Knight, Death And The Devil

HIGH Uncompromising turn-based tactical action.

LOW Uncompromising turn-based tactical action.

WTF Those bestiality-based random events….


Most videogames practice caution when laying out the limits of a player’s agency. They usually create the illusion of freedom, presenting a deceptively broad playground that, nevertheless, generally shields us from ‘game overing’ ourselves in the first 30 seconds. Battle Brothers is the antithesis of this norm, dead set on coercing the player into earning the game’s respect. If — and only if — we manage to master its unique ‘language’, Battle Brothers will reluctantly start showing signs of affection.

In this 2D turn-based tactical combat game, we control a merry band of sellswords and thieves in a medieval fantasy world. Each scenario takes place on a war-ridden continent filled with nobles looking to profit, forests riddled with bands of cutthroats, and the occasional undead or mythical creature.

One of the main goals of play is to raise the number of our group at least to a dozen (the starting number is usually three) and to do so we’ll scour the land looking for work, negotiate for pay, and do our best to keep the troops’ spirits high. This requires micro-managing our brothers, including paying them each day at dawn, keeping enough provisions on-hand, and regularly repairing and upgrading their equipment, all done via menus.

Every action in Battle Brothers costs money, and in the beginning, our group of mercs isn’t flush with cash. However, instead of a gentle introduction to its intricacies, the devs refrain from any sort of hand-holding — even in the so-called “tutorial” scenario. The campaign won’t hesitate to trigger a game over as we’re learning to calculate rations, or if we make an error when taking on a contract. Any slip-up will turn troops insubordinate, deserters will flee mid-battle, and any still-loyal footmen will paint the battlefield with their blood.

To turn the odds in our favor, we should make practical and stoic decisions, being careful to not overcommit by embracing each new opportunity that crosses our path. Furthermore, it’s pivotal to plan the role of each recruit ahead of time. This means examining their starting stats and natural inclinations since it might be a while before they level up so we can shape them further.

For example, it’s not wise to hire more archers than front-line shield-wielding tanks. If we fail to put up a tough front line, such a formation will entice our enemies to quickly close the distance and dispatch those with low melee defense. It’s also wise to study each hex-based map and note the roads and forests while taking the day/night cycle into account — troops struggle in the dark, or when ambushed between trees.

During a skirmish – the strongest aspect of this game – each defensive or offensive maneuver eats up a certain number of action points, often depending on the type fo terrain. This yet again forces us to take our time and weigh our choices. Luckily, our options spread a lot further than placing our rangers on hills, thanks to a plethora of clever tactics we can incorporate. Of course, to see our plans come to fruition, we have to perform a long chain of correctly-planned moves that don’t go astray thanks to the whims of RNG. A pitchfork-using militia man might miss a 75% chance to hit, but we can mitigate such strokes of bad luck by covering with other troops and having backup plans.

After initially turning me away with an unhelpful tutorial and a stiff learning curve, Battle Brothers morphed into a worthwhile and gripping tactical experience, and conquering its barren, bloody landscapes stands firmly among my proudest gaming accomplishments so far.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

— Konstantin Koteski


Disclosures: This game is developed by Overhype Studios and published by Ukiyo Publishing Ltd. It is currently available on XBO/S/X, PS4/5, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 25 hours of play were devoted to the story, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes available.

Parents: This game has received a T rating by ESRB, and contains Blood and Gore, Violence, Partial Nudity, Language and Alcohol Reference. This 2D game is played from an overhead top-down perspective, and all of the characters are presented via portraits depicting their upper body parts. Successful hits are followed by blood splashes and even fatalities. The fights are violent and all injures leave a mark on the characters’ portraits.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Sound is completely unimportant for finishing this game. Text size cannot be altered or resized, yet the game remains fully accessible.

B

Remappable Controls: Controls are not remappable and there is no control diagram. It’s the usual affair of using the sticks to move the camera and position troops, while the face buttons are for issuing commands and making decisions.

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