We've been playing Blades in the dark for about 2 months' worth of weekly sessions. You can get my overall impression of the game from the title of the post, but I really wanted to think about WHY that is, and perhaps try and figure out what kind of game I would enjoy more.
The snow globe of Duskvol
Duskvol, the city in which all the game's scenarios are to be set, is a bit like a snow globe. It's very detailed, well thought out, and enshrined within an impenetrable sphere of words and ideas. The players and NPCs are all bits of snow, and when the whole thing is shaken vigorously they twirl about and then settle down on the scenery. However, the scenery never changes. The snow may fly differently and land in a different configuration, yielding a slightly different end result each time, but the shape is always the same. Unending, immutable.
Sure, you might say that the purpose of a tabletop RPG is to tell the story of that fleck of snow as it bounces across the landscape, but I've yet to suss out any reason to care. In a world that will continue not-changing long after your character is dead, it's clear that nobody else who inhabits this globe will care one way or the other. So you toppled some great big institution, but the world is still screwed, without sun, and filled with angry ghosts now and forever.
You are the norm
In this city, criminal activity IS the norm. Every institution has "useful" groups of people in their employ to ensure their goals are achieved. So even your character, who is supposed to be an exceptionally competent scoundrel, is still just one of many.
A hard day's night
Continuing the theme of a hyper-detailed world being incredibly bland in practice: it's always night. It just is ALWAYS night. Being a scoundrel in a perpetually dark city isn't even slightly interesting.
The best fate is to fade into mediocrity
There is literally nothing to aspire to. There is certainly no good to be done. There is simply no space for good in the world.
All characters, save 2, given their default kit are terrible doing ANYTHING with/around/to ghosts. Ghosts are also a central point of the world's setting.
A stressful situation
Stress is your currency for doing anything cool. Also, every system in the game feeds back into it. The only way to heal stress is between situations, and you have a limited amounts of time and limited resources to do so. You are also punished for trying to heal all of your tiny stress pool.
So yes, the game is very cleverly designed to push stress and encourage the player to accept shitty situations. You end up playing a game that is 100% shitty situations and 0% anything that would be interesting to you in the least. You get one chance to do something fun or cool and then it all goes ass over tea kettle.
What this says about me...
The clear thing is this: I don't think Blades in the Dark is a game for me.
At the end of the day, I'm left enjoying the process of crafting a character's backstory than I am actually playing that character. I might even enjoy reading a story about characters like these more than I would enjoy playing them.
I enjoy games where we go on an adventure, discover new things, find out things about the world (or build them up together with the GM), and at the end of the day our characters leave a mark. Whether that's a golden statue shining in the sun, or as ashes at the bottom of the crater, we should leave a mark.
Should the world revolve around us? Certainly not. Should we face challenges above our lot in life? For sure! But should we still aspire to do so? Definitely - nobody else is going to do it.
Header image credit: stayinwonderland