Now, I love a challenge as much as the next gamer, in fact, maybe a little more. Call me sadomasochistic, but I don’t care! With challenge comes reward, and I like to think my effort makes a difference. However, Battle Brothers pushed me beyond my comfort zone. It’s a title that keeps taking, and taking, and taking! Yet, I couldn’t put it down!
Developed by Overhype Studios and published by Overhype Studios and Ukiyo Publishing Limited, this is a tactical RPG that’ll break you. It opens with a warning about its difficulty, yet I stupidly thought I was better. I ignored this message and jumped right on in, and this was the first of many mistakes. Annoyingly, Battle Brothers is brutally hard, but oh so moreish, and subsequently, you can’t walk away. Due to a lack of hand-holding, you will experience an awful lot of trial and error, and you’ll fail more than you’ll succeed. Yet, this matters not as you dust yourself down, and try again.
Battle Brothers is a balancing act of finances and violence.
Going to war with your band of brothers is an honourable thing. You have each other’s backs and will stop at nothing to get the job done. This is the core concept behind Battle Brothers. It’s a medieval tactical RPG that blends business simulation with all-out warfare. The story opens with bloodshed and the loss of your commander. Consequently, you must step up and take control of your mercenary army, and the fate of this group is now in your hands. With limited resources and a small team, you must build a reputation while becoming wealthy.
Sounds simple, right? Wrong! Everything that could go wrong will go wrong. Contracts will be failed, men will die, and you’ll run out of cash almost instantly. Yet, if you can overcome these obstacles, you may be able to build a renowned group of heroes that every town and village can rely upon. Set in a vast Germanic world, you must march from village to town to complete contracts, trade wares, and hire fighters. You must decide the path you wish to take and decide whether you wish to be honourable, or profitable, or hopefully both.
The world is your oyster.
The developers have allowed you to decide your own path. You hire who you wish, or more likely, who you can afford. You’ll equip them as you like, and pick your perks, formations, and missions to undertake. These planned moments lull you into a false sense of security, as luck plays a massive part in this tactical title.
You may set up your army for one type of fight but accidentally stumble into something completely different. Your team may be armed with bows, but these are ineffective against shields. You could pick smaller and quicker weapons, but these will cause little damage. Or finally, you could go in with maces and be slow and cumbersome. It’s best to plan for all eventualities, but even this isn’t always possible.
Money makes the world go round, and you never have enough of it. Luckily, you are free to explore the kingdom as you see fit. You can work with small hamlets to pick up tiny contracts and build a fine reputation, or you can trade and help noble houses to get a name for yourself. Whatever you pick, the world is your oyster and, as long as you have money and food, you can explore to your heart’s content.
The gameplay is split into three distinct layers; the world map and settlements, party management, and finally, the battlefield. These entities take some getting used to, but once you understand the finer points, they are easy to navigate.
The world map and settlements.
This is where you spend much of your time. This wonderful 2D map is covered by a fog of war. The further you explore, the more secrets you discover, and each playthrough is unique thanks to the map seeding system. You’ll discover hidden tombs, creepy graveyards, and dilapidated buildings that house criminals. Fortunately, the world is full of surprises and will keep you focused throughout.
The settlement screen comprises an array of shops, taverns, and men willing to join you. Here you can pick up contracts, kit out your crew, or improve morale by getting drunk in the alehouse. These boltholes offer a welcome break from the unrelenting action as well as adding some structure to the gameplay.
This was one of the most in-depth elements that define your chances of success. Here you can set formations, choose equipment, level up your warriors and select perks. I loved everything on offer, however; it was let down by its fiddly nature. Sadly, there is no way to compare weapon stats and everything feels drawn out. The developers needed to tidy this section up while making it more user friendly.
Blood is spilt, soldiers killed, and brothers die in this wonderful 2D turn-based arena. You must utilise the environment to your advantage as you challenge unrelenting waves of warriors, the undead, and peasants. It’s an exciting game of chess that can fall apart in moments.
Can you distance your archers from your foes? If you can’t, they will get battered as they flee the Zone of Control. This one hex movement trap prevents friends and foes from escaping one another. It’s another example of the brutality of Battle Brothers, and another rule you must remember as you tackle each contract.
Battle Brothers has a Monty Python-esque appearance.
Unsurprisingly, this brutal title is gruesome to look at! Skulls are cracked, limbs decapitated, and blood spilt as each war is fought. Yet, there is a distinct Monty Python-esque appearance in the character models. Your icon hops across the world as you travel between cities. Furthermore, each of them has a unique look on the battlefield. This eye for detail was fantastic and added some colour and fun to an otherwise miserable blend of earthy tones and broken bones.
With so much death and disaster, you may worry that the audio is overbearing and sombre. However, worry not as the folksy soundtrack adds to the medieval and Germanic theme. I loved how the music transported you to the era while adding a lighthearted edge. Furthermore, the realistic sound effects add energy to each scene. Whether it was the horses neighing or the clash of weapons, each moment was wonderful to experience.
The User Interface needs work.
With so much going on, there was always likely to be issues. Sadly, this was seen in the overly complex UI. Thanks to its cumbersome ways, it taints the action. The poor controls don’t detract from the amazing gameplay, but they make it considerably harder to master. Unfortunately, this is further compounded by the lack of a tutorial! You’ll have to put aside hours to learn the fundamentals while preparing to fail repeatedly. Consequently, a harder game is much harder still.
No matter how tough it is to play, you won’t be able to put it down. Battle Brothers is an addictive title that gets better the more time you invest. It oozes replay value while demanding you adjust your tactics and approach. Luckily, the action never becomes tiresome, and this is helped further by the map seeding system and the large array of quests. Completionists will have to invest many hours as the achievement list is enormous.
Battle Brothers is an exceptional turn-based title.
I’ve experienced many strategy titles and turn-based games, yet Battle Brothers stands out. It’s unbelievably difficult while being super rewarding. Moreover, no playthrough is ever the same, and this keeps you playing. I loved its brutality and theme and recommend you to buy it here! Will you be able to run your company of mercenaries, or is death all but guaranteed? Hire troops, buy the best equipment, and become a hero.