Blood Bowl 3 is a great time that falls just a bit short. Being the third game in the series, it’s had a great track record of delivering solid gameplay. Unfortunately, there are a few things missing that hold Blood Bowl 3 back from being as amazing as it could be. But the things here are incredibly good.
Blood Bowl 3 is available for US$30 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Steam and Epic Games. Coming to Nintendo Switch at a later date.
Story & History | Board Game Beginnings
Blood Bowl 3 is the third game based on the board games of the same name. With the first video game adaptation being released in 1995, Blood Bowl has been around for awhile. The basic premise is American football (which I’m just going to call “football” from here on out), but very violent. You’ll be knocking down players and subsequently leaping over their bodies to score a touchdown. And that’s one of the less violent interactions.
There isn’t any real overarching story here. You could certainly imagine your players’ stories as they progress through their careers, though. That certainly is a big part of Blood Bowl‘s charm; your team and its players progress with you. If a player has been with you since the beginning and suddenly suffers a deadly injury? That makes you feel a bit sad; and that’s a positive here.
Gameplay | Foul Ball
Despite what the uninitiated may think when hearing the title and concept, Blood Bowl 3 is a turn-based strategy game. You’ll be taking turns with either the AI or another player, directing your players on what to do. They can move, pass, tackle; or even just beat up other players, among other things.
Off the Field
Before you make it to the match itself, you’ll need to build a team. There aren’t as many race options as Blood Bowl 2, but there a still a good amount. You won’t start out with much; enough money to purchase a few players and a cheerleader or two is all you’ll get. You can either spend your starting money yourself or have the computer create a balanced team for you; a nice feature for new players. After every match, you’ll earn money based on fan attendance; you can spend your money on new players and staff.
In terms of player customization, there is unfortunately very little. The ability to change your teams’ colors and logos is nice, but the players themselves don’t offer much. You can spend real money to buy new parts for your players, but there are no free options from the start. Even when paying for parts, there are typically only three or four options to choose from. Being based on a miniatures game, a genre that thrives on its customizability, it’s strange to see so few choices.
On the Field
When starting a match, a coin is flipped. The winner of the coin flip decides whether to kick or receive the ball and sets up their players’ positions. After the positions have been decided, the ball is kicked. There a various modifiers that can take effect when the ball is kicked. For example: the receiving team may be able to move their players a few spaces to try to intercept the ball.
Once the ball has landed, the receiving team can move their players. Each player can take one action per turn, either moving or blocking/tackling. Once you move a player, the previous player can no longer act this turn. Every turn a single player can both move and block in one action.
Almost every action in Blood Bowl is decided via a dice roll; which obviously ties back to its board game origins. While it can feel a bit unfair at times, it also helps the game feel more real. After all, you’re not controlling the players; just directing them. Plus, you can just blame the dice when you lose.
Graphics & Sound | Just Don’t Look at the Nurgles
The game looks wonderful and the soundtrack is nice and unobtrusive. There are a few cutscenes here and there; they’re all very charming. The biggest issue is the lack of diversity. Almost every human is a white man. Even under customization, there’s no way to change gender, skin color or even hair color. It’s not all that surprising given the last game had the same issue, but it’s still something that should’ve been included.
Online | There’s No Dodging It
Blood Bowl 3 is sadly following the common trend of adding a paid battlepass. If the game was free this wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem. But when the game is not only US$30, but has microtransaction as well? A battlepass feels a bit unnecessary.
Something else worth mentioning in this section is the incredibly bizarre decision to separate progress between online and offline modes. If you want to play without being connected to the internet? You can’t carry that over to online matches or even just continue while connected to the internet. You essentially have two separate save files. This has been made even more frustrating due to the frequent server outages and maintenance.
The only explanation I can think of is that at one point mod support may have been planned. If you wanted to keep modded teams separate from unmodded, sure there are better ways, but this is a potential solution. Mod support is another feature that seems strange not to include. As I said before, customization is king in miniature games, so mod support would make perfect sense. But it’s totally absent.
Something very nice is the inclusion of hotseat multiplayer. If you want to play with a friend, but don’t want to deal with the online portion of the game: you’re all good. You can even choose from premade teams; or your own.
Bugs | Why Didn’t They Advertise the “Insect” Race?
Oh boy. There are a lot of bugs. Some are minor, like players randomly freezing and just gliding across the screen. Others are frustrating, like the ball indicator vanishing, leaving you to search for it somewhere on the field. And then there are the crashes. I had no less than five crashes in the span of two hours. The rest of my playtime was crash-free, but for some reason that particular match was not cooperating.
Which brings up something that almost seems like a bug. There’s no way to save mid-match. If your game crashes? Sorry start over. Server maintenance starts and you’re in online mode? Sorry, start over. It’s incredibly frustrating. And if you lose a great match and then upon restarting get a few bad rolls? It instantly kills any investment in the match.
After that first crash, the game was different. It was still fun, but there was a constant fear that the game would crash and I’d start over. If I was ahead and there were only a few turns left? My goal was no longer to play the game, but to end it as fast as possible.
Conclusion | A Lot to Tackle
Blood Bowl 3 is a difficult case, because it’s so fun when it works. Unfortunately, it’s riddled with bugs and microtransactions, which makes it hard to recommend. If you’re only interested in playing offline, I think it’s a good game, but for the same price as the standard edition of Blood Bowl 3, you can get Blood Bowl 2 and all of its expansions. It’s a sad situation and I truly do hope that the team is able to iron out some of the issues in the future.
Blood Bowl 3 was reviewed on PC with key provided by Dead Good PR