Cyanide Studio is back with Blood Bowl 3, this time published by Nacon. The game has been in closed beta now for over a week, and the limited content currently available feels good. While the developer did warn that it is far from the finished version, bugs are abundant. Check out our impressions of the good, the bad, and the buggy.
It has been almost six years since Blood Bowl 2 was released, and now with the updated board game ruleset from 2020, Blood Bowl 3 is on the way. For those not familiar, the game is a mash-up of American football and the Warhammer universe. While the closed beta so far is fun, Cyanide Studio may have their work cut out for them with the released date coming up in September and the sheer amount of bugs currently in the game. This is our Blood Bowl 3 Closed Beta impressions.
The beta offers three game modes: Friendly Match vs. AI, Quick Match Online, and 1v1 local (hot-seat). The content includes 3 of the 12 races and a limited set of other features for players to test out.
Let’s blitz the good stuff first. The game feels like a faithful recreation of the board game. The graphics look decent to good, the animations are good, and the voiceover work is great. Watching players dash across the field or lay into the opposition with a satisfying crunch hits the sweet spot. With a bit more polish, Blood Bowl 3 could look amazing at release.
The turn-based game mechanics are intact. A match is 16 turns split into two halves. During a turn, if the attacking team drops the ball or has a team member hit the turf, a turnover occurs. Being Blood Bowl, announcers Jim and Bob chime in regularly with commentary about one particular hit or a failed action. By the end of some turns, I had half the opposing team on the ground or, if I was lucky, shoved at least one enemy player into the fans outside the field.
UI screens are in place for most of the rules and additional content, but it felt like several of them are not yet fully implemented. Weather effects are in and can cause havoc by increasing the chance of turnovers due to rain or snow.
Blessings from the god Nuffle also appear in a match, but I had a hard time telling if they impacted gameplay during the beta. Some notation of what is currently still in development would have been nice.
Each race so far has kept its unique feel. Take the field as the Black Orcs, and your team members will be a mix of orc, goblin, and troll. Having a troll on the team can help beat up the opposition with ease at times. If you are like me and can’t roll above a three most of the time on a die-six, the big idiot will end up sitting in the middle of the field for half the match. Thankfully, Black Orcs all have the brawler trait, so they can fill in on helping beat up the elves.
The Elven Union is a better option for players who like to use passing and avoidance tactics. While the Imperial Nobility seems to be a good mix of the other two teams. I can’t wait to play some of the other races once they become available later this year.
While the base gameplay is currently quite fun, it does feel like the bugs are the third team in many of the matches. They also tend to win a lot. When I first started playing the closed beta matches would regularly lose connection to the server. Out of several games, I was able to finish one. Thankfully this issue was patched over the past week. Now the game is just slow to load a match, and I have had it hang a couple of times on the “Loading Information” screen.
There are also a lot of UI glitches. During matches, the squares outlined by the UI flicker regularly. At times, clicking to select a player and then clicking to move it would not always work. Sometimes I need to deselect a player two or three times before the UI responded to movement commands. In other instances, clicking to select a die result was either delayed by multiple seconds or unresponsive. I would have to click elsewhere on the screen before I could try and activate the die again.
Beyond the constant fight with the UI to function, there are also several visual bugs. The ball can appear on the ground beneath a player after being picked up. Earlier in the beta, players could appear on the field but could not be clicked on during a turn. After a touchdown, the team’s cheerleaders could still appear in the middle of the game field. By the end of one match, I had multiple sets of cheerleaders cheering me on.
The UI currently feels cluttered, and along with the bugs, I could see some players feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information thrown at them. While I appreciate the main menu link to the how-to-play Blood Bowl videos, I think more refinement to the UI and expanded tooltips will go a long way for new player retention.
Cyanide Studio did note in the announcement on June 3rd that the beta is not representative of the final game. They also provided a list of known issues that players may experience during gameplay. While the current bugs are numerous, they are resolvable issues. It is just a question of if the developers will have enough time before release to complete polishing the game.
I have two main concerns about Blood Bowl 3, which could make or break its success. First, the AI will need improvement over its predecessor. Blood Bowl 2’s AI was notoriously dumb. Players elected at times to play Blood Bowl Chaos Edition instead because of it. Thankfully, the team is aware of this issue. While I have already seen the game’s AI make some idiotic moves in the beta, hopefully, it will be improved by release.
Second, the perception that the game AI cheats. Not sure how the developers will handle this one other than by being very transparent about the die rolls throughout a match. At times in Blood Bowl 2, it felt like the AI would suddenly go on a rolling streak of good luck. So far in the beta, for me, it has felt fairer.
The Blood Bowl 3 beta has been a fun first look at the game. As a Warhammer fan, it has captured my attention and could prove to be a great game. The visuals, animations, and voiceovers all fit. The core game mechanics feel good. Will the developers have enough time to fix the existing bugs as they implement the remaining races and systems? Can Cyanide Studio improve the AI and shake off the feel of it cheating? If so, I think this game will be a ton of fun for players interested in a turn-based digital version of the board game. The September date on Steam is for early access, with a full release in 2022.