Blood Bowl III is a fantasy interpretation of American football with (as the name naturally suggests) a bloody twist. It is based on a miniature game of the same name and has new rules. You're greeted by a sporty menu that is somewhat reminiscent of other sports experiences like Madden and Fifa. You get to create a team and then choose in which mode you continue. I was quite satisfied with the amount of teams we have in the third game. In total there are twelve eligible teams. Whether you go for normal Orcs or the more durable Black Orcs, there is something for those who like a more aggressive style of play. If you want a more fast-paced intense match, there are Dark Elves, Elven Union and Skaven to play with. The latter are also quite good at knocking down opponents with their monsters.
When it comes to aggressive action on the field, we also have the Chaos Renegades (a mixed faction) and the Chaos Chosen, who with their large monsters are focused on pulverizing the opponent. I found that the Chaos factions have a slightly harder time winning matches this time around, even though they are powerful. If you don't like fast running elves or big monsters, there are alternatives. We have humans who are good at many things but not the best at anything. Dwarves are good at defending and slowly getting to the finish line. We also get to meet a mixed faction of humans who have living trees, and other creatures in their lineup. I liked a variant on Chaos centred around the Chaos god Nurgle. There are some tentacles, diseases and rotting bodies but I like to stop fast factions and still have some power to push forward on the field. Teams can summon unique secret weapons at times which creates a fun twist to the matches. These can be vehicles or strong characters that pulverize the opposition for a few rounds.
The games are played on a large grass pitch with boxes. Your players are positioned as you wish and the opponent does the same. When the match starts, you take turns tackling, catching the ball, moving and much more. All this works really well and the animations are smoother than before. I also like that the graphics have been improved. It's not on par with bigger games but it's a step up from the previous title in the series. Your characters consist of different classes with different functions and abilities. Just like in a role-playing game, classes also determine their weaknesses. A new feature this time is that Agility has become more focused. Agility is still there and is used to dodge, run and catch the ball. Another ability has been added from the old Agility, called Passing. As the name suggests, if you have a high number in this ability, your character is better at passing the ball. Other improvements are that you can change team colors more often and save formations for future matches.
In addition to different abilities, your characters have a skill tree where you can level up and specialize them even more. It's important to do this in order for the characters to be as effective in their role as possible. They can die and therefore you will probably have to repeat the process with new ones when that happens. In this there is a big contrast. The computer is terrible at hurting you or winning. But, as soon as you stick your pinky toe in multiplayer mode, you get brutalized. It took me a while to get a handle on how to beat opponents over the Internet. So don't expect a beginner-friendly sport. The rules are complex, the set-up has a high learning curve, and the online opposition can be very good. That said, there is a ranking system and you will find your team, your niche and how to win. I was very entertained by the challenge it offered.
I can confirm that the microtransactions are very greedy. You can equip your players with several different types of clothing. Each one costs a special currency you can buy for real money. If you buy items, it's one per character, which means you'll soon use up the amount you get for free to begin with. You can also buy dice and other cosmetics. I would have had fewer problems with this if the selection was good from the start. Had there been a good selection of cosmetic changes to your wardrobe included, I would not have been as disappointed. Granted, it's not a full price game but it does feel a bit like you have less than five free options in some categories and are presented with five to six pages of options to buy.
The bugs have also been problematic. They are numerous, some game-breaking and others less dangerous. There can be crashes, visual bugs, rounds that cannot be passed and menus that freeze permanently. This was also the case with Blood Bowl 2, which the developers got on top of in the end. However, I'm only judging the edition I've tested, and I extend a note of caution that this is not in good shape. Technical problems exceed what is acceptable. It is fundamentally broken in places. However, there are moments when it works very well. These times are usually entertaining. It is easy to jump into games and just go when nothing breaks. The smooth user interface has contributed to this, thanks to the great leaps in user-friendliness. Overall, I find the third version slightly more mechanically and user-friendly polished than the second, despite its major problems.
When it comes to the sound, there's not much to say. It does its job. I would have liked to see a little more ambient sound. However, I would argue for the voice acting of the commentary duo Bob and Jim. I love these two gentlemen on the show. They add tremendous value to the experience. The comedy does not always land in the third game but it fits in with the setup and the sport. I would also have liked better AI and a more robust campaign mode. When the computer couldn't challenge and the campaign didn't offer enough variety, I got bored quickly. The developers should take a look at Starcraft 2 and figure out how to build matches with unique twists and layouts. The campaign could be a bit of a puzzle to solve against unfair opponents. There is great potential to do something really fun with the material and the characters. A spinoff with a focus on solo play would be interesting.
In the end, this is a mixture of a good basic concept that is wasted with technical flaws and greedy microtransaction systems. It's a shame because the upgrades in animations, graphics, mechanics, and user interface are noticeable. I also like how smooth the user interface is in comparison to its predecessor. Ultimately, I can't recommend this at this time. It remains to be seen if the third one can get the same swan song that the second one got. Blood Bowl III does not score a touchdown for me but remains a project under construction. I have fun sometimes, but disappointment is a fact. When it doesn't work and the menus show you how to spend more money, I can only sigh tiredly. Buy Blood Bowl II: Legendary Edition instead, it still holds up today. This needs more time in the oven.