• Battle Brothers review by Rick Moscatello

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    Endless depths of brutality

    Battle Brothers is a turn-based, low-magic fantasy game where you take control of a band of mercenaries: a genre all its own. To even call the game “low” magic might be a bit unfair, as you’re stuck with mercenary fighters. No wizards, magical healing, or anything like that is available to you; the closest you’ll come is going to the temple, but even then all you’ll get is faster (not instant) healing of the many wounds you’ll take over time
    Your enemies, on the other hand, can have magic, and you’ll deal with witches, necromancers, goblins, and various other nasties. You’ll be beating them with superior tactics, but first let’s talk about the graphics.

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    Great artwork for the loading screens.

    While the description of the game on Steam looks good, the graphics initially turned me off, so let’s get that over with: they’re a little goofy. That said, the graphics are a masterpiece of efficiency. At a glance you can tell weapon, armor, shield, stance, and headgear just from the mercenary’s icon…it really does work, even if it looks strange at first.

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    Another great world in which to die.

    The game world is procedurally generated, your experience in each game is completely unique (unless you decide to use the same world seed as someone else). The worlds created are generally credible, a collection of villages and towns, controlled by one of three royal factions who won’t even deal with you until you’ve established your mercenary company as competent.

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    A typical large town.

    The most important features of a game world are the villages and cities. As a mercenary, you’ll make your money from contracts, and you can only get those in population centers. Every center has a market (good for buying general things like food and trade goods), but you can find mercenaries for hire, weaponsmiths, armorsmiths, kennels (wardogs are good on the battlefield), taxidermists (to craft special items from monsters you’ve killed), and a few other things.

    Initially, you start with three mercenaries. A mercenary (or “brother,” or “bro”) is rated for melee skill, ranged skill, melee defense, ranged defense, and other combat-necessary things, as well as rated for potential ability to improve—even a bro with minimal potential can be leveled into a very competent fighter.

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    Even a farmer can become a fierce warrior over time.

    Leveled? Absolutely, there’s a strong role-playing aspect to the game, and each level gives you the chance to improve three stats. For example, a close combat melee fighter would probably increase melee skill and defense, and then fatigue, although hit points and resolve are important too. Then you usually pick a perk, further refining your warrior. There are many choices for perks, and none are outright “must haves,” the designers did a great job here.

    Fatigue is pretty critical, as your guys tire fairly quickly, and fatigue is also reduced by wearing armor and carrying weapons and other equipment (and you seriously need armor, even the weakest opponents you face can kill a highly skilled, but unarmored, brother quickly). Resolve is critical, too, as a bro with more resolve will break in combat—enemies get a “free hack” when you run away, and also get a general bonus when your morale is merely “wavering.”

    While your initial brothers are “companions,” you’ll need to recruit more. You can hire dayworkers, farmers, deserters, exiled nobles, and many more, many with special random events (eg, a gambler might let you play a dice game, while a bowyer might make you a bow), as well as other traits from alcoholic to hatred of undead…a ridiculous variety.

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    Not every battle starts with such a clean field, but it's what you want, usually.

    There’s a tremendous amount of depth to the combat, and your tactics vary considerably depending on your foes. Just about anything will work against bandits if you have decent armor, but against undead, you’ll need keep a tight formation to deal with various morale-breaking attacks and slain zombies (“wiedergangers”—the game uses Germanic names for monsters) popping back up after you’ve already smashed them. On the other hand, you’ll need fast moving tactics to deal with goblins, who use nets, slow-poison, and skirmish tactics to shred your troop (which can field a maximum of 12 guys) with arrows. Going after schrats (giant hostile animated trees)? Then archers are useless, bring lots of axes. On the other hand, hexen (witches) are deadly foes, you’ll want the archers to take them down quickly…there are several other foes, and combinations of foes are quite common.

    The sheer depth and variety each campaign (game) offers is stunning. About the only standard is the campaign will have a number of not-so-random events: wars from undead, wars from greenskins (orcs and goblins), and wars between the nobles. Each type of event requires some careful action and development of your mercenaries, and if you don’t move quickly enough, whole cities can be destroyed…possibly every city. There’s no reason to end a game (beyond death, which happens quite a bit until you get good at the game), so you can theoretically play forever. That said, I played three campaigns, and each was very different in character, the layout of cities and terrain really governs what will happen in terms of various contracts and other events.

    I played with the DLC, which adds lindwurms (big lizard-dragons, very dangerous to fight, not that much doesn’t fit that description) and other challenges to the game…it’s a worthy addition, even if some of the bonus content is extremely tough.

    While the game has difficulty levels, it’s intended to be played on hard mode, ironman…it’s a rough way to play when almost every attack is quite capable of inflicting broken ribs, smashed knees, ripped ears, and numerous other possible injuries which are best addressed by getting to the temple quickly (you can ignore the injury, which heals eventually, but it can get infected or even cause permanent damage to your bro).

    Bottom line, for an indie title, this game is an extraordinary design, well worth your gaming dollar if you’re up to the challenge.

    Overall rating: 90
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Battle Brothers review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Kanati's Avatar
      Kanati -
      Review shows up on the home page but for some reason did not show up in the rotation thing... I'll have to have the rabbit take a look at that.