How do you make dragons suck?
I initially praised Bladestorm: Nightmare for being the cornerstone of Tecmo Koei's strategy to remaster older games—in this case, the 2007 release of Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War—all while adding new content in one shiny package. Tecmo Koei could have just released a short sequel featuring only the new Nightmare campaign and maybe, if they were feeling generous, bundled it with the old version of Bladestorm. But revisiting this enhanced version of the game in 2015 hasn't made it much better than I remember it, and to make matters worse, by all that is unholy, it actually manages to screw up dragons.
Now, you may be wondering why Koei Tecmo chose to remaster Bladestorm in the first place. Why, indeed? I didn't even remember writing the original review for Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War (because my early days at GameRevolution are a blur… at times to my benefit), and this Nightmare repackaging has only reminded me why I branded the game with an unapologetic 'D'. Would it be too easy to call this a nightmare-case scenario?
For a loose description, Bladestorm is essentially Dynasty Warriors (or Samurai Warriors, take your pick) except you're less of a lone warrior slaughtering everyone on the battlefield and more of a commander leading your squad… slaughtering everyone on the battlefield. And of course this is based on the famous conflict between England and France between 1337-1453, or at least a Japanese interpretation of it. Every major character in the game has that glossy sheen of a JRPG protagonist and many wear an ostentatious cosplay outfit that wouldn't fit in the Middle Ages.
Bladestorm: Nightmare, in a spin-off similar to Warriors Orochi, imagines what would have happened if the English and the French were forced to work together against a larger evil, fighting against hordes of goblins, skeletons, griffons, and oni-like giants. The over-the-top storyline begins with a corrupted Joan of Arc controlling these monsters with dark magic while you and a fellow mercenary named Magnus holds an ancient sword that can reverse her magic and bring the monsters under your control instead. From there, you must convince the kings of England and France that you're fighting on the right side and jump through ridiculous hoops for the plot to make any sense. At the very least, you probably won't care about any of the characters at all.
In fact, you'll likely give more sympathy to your created character and any other created mercenaries who join your motley crew. I made my character so tall that his head gets cut off by the frame, and I rode alongside a greatsword-wielding character named Guts as an homage to Berserk. For what it's worth, the suite of user-created character options is satisfactory, and it's entertaining to lead your army of death comprised of armored cavalry, two-handed swordsman, and griffons as it sweeps across the battlefield purging every den of evil it can find.
However, cavalry still remains the most overpowered unit in the game. Nothing else comes close apart from griffons. Yes, you can switch between different squads, and cavalry do have weaknesses against magic and bows, but it all boils down to speed. Traversing the expansive battlefield is slow enough on horseback that walking with ground troops is torture. Every in-game day lasts about 10 minutes of game-time, so instead of wasting half that time marching on foot, why not command a squad of 20 lanced horsemen to trample over waves and waves of enemies so fast that weaknesses don't matter? On a map with twenty, sometimes thirty, bases, I can conquer all of them in about a half-hour with cavalry, collecting all of the extra loot and earning 'S' ranks to boot.
But that's about it. Since there's little incentive to switch away from the sheer wrecking power of cavalry, unless the plot demands otherwise, every chapter can be cleared by going through the same motions. Escort missions don't help (they rarely do) since the unit you need to protect slows to a crawl. Seemingly challenging giants and dragons aren't terribly difficult to dispatch using cavalry. Not even the ability to command a battalion of gold dragons amounts to much because, for some reason, they're considered a ground unit that walks everywhere. Why you can't soar through the sky on a dragon—the one thing that everyone dreams about when it comes to dragons—and smote the masses with fire breath is beyond me.
It's a shame, really. The graphical remastering upgrades the smoothness of the landscape, and the draw distance has been extended to the point where moving across the field is more seamless, though there are still a few instances of shadow flickering and trees visibly rendering in the background. The value of having an extended game doesn't hurt either.
If the prospect of hearing the lamentations of goblins beneath the hooves of your cavalry, albeit for eight-plus hours, sounds enticing, then Bladestorm: Nightmare is perfectly serviceable. Rampaging through the French countryside is entertaining enough for a quick rental. Otherwise, it doesn't have much else going for it and squanders its fantastical setup with a lackluster plot, limited online options, restricted strategic choices, and neutered dragons.