After multiple delays and an early unlock period that was marred by game-breaking bugs, Blood Bowl 3 launched on February 24. In spite of fixes for the most egregious issues, like the servers straight-up not working, it’s currently sitting at a user rating of Mostly Negative on Steam (opens in new tab). Only 27% of user reviews are positive.
The Blood Bowl team responded to complaints with a community update, promising to address the main issues players are having. Firstly, the remaining bugs. “The functionality of the game is our main priority and rest assured we will do our best to address any bugs or broken elements as soon as we can,” they said.
Next, they moved on to complaints about monetization. While Blood Bowl 3 lets players customize team colors and emblems, individual player options like helmets and shoulderpads are only available in a shop where they have to be paid for with in-game currency called warpstone. (While warpstone is not on sale yet, bringing up a blank page in the store, customers who paid an extra $US20 for the Brutal Edition got 1,000 warpstone as part of the package.)
“This is something we tried to communicate ahead of the launch, but we intend to implement features allowing players to be rewarded either with cosmetic items or Warpstone through play as well as purchase,” the team said. “We know that we will probably not be able to convince all of you but we truly believe that our system is fair, rewarding and optional and that’s understandable.”
There will be two ways to earn warpstone and free cosmetics, they explain. First, by leveling up your coach through winning games, and the second via earning xp for completing tasks in seasonal content, whether in singleplayer or multiplayer. The thing is, neither of those ways of earning stuff is currently in Blood Bowl 3. A previous blog post (opens in new tab) mentioned that coach leveling will be part of “an upcoming patch” and Season 1 doesn’t start until May 25.
That’s via the roadmap (opens in new tab), which shows three seasons planned for 2023. Each season comes with a Blood Pass, which players familiar with other games’ Season Passes will recognize. It’ll have a free tier that hands out rewards as you level your way up it, and a paid tier that hands out more rewards as well as several instant unlocks. In Blood Bowl 3 those instant unlocks will include one new team per season, meaning that if you pay for the Blood Pass you get that season’s team immediately while other players can earn them by hitting max level before a three-month season ends.
While it’s nice to know vanity gear can be unlocked for free, and that apparently includes “not only players’ parts, but also pitches, grandstands, coaches, cheerleaders, balls and dugout among other things”, the complaints aren’t just about monetized customization existing. They’re about how it’s implemented: whether you buy or earn an item, it can only be applied to one player. That kneepad for your blitzer has to be bought again if you want more than one member of your team to wear it.
That’s galling because, while Blood Bowl 2 had an in-game store that sold jersey designs for a currency called cyans, they were for entire teams rather than individuals. And while that game had only a small variety of head options and the like, at least they were available from the start rather than having to be paid for or earned.
Blood Bowl 3’s more extensive customization options were repeatedly highlighted during development, complete with a slick gif showing off how much an orc’s armor could be changed, without a hint it would have to be unlocked until the season system was finally explained in December (opens in new tab).
Having factions available for free if you don’t mind working through the unpaid tier of the Blood Pass will make players who complained about previous Blood Bowl games selling teams as DLC happy. However, dataminers have found files related to upcoming teams like Wood Elves, Lizardmen, and Shambling Undead, and some players have suggested that these teams are complete and being held back for the sake of seasonal content.
The developers addressed this, saying that, “As we’re sure you understand, the development of a game is complex. The factions we plan to release for Blood Bowl 3 are still under development each at varying degrees of completion” and that even the one that’s closest to completion has “a lot of testing and validation” still to do.
They also address an error that resulted in players who purchased the regular version being given the Brutal Edition upgrade, which comes with free cosmetics for the Black Orc and Imperial Nobility teams as well as 1,000 warpstone. While the cosmetics are being taken away from players who didn’t pay for the upgrade, they’ll get to keep the warpstone, and everyone who did pay for the Brutal Edition will get an extra 1,000. Those who participated in the particularly buggy early unlock period will get an extra 250 warpstone on top.
While the update also apologized for server issues, and pointed to the latest patch notes (opens in new tab) to show what had been fixed, other issues went unaddressed. For instance, the fact that basic features are listed as “improvements” to come with future seasons. The ability to resume an online match after a dropout isn’t coming until Season 2 in August, alongside replay and spectator modes, with crossplay and the full set of star player special rules relegated to Season 3 in November.
The unexplained mention of a “pause system” as an improvement due in August has also resulted in a number of complaints, though it should be noted you actually can pause the game in its current version by pressing Escape in a singleplayer game, or pressing the pause button that appears in multiplayer. Presumably the “pause system” refers to something more complete, since as it stands you can’t read over the log while paused, and in multiplayer your opponent can unpause at any time.
Other complaints have included the lack of an option to save mid-game in singleplayer, the lack of admin tools for private leagues, the fact mutations aren’t visible on player models (something they’ve said on Discord won’t be changed), the menus (which lack sections for tracking your teams’ history and stats, and don’t let you spend money or star player points between tournament matches without quitting back out), the speed of the UI (which moves on from things like kickoff events and the AI’s block dice selection too quickly to keep up with), and that, despite promised improvements to the AI, it’s still so afraid of passing the ball you’d think it’s phobic.
To be fair, programming an AI to play a game as chaotic as Blood Bowl is such a challenge that following a 2019 paper declaring it “the next grand board game challenge for AI” (opens in new tab) there’s an annual competition called Bot Bowl (opens in new tab) to create an AI that can actually play it well. And Blood Bowl 3 does improve on Blood Bowl 2 in some ways, like an uncapped framerate rather than a hard 60 fps limit, better-looking pitches with more variety in their crowds, having coaches in the dugout who can argue the call when a player is sent off, and being based on the rules of the board game’s current edition.
It’s just frustrating that after announcing it would be delayed until it was ready rather than going through early access, Blood Bowl 3 feels incomplete. Even promised features like special play cards are missing, just an empty submenu for them, and the singleplayer campaign tournaments end without celebration or fanfare, shunting you straight back to a menu. Meanwhile, you’ll hear commentators repeat lines almost immediately, sometimes the same ones from Blood Bowl 2, and the tutorial doesn’t explain things like Prayers to Nuffle, sponsors, how to spend star player points, or bother teaching new players basic concepts like “safe moves first.”
Blood Bowl 3 feels like yet another live-service game that should have been called an early access one. According to the roadmap we’re currently in the “pre-season” and will be until May 25, when Season 1’s arrival will coincide with an official ladder and improvements to “in-match readability and optimization”. Maybe then it’ll feel like it’s ready for the kickoff.