blood Bowl 2, and the aforementioned issues with the microtransaction store mean that you don’t really get to use the games visuals to its full degree unless you part with more money afterward. The animations that play when your players hit successfully another player are fun, but extremely repetitive – they really need to add a few more, as it just feels like the same 1-2 are used and when you’re doing this multiple times every single turn, it gets old quickly. In addition, the sound in general doesn’t feel particularly great – I felt that the sound was a bit more meaty to listen to with players colliding in Blood Bowl 2. There are also hang-ups with the commentators – the same duo return, with a few extra faces appearing during the single player campaign, but a large quantity of the voice lines are just ripped from the prior game. It becomes very noticeable, very quickly if you’ve played Blood Bowl 2 and is just a big disappointment.
Your Moment Of Glory Awaits
Where Blood Bowl still shines however, is the stories it produces. My orc team went on a tear and was free scoring against the AI, and along the way it produced plenty of fun stories. For example, my orc blitzer was more like an elf by the end of its run – able to dodge and run quite well once I upgraded their stats accordingly. Some really fun stories include the untrained troll on my team – although they could often be a liability, they were also really important at times. Against a black orc trained troll, on the very first hit of the match they managed to inflict an injury, taking a huge threat off the board and making things far easier for me. They then proceeded to die at the very last hit of the end of the match to a black orc with a penchant for violence… but then came back thanks to regeneration! Another time, they actually managed to catch the ball and score a touchdown… a troll scoring a touchdown! Stories like these make Blood Bowl an incredible series to play, and Blood Bowl 3 continues the trend here.
Multiplayer will be the best place to see these stories, and there are options for hosting your own leagues and series in order to facilitate this. There are ladders, leagues and knock out cups that you’ll be able to join, although I do feel the AI is a bit finickity and for new players it’ll be difficult to just find a game straight away to chuck yourself into unless you have friends who also have the game. The servers are also pretty weak overall, and it’s been a big problem just trying to login some days, or to complete basic tasks such as accessing my team details area. I hope that the devs are able to fix this quickly as it’s a major problem. One final disappointment for me is that you can’t have series with AI teams anymore – in Blood Bowl 2, you could make your own series just against the AI, and invite another player if you wished, which added to the ability to play the game in single player immensely. This option has been taken away in Blood Bowl 3, and I really hope they bring it back in future.
Although the core game is enjoyable and the stories it can generate will leave lasting memories, Blood Bowl 3 has a lot of problems. For Blood Bowl fanatics interested in PvP, there is fun to be had here, but for the more casual player who likes to play against the AI, it’s a really hard sell. With a few changes and improvements, the game could be a great one, but for now it is a bit of a fumbled attempt at a touchdown.
Blood Bowl 3 is available now on PC via Steam
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Disclaimer: In order to complete this Review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.