Blood Bowl 3 managed to do the impossible: make someone with zero interest in sports titles interested in American football. All developer Cyanide Studio had to do was include elves, magic, and fatalities, and you can’t argue with the results, as Blood Bowl 3 makes scoring touchdowns fun by turning it into a deep strategy game. Unfortunately, the game is mired in technical issues and odd microtransaction choices, which drag the experience down into the dirt next to the players.
An actual “fantasy” football experience
On the surface, Blood Bowl 3 should be the kind of game I’d hate. As a denizen of the United Kingdom, I know as much about American football as the average house cat. By contrast, I know a lot about Warhammer, but even that has been twisted in Blood Bowl 3, with the familiar factions settling their disputes through sports, like some kind of ultra-violent take on Mario and Bowser playing tennis together.
Blood Bowl 3 caught my interest by combining violent contact sports with turn-based RPG mechanics, as the goal of each match is to score more points than the other player, which is done by controlling each character one by one, with a limited action economy and a dice-based resolution system. This objective can be accomplished by using accurate throwers and swift runners to bypass the opponent — but this is Blood Bowl, so violence is just as valid an approach as skill. You can brutalize the enemy team in the game’s opening half, sidelining them with injuries or killing them so they won’t have enough players to stop you in the second half.
Throwing out the rulebook
As an accurate representation of the most recent edition of the Blood Bowl tabletop game, there’s no denying that Blood Bowl 3 is a challenging game to pick up for fresh newbies, as it throws a ton of numbers at the player from the get-go. The main loop involves careful positioning and movement for each team member, with every contested action causing a dice roll that can potentially end your turn, should you be unlucky. Fortunately, Blood Bowl 3 has an expansive tutorial that leads you through every aspect of the game.
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The tutorial is just the beginning, as there is also a single-player campaign where you can build a team from any available factions and face off against various opponents. You shouldn’t expect some deep story or emotional character moments, as the single-player campaign is just an extension of the tutorial, giving you a chance to try out all of the teams in a structured manner, separated by a few humorous cutscenes.
The single-player campaign would be a great way of teaching the ropes, were it not for agonizingly slow AI that takes forever to come up with basic decisions. Blood Bowl 3 is a game where the computer opponent commonly runs out the clock, while you can only sit there and stare at the screen in boredom. While I hope for a fix soon, it’s better just to skip the campaign for now and jump straight into the online mode.
Fortunately, the shortcomings of the single-player mode aren’t present in the multiplayer content, as playing against another human is where the actual enjoyment of Blood Bowl 3 comes into play. The real thrill of Blood Bowl 3 comes from crushing other players in gridiron combat. While many of the multiplayer modes were inactive during the pre-launch, smashing enemies in the Quick Match mode was still an exhilarating and nail-biting experience, with every dice roll carrying the weight of victory on its back.
Bugs & MTX are the real opponents
It’s not all sunshine and bloodshed, as the biggest issue with Blood Bowl 3 during its launch period is the number of glitches it contains. If the only issues were graphical errors and performance hiccups, they would be forgivable, but Blood Bowl 3 tends to crash or freeze randomly. This would be annoying in a game with regular quick saves, but in Blood Bowl 3, a crash means restarting an entire match, some of which can go on for over forty minutes. This makes completing the single-player content frustrating, especially when you’re winning a match and are forced to start over by the game locking up.
Related: Black Orcs are invading the pitch in Blood Bowl 3
Not all the action takes place on the field, as Blood Bowl 3 also has management and team customization options for tailoring your group of players. The customization options are impressive, as they involve both the team and the trappings of their stadium. What’s less impressive is the choice to go with microtransactions and a battle pass called the Blood Pass. Blood Bowl 3 has elected to lock most of its visual cosmetics behind a premium currency called Warpstone, while upcoming teams will be earnable through the Blood Pass. This is a misstep In an age where live service games are dropping like flies, and it’s doubtful that Blood Bowl 3 can engage the fans and sustain this model through cosmetics and the occasional team.
Cyanide Studio had the task of adapting a tabletop game into a video game, which might seem more straightforward than normal, as the rules and mechanics are already established. It seems this advantage wasn’t enough, as the state of Blood Bowl 3 at launch means that only die-hard fans should check it out.
This will cease to be the case if glitches and performance issues are ironed out in the future, and all of the battle pass teams are made available. Only then will it be worth taking another look, as there is a fantastic strategy game buried beneath the problems, but Blood Bowl 3 isn’t quite ready to take the field just yet.
|Faithful to the original tabletop game
|Easier to pick up and learn compared to its predecessor
|Lots of options for building teams and forming strategies
|Riddled with glitches at launch, and the slow AI ruins the single-player content
|Cosmetics and microtransactions feel like a pointless addition