Battle Brothers – A Turn Based Tactical RPG
Developed By: Overhype Studios
Published By: Ukiyo Publishing
Category: Adventure, Role-Playing, Strategy
Release Date: 03.11.21
Composers: Breakdown Epiphanies
I like strategy games. I especially like strategy games that come up with unique mechanics that encourage players to experiment with different strategies. Battle Brothers for the Nintendo Switch is a strategy game that doesn’t really have much in the way of innovation. Instead, it is a testament to the power of exceptional execution. The game’s core mechanics rely heavily on standard genre archetypes, but they are so well-implemented that the game feels engaging and challenging rather than repetitive or stale.
Planning The Campaign
The beginner campaign is marked as a tutorial, which I assume is some kind of inside joke I don’t get. At no point does Battle Brothers really explain how its systems work, which can be disorienting at first but gets better quickly. Anyone familiar with the basics of traditional turn-based strategy RPGs will pick the game up quickly enough. My recommendation is to tool around in the tutorial campaign for a few hours to familiarize yourself with the menus and mechanics and then start fresh once you’ve gotten comfortable. That’s what I did, anyway, and I certainly felt better after restarting. The subsequent campaigns don’t really differ much. The company’s starting roster and the difficulty of the starting situation are really what change the most. You can customize each campaign by setting different difficulty levels, reward levels, and the end goal of the scenario. The world map is also semi-randomly generated every time you begin a campaign, meaning you’ll really never play the same campaign twice.
Battle For Your Brothers
The combat system seems simple enough at first; your troops and your opponents’ units take turns moving and attacking on a hex grid battlefield. Characters have either melee or ranged weapons, which largely determine what actions are available to them. Different weapons allow for different abilities; for instance, having a sword equipped lets you use a basic slashing attack as well as the riposte ability, which lets you counterattack any time your opponent misses that unit for one turn. You can also get new abilities with perks earned from gaining levels. You get bonuses to hit percentage and (I think) damage for having an enemy surrounded – but be careful, your enemies get the same bonuses. Keeping your units grouped and properly in formation to prevent getting surrounded is a key part of any strategy.
In battle you’re not just trying to preserve your units’ health to keep them alive. You also have to manage their stamina and resolve. Stamina regenerates a little bit each turn, but not enough to keep pace with the amount of stamina it takes to move and attack. To start most battles, your units will have enough stamina to perform two attacks in a turn, but doing so will wear them out quickly. Using double attacks can rapidly end a fight fast against a small force of enemies, but for larger groups it’s sometimes smarter to conserve your energy in anticipation of a longer engagement. Resolve drops whenever a soldier gets hit or one of your units dies, and raises on a successful attack or when an enemy is slain. If one of your brothers loses their resolve, they’ll turn and run; potentially breaking your formation and leaving your whole army high and dry.
Good Contractors Are Hard To Find
While the battles are engaging and strategic, they don’t just happen on their own. Most battles will be the result of taking on contracts offered in various towns on the world map. Some contracts will have you hunting down bandits or monsters, while others will see you participating in territorial skirmishes. Some contracts may not require any combat at all, such as delivery contracts. These may seem like free money, but they also don’t grant your soldiers any experience. So all deliveries really do is keep your mercenary group financially solvent, without doing anything to strengthen your units so you can take harder missions. You can also skip accepting contracts altogether, and either hunt down random bandit and monster groups or attack civilian caravans for money and supplies.
Speaking of money and supplies, you’ll need to secure lots of the former to ensure a constant supply of the latter. You have to keep your company stocked with food, ammunition (if you want to use ranged weapons, anyway), tools, and medicine. As you move around the world map, money and food will steadily be used to keep your troops fed and paid. Ammo is used automatically after battles to restock your ranged attackers. If your units sustain an injury during combat, you use medicine until they’re healed. Weapons and armor sustain damage during combat as well, and tools are used to restore them to their full efficiency. Even on the game’s easiest setting, managing all these resources together requires a skillful juggling act. Ultimately, however, the resource elements prove immersive and engaging.
The Tale Is In The Telling
There is an impressively deep, well-written array of text pieces accompanying the different milestones, missions, and random encounters in the game, which make every campaign feel unique and engaging. Because of the game’s mechanics there isn’t really a chance to do a lot of deep character work, but the text is varied enough to make your warriors feel somewhat real – or at least real enough to make me feel terrible when one of my longest-tenured brothers is cut down by a horde of zombies. The temptation to savescum is incredibly strong; though the game does let you choose iron man mode at the start of a campaign, if you don’t believe in scumming. I, for one, am weak enough to admit I embrace it.
The Merc Life Ain’t Pretty, But These Graphics Ain’t Bad
Visually, Battle Brothers looks very good. You never really see more than portraits of your units, but everything is rendered in a detailed, consistent style. The portrait icons used in combat give the game a strategy board game kind of feel. Small details like characters with injuries showing damage (a la Doom) show how much thought the devs put into doing a lot with a little, and they pulled it off gracefully. The soundtrack is pretty good; the combat themes are suspenseful and powerful, while the world map music is more pensive. There weren’t any standout tracks, but the music was always effective at building the proper atmosphere for the situation.
Better Buy Battle Brothers
Battle Brothers is a must-buy for fans of strategy games. The combat and economic mechanics are easy to grasp but provide an unforgiving – but not frustratingly so – level of challenge nonetheless. The tutorial could be better by, well, actually existing, but the game mechanics are intuitive enough that they can be figured out by just tooling around with the game for a while. My one big gripe with the game is that the control scheme is not very precise. As it was originally developed for PC, Battle Brothers definitely gives off the vibe of a game that would work way better with a mouse and keyboard. While I eventually got used to the quirks and poor responsiveness of moving the cursor around the screen, controlling the game never quite felt natural. Luckily, it’s a turn based game so the control issues didn’t break the pacing of the game.
Battle Brothers – A Turn Based Tactical RPG
Digital – $29.99
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The Switch Effect was graciously supplied a code for review purposes.