It is a dark and electric night in the Blood Bowl stadium. The crowds excitedly await the start of the match. In among the cheering crowd are wizards, representing the teams and sponsors. They are ready to aid the team in scoring and bring pain to their opponents. With the referee and squig now on the field it is time for the two four player teams to arrive. A squig in Blood Bowl is used instead of a traditional football. Each team has a champion, one slower defensive player, and two quick offensive players. All can brawl and all can score a touchdown. However, it is up to the offensive players to stay open, get the squig, pass, and score more for the team. In the end, victory rests on the champions leading the team in this quick match of mayhem.
Welcome to Blood Bowl: Death Zone developed by Cyanide Studios and published by Bigben Interactive. A violent prelude to Blood Bowl, the violent and twisted fantasy football game from Games Workshop. Therefore, Blood Bowl: Death Zone is not a full game but a five-minute 1 vs 1 challenge between two teams of four-players. Both teams have a Blood Bowl champion, or star player, and there are fourteen available teams. Each with a set roster of players.
Prior to starting a match, you choose a star player and sponsor. Doing so sets all the special moves and spells for the team. There are four slots per team that hold special moves, like smash kneecap, and spells, such as healing orbs. While each sponsor provides a unique spell for the fourth slot. Following this, you have the ability to pick different passive abilities of each player on the team.
In addition, teams themselves are based on the races of the Blood Bowl universe. They include Humans, Orcs, Elves, Dwarfs, Undead, Lizardmen, Beastmen, among others. In addition, some teams come with a mix of races to balance the match. For example, the Apostles of Griff have an Ogre to match well with teams that have Trolls or Minotaur for defense. As for the Dwarfs, they get the deathroller, a large monster vehicle that is used to crush opponents.
In general, a big factor in the play-ability of this game is each player can be moved using simple mouse clicks. Or hotkeys. First you click a player then either click on the field, an opponent, the squig, and so forth. If using hotkeys, found in settings, then players can be selected by number. When a player clicks on an opponent they start brawling. The added, aggression move happens when kicking a player that is down. Now, you can move players out of a brawl but the opposing player will probably follow aggressively. If the fighting player happens to have the squig you can pass to another player. To this end, the one or two brawling players can provide an opening to take the squig to the end zone.
Now the game itself is meant to be quick and last five minutes, with the clock only counting down during a play. In addition, scoring is based on touchdowns. Players must grab the squig and take it to the opposing team’s end zone. You also can receive achievements based on completing specific goals. Because of this, players need to move quickly to pass, run, and attack the other side. It can be challenging, especially with larger and slower players. Although, once you figure out the moves it becomes a fun and exciting game.
In order to gain mastery of Blood Bowl: Death Zone, the tutorials are a must by providing direction on passing, attacking, special moves, and controlling players. Some advice for those new to the game, hold at least one player back in your end zone to help take out any squig carrying opposition. Also, I found playing with only a few teams to be helpful. Doing so I got to know a few players and formulate strategies to combat opposition. As for my favorite teams, they are The Apostles of Griff, The Varag Hounds, and The Sidewinder Admirers. However, as opponents I do like to play against the Dwarf teams and the Beastmen can be challenging. For some added fun try the Lizardmen, especially the team Exemplars of Hemlock.
When all else fails we have the spells provided by the wizards. These spells injure or slow down the opposition long enough to take the squig and run for a touchdown. However, these do have a cooldown and you can’t rely heavily on the spells or special moves. Also, thanks to the referee players can receive fouls or red cards. Though, oddly it happens rarely and mostly in League matches.
Another aspect of the game is formations. There are three default formations; defence, offence, and centre. However, if you are not happy with those then there is the choice of making custom formations. Just move players before the match and save your new formation. These are available only at the beginning of each play.
Besides abilities, teams come with a unique set of uniforms and gear. This gear includes jerseys, real football stylized helmets, armor, and accessories. In fact, I liken the look to a post-apocalyptic road warrior design meant to intimidate the other side. On the other hand, the Elves have armor that looks a bit too noble. Whereas the Undead, well they are zombies and mummies, and do not really need much protective gear. Our star players also have a different uniform from their team. In order to distinguish themselves as the best. Likewise, even some of the players look as if they came from a war zone.
As for the ambiance of the overall game, it has a dark, ghastly, and medieval look with towering winged statues and torches to light the stadium.
Let us move on to the game’s match-ups. There are several ways to take on Blood Bowl: Death Zone. We have the quick match that allows players to either team up with an online opponent or the AI. If you can get an online opponent, I still have had no luck, or invite players. With the AI you do have the option of picking your opponent. Even though it is the AI, you are in for a challenge as the opposition adapts to your plays and touchdowns scored. We also see special moves used on the opponent’s side. Winning in a quick match also provides achievements.
Then there are the leagues. In all a total of six leagues are available with each adding new teams through progression. However, league six does have all fourteen teams from the quick match available to play. League one on the other hand has four teams, two Human and two Orc. These also are four teams not found outside the league mode but are found in subsequent leagues. In order to unlock new leagues, you must win matches. Also, each league has specific rules depending on level. For example, league one provides two players with AI, one spell, no special moves, and four passive skills. This league also needs three matches to move on. League two, has only one AI player, three spells, six teams, two spells, and four passive skills. Achievements are also different based on League.
In this case, leagues add a different challenge to Blood Bowl: Death Zone, providing players with more opportunity to stay and keep playing.
Two other game aspects that give an added boost to the game, is the camera and scoring animations. When playing you can move the camera to different areas of the field. Also controlled with hotkeys. This helps focus on the action and player control. At the end when a player makes a touchdown the camera pulls away for an animation. This shows the player scoring. Making the game more real and adding to the excitement.
Another point is the sound, not much except crowd cheers, horns, and whistles. However, with such short rounds it wasn’t necessary. Maybe more sound, or music at the main screen.
At the end of the day I find this to be a fun game that provides quick violent matches. It is not a full sports game but provides enough challenging content with leagues and fourteen playable teams of four players. All in all its a decent game based off of Blood Bowl with great characters and an interesting venue. Recommended for players who want a quick challenging game that is bizarre and chaotic.