What makes a good early access game? How can you trust such a changeable thing? The money could dry up at any time. Endings might be forsaken. No resolution.
Why, that’s an easy questions to answer!
Does the game have a clear roadmap?
I’m glad to say Battle Brothers does indeed have a plan. Good.
Does the game receive regular updates ?
Silence, inaction and a lack of meaningful progression cause mild panic attacks and a faint sadness behind the eyes. Luckily Battle Brothers has received a fair few updates since I last tried checked it out and has been much improved.
So the last question we have…. Is Battle Brothers worth your time?
Hey, you, yes you. Imagine Mount and Blade meets Jagged Alliance. What do you mean you don’t know those references? Sigh, fine; you run a group of hired mercenaries within an open medieval world with orcs and goblins. Fights consist of that classic turn based grid thing. You know the thing. You know. The map and “brothers” are randomly generated, which is nice.
Lovely pause-able, real-time map complete with towns, bandit camps and that, with….
Classic turn based fighting.
How is Battle Brothers so different to all the other games?
Realistic weak fleshy humans. You’re not dealing with professional soldiers or computer game heroes. In the beginning you won’t have the coin to hire tough militia or ex-soldiers, you’ll have to make do with beggars, rat-catchers and if lucky, grave robbers. Without decent armour a single strike is likely fatal, I think a bit like, erm, real life, I guess. Without prior experience your brave team of hobo’s start wheezing pretty quickly, especially if you subject them to heavy armour. These guys are not the Mountain. No problem you say, let’s give them bow and arrows! Nope, it appears your rookies aren’t Olympic level archers either. Best fire your wayward shots into a large group guys.
These normal everyday blokes need care and attention. Or to be used en-masse to complete whatever terrible job you decide to do, as a pitiful goblin hoard mow down most of your unskilled troupe.
Wipe out a bandit camp? Escort a envoy? The next contracts up to you, as you attempt to please the villages or factions of this world with a solids days graft, or simply take some of the money up front, do a runner and cancel the quest. Not the best idea when trying to make a name for yourself. You might end up with the name “coward” or worse.
Your scaredy-cat survivors become stronger as you personalise them further with perks and skills and more importantly, you can afford better equipment and armour and you’ll find they can actually wield it effectively. There is an impressive array of weapons and armour to purchase (or pulled from cold dead hands) with nets, throwing axes, war-dogs, together with the standard swords and axes.
You can hire Bob the miner, give him that oversized two-handed axe, throw him into battle and watch him catch a storm of arrows to the chest. Whoops. Should have bought him that shield. Still, you might find poor Bob works better behind a shieldwall of allies, as he uses a pike to hit the enemy two tiles away. With such a large collection of weapons and personalised hired goons, this allows for a plentiful array of tactics to be employed for the discerning tactician.
Battles at the early levels can be swift and cruel as I’ve found flimsy cotton isn’t really an armour, even some nice leather doesn’t really don’t hold up after a few smacks. Computer games have been lying to me all these years! I felt sure that leather mankini would deflect bastard sword attacks. Fatigue in longer battles become an issue as the ability to keep swinging is almost as important as how powerful you are. Your enemy is often clever and wily, appearing with widely different tactics. An orc isn’t as subtle as a goblin riding a wolf, then again those guys might not compare to a Bandit Leader in the thickest armour. Everything the computer can do and use, you can do better. Maybe. I’ve often picked up a few tactics and tips from the way the Ai conducts itself in battle. Gave me a new found respect of throwing weapons and pikes that I had I once ignored.
Your cheeky ragtag team of misfits might suffer terrible permanent injuries, yes, my top archer lost his fingers. Events happen outside of battle within the world. I had to option to raid some guys broken cart. As I was wealthy, massively kind and humble I decided to help the poor sod back on the road. The same top archer crushed his remaining fingers in an hilarious cart based accident. He was having a bad week. Whilst your troops are so incredibly disposable, when one does rise above, you’ll remember him. Plus you’ll instantly notice his weighty armour and skills.
Battle Brothers looks distinctive. I quite like the washed-out sad look to everything. Welcome to medieval poverty, come in and bask in it’s misery. It doesn’t just look the part, at a glance you can tell how strong the enemy is, what tactics they are likely to use and how hard it will be to pierce their armour. One look at the guys battered armour and body, complete with missing helmet informs me just as well as the numbers. I could do with a few more snarling faces on display and maybe a lil more variation, as I’m sick of looking at the same haircuts. More things in the random generation machine please. I am glad none of the Battle Brothers have legs, as no doubt, underpants would be yet another considerable expense. I can do without that worry.
My hard-nut team of millers and fisherman had been doing quite well and were holding their own in this uncaring environment. I had accepted a contract to wipe out a bandit camp. This turned out to be one of the toughest battles I’d fought, as luck would have it the bandit leader was residing in the camp. I somehow managed to split his armour and take his head, hooray, that was close! We can turn him in for a huge bounty. After the battle, with everyone broken and bloodied or in one case, a little bit dead, bounty hunters caught up to us and we were given the choice. Give them the head or die. In a fit of greed and arrogance I took them on. After all, I had just thrashed a heavily armoured bandit group. I was reminded of the Walking Dead as my already broken men were cut down with ease. My two remaining troops did a runner, leaving everything behind.
It was heartbreaking. All my progress, gone.
The two survivors suffered permanent debilitating injuries and were now pretty lame. What’s all the money in the world if no-ones around to enjoy it. That incredible wealth was used to recruit new blood, new equipment and a grim determination to do things better. Or run away next time. I also learned brain damage isn’t the end of the world.
The game does suffer with that “just one more turn” problem. There’s always a new scheme, mission, or weapon to test out. You blink, look at the time and realise it’s midnight, again. Hmm, this might not be in the games favour. Bad addictive game, bad.
With all this praise it’s easy to forget this games not finished. Battle Brothers does have its niggles which annoy over long periods. If you hold down the enter button the camera follows the group on the map, maybe I’ve gone mad but couldn’t we just have a one click “follow” button? If there is one, I couldn’t find it. I wouldn’t mind edged scrolling and mouse button scrolling at the same time. Ya know, like most games. Maybe a nice subtle highlight when clicking on a town or enemy, as often your your hardened mercenaries will stand around sheepishly rather than attacking people or entering town.
The whole world needs a little more. A more reactive world, maybe a destroyed town being rebuilt, or choice of home base, maybe some intrigue. The fundamentals are tight and polished, although it does suffer balancing issues. A solid base should allow for smooth Early Access growth and after viewing the developers roadmap plans, these are essential requirements, otherwise Battle Brothers will become a lil’ stagnant and possibly frustrating as you’re left with is the same fights and tasks.
I wouldn’t mind being a group of outlaws pillaging the land, I mean, why not raid a caravan for some easy coin? Setting up a forest base, generously giving money to the poor, mostly so they won’t nark. With a game like this you could, theoretically, think up a hundred of good ideas that you want to see. If the game was released right now, without the giant comfortable cushion of Early Access, you would say Battle Brothers is a missed opportunity.
If the developers can keep the updates coming and expand the scope further, this lil’ gem might turn out to be a big sparkly diamond.