When I think of Peaky Blinders, I don’t think about time travel. I don’t mean time travel in the sense of going back to kill Baby Churchill, to avoid sending Chester Campbell to aim the blinkers. Well, I think I mean it. I’m just not thinking about time travel in any sense. I’ll be damn, then, if Peaky Blinders: Mastermind not only succeeds in fitting a time travel mechanic into the game, but it also fits the setting and the whole license the game is based on.
Tactics. That’s exactly what Peaky Blinders: Mastermind stands for. For this preview I was able to complete the first three missions of the game and I certainly find aspects interesting. There are things I haven’t quite sold, things I think are missing now and probably will be at launch, but what are these things?
The story of Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is set right before the first season of the show, just after the blinkers have returned from fighting in the war. You will see and master some of the characters you know and love, or dislike from the series in roles that are sure to suit how they act in the series. At least that’s the impression I get from the first three missions, on which this preview is all based.
It all starts simple. The boys are back from the war and Tommy wants to throw a party to show that they are back. We all know that The Garrison has whiskey, the blinkers provide that, but this is an occasion that requires something small. Your very first mission is simple: steal some champagne from the Gilroys, a group created especially for the game. When it comes to the opposition, you probably won’t face someone notable from the series. The setup at the end of the first three missions makes it seem like you have to face the Chinese, a small group of people who are very friendly to Tommy and the family by the time the show arrives.
Authenticity is something the game seems to stay pretty good at. The art style, while quite colorful, captures the look and feel of the characters. This is both in the cutscenes, which come across as lovingly crafted watercolor paintings, as well as in the game art which is equally colorful with some fantastic textures, animations and more. The user interface also borrows a similar style to that of the cutscenes. It all sets up an image that helps you venture out into the world, amplified only by the audio.
You really can’t get much more authentic than the same group, The Feverist, that was seen in the first season of the show. From the soundtrack to the in-game audio, it all sounds good. The hustle and bustle in the background in Little Heath and elsewhere adds to the atmosphere. The only thing is that Peaky Blinders: Mastermind unfortunately has no voice actors. Not a big deal, you can read the text, but a little Brummie wouldn’t have hurt!
But what about the gameplay? What kind of gameplay fits into the Peaky Blinders universe? I imagine I love an action adventure crime game along the lines of Mafia, Scarface: The World Is Yours or, of course, GTA in the Peaky Blinders universe. At the same time, there is something that feels real, that feels like it just fits when it comes to Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, despite including a bit of time travel.
Well, I say time travel. The entire concept of the game is based on Tommy Shelby and his ability to make accurately timed plans. The way this is displayed is that each character has their own actions displayed on a timeline at the bottom of the screen, a timeline you can rewind and then scroll to another character and the actions of Tommy, Ada and Finn and even some regular people Tommy talked about to help him. Other characters such as Arthur, Polly and John will appear and be useful later in the game
This seems to work great in function. You can sneak Finn through a hole in a gate so that it transitions to a level that then opens a gate for Tommy and Ada to pass through. Ada then talks to a security guard and distracts him for Tommy and Finn to go unnoticed. All of this, if you’ve actually set up the actions after a few rewinds and possible failures, works at the same time. A few games have tried this before in a strategic setting, but this feels more like solving puzzles than anything else.
Indeed, I didn’t actually commit any violent actions in the first three levels unless you count arson … Okay, I didn’t physically attack anyone in the first three levels. There will be some physical violence later in the game, we know that much from the revealing trailer, as it says Arthur and John have the ability to fight. How it all will work if you control even more of the family remains to be seen.
Now that I’ve seen controlling three characters and any person Tommy spoke to work with, I’m quite interested in testing the later missions. I imagine the puzzle-like gameplay gets even more interesting if you possibly control six or more characters and try to time their movements perfectly.
So I’m looking forward to that. Not only will it test my mental abilities, set up insanely complicated and well-timed plans like the great Tommy Shelby, but I will also come across a brand new story in the world of Peaky Blinders, a story that should fit perfectly thanks to the fact that series designer Stephen Knight collaborates with developers FuturLabs.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind will be released sometime in the summer of this year for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. No price has been set, although there is time for summer to last another two months.