REVIEW: Battle Brothers

Apr
15

REVIEW: Battle Brothers

Battle Brothers is a turn-based tactical RPG where you assume the role of the leader of a mercenary company and in which you fight in order to make a name for yourself and your brothers in arms. The game has just successfully been released on Steam after being on Early Access for a period of about two years, during which the game was expanded and improved thanks to player feedback and, overall, the game has been positively received by the majority of players.

Status: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Turn-based Combat, Strategy, RPG
Developer Overhype Studios
Publisher: Overhype Studios
Release Date: 24 Mar, 2017

Battle Brothers features a mixture of role-playing elements of something like Mount & Blade with the turn-based combat from the likes of the original XCOM, with a strong emphasis on combat and character customization. The game offers a campaign mode and 9 different scenarios which, in a way, act as a tutorial and preparation for what you can potentially face while playing the campaign, from early game confrontations to late game scenarios. With that in mind the game is extremely difficult on its own, but it does provide three different difficulty modes, as well as an Ironman mode which disables manual saving. When starting a new game you can choose which late game crisis you want to face first or, if you prefer, have it random. Late game crisis are events that trigger once you reach a certain point in the game and these provide a significant challenge when compared to previous encounters, like an orc invasion for example.

When starting a new game you can also choose your company’s banner and give it a name and, in the same sense, you can also rename your characters and give them titles. The campaign mode tells the story of your own mercenary company and your rise to power, or decay, in a procedurally generated open world through text dialogues between your men and other characters that you encounter in the world. Each mercenary you come across has their own little story which you can read and, despite not bringing much to the table, it helps in adding some background to these miserable folks that will most likely end up dying horribly sooner or later. Still, after a while you’ll start coming across the same stories so that should be kept in mind. While most NPC’s don’t really have that much to them, your men have different personalities and that reflects on their actions. Some characters will have characteristic personality traits, such as being pessimistic or determined, and these will impact their overall performance. In the same sense, past experiences also influence your character’s morale and satisfaction towards you, and if morale ever gets too low your men will stop obeying your orders during battle.

As you play the game your characters will gain experience points and, eventually, they’ll level up, allowing you to choose a series of perks, which can bolster their offensive and defensive capabilities, and allowing you to increase different stat points such as melee or ranged skill and defense, health, amongst others. With that said, there’s tons of equipment options for your units, such as hand axe’s, daggers, spears, swords, cleavers, maces, bows, crossbows, shields, as well as various types of armor, and all these change the way your characters look. Different equipment pieces also have their own unique set of stats which affects your units own stats, such as their vision and how many tiles they can move per turn.

As it has already been mentioned, the combat is turn-based and is the real meat of the game. There’s a wide variety of combat abilities that your mercenaries can use depending on their weapon, such as riposting, shield wall or pushing opponents that add a lot to what would otherwise be just a generic turn-based combat game with basic attacks. Action points are used during combat for executing any given action, such as moving or using an ability and they refresh each turn. Other things like line of sight, fog of war, morale and fatigue only add even more complexity to the combat system as a whole. For instance, fatigue represents a limit to how many actions a unit can perform before having to rest in order to recover, like for example, having heavy armor and heavy weapons will cause more fatigue upon your warriors. Still, scoring hits in combat still relies a lot on the luck factor, with each attack having a chance to hit or not. Sometimes this can be extremely infuriating when you miss a hit with around 90% chance to hit but, the opposite can also be said, it feels extremely good when you hit a shot which you thought you wouldn’t. In the end, RNG is part of the game’s lifeblood and despite all the misfortunes it might bring you, Battle Brothers wouldn’t be the same without it.

When you’re not fighting baddies you’ll be spending your time in the world map screen where you can set up camp and visit several locations. When visiting settlements you can sell and buy equipment and goods, train your mercenaries, recruit new ones or visit a tavern where you can raise the morale of your men and learn about rumors and news. Besides that, you can also take contracts from these settlements, which not only allows you to earn some pay, but it will also improve relations with the faction controlling said settlement, thus potentially allowing you to take contracts with noble houses in the future. With that said, contracts are also one other way to get some background and lore regarding the world but it’s clearly not the main focus of Battle Brothers.

Besides skirmishing, the game also focuses on managing your entire party of up to 12 mercenaries and your resources. The game has five resource types, crowns, provisions, tools and supplies, ammunition and medical supplies. Crowns are required in order to pay your men every day, as well as to hire new recruits and to purchase new equipment. In the same sense, provisions are also consumed on a daily basis, but these have an expiration date so there’s an extra layer of management here. As for the other two, tools and supplies are used to repair equipment and ammunition is used to refill quivers after each battle. Last but not least, medical supplies are, obviously, used to heal the various wounds that your men are bound to suffer during battle, some of which can permanent while others take a few days in order to heal, and these obviously also affect combat effectiveness of troops.

Before finalizing there are a few things that should also be noted, one of them being the fact that the music is, simply put, quite amazing, featuring a good amount of instrumental tracks. The UI is also worth praising, as its fairly intuitive and the clean 2D aesthetics only help in making it so . For example, by simply hovering the mouse cursor over a unit or a settlement you can see additional information about it, such as the state of your relations with a given faction and current buffs or debuffs. Other than that the options menu offers some fairly decent useful gameplay options regarding unit information, camera handling and the flow of the gameplay, such as faster player and AI movement or automatic looting which is a huge plus if you want to save time during combat.

In the end, Battle Brothers is an excellent title for fans of turn-based combat, and it also brings quite a bit of management in the same plate, which requires thoughtful planning and care. Some people might be discouraged given the price of the game but rest assured, if you can endure the difficulty and the slaughter of your troops, what you’ll find here is a game that can keep you entertained for many hours. Considering the aforementioned and the fact that the period in which the game was in Early Access was extremely successful, Battle Brothers is a huge Save for me, but while it’s a very good game in its genre, it might not be the cup of tea for everyone.

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About Zorder

Just an Imperial Commissar who enjoys playing games and writing about them. Mostly a fan of FPS's, turn-based games, roguelikes/lites, RPGs and narrative driven experiences.

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