Battle Brothers Review- Dying While Trying to Get Paid

Posted March 12, 2021 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Overhype Studios

Publisher: Overhype Studios, Ukiyo Publishing Limited

Release date: April 27, 2015 (PC), March 11, 2021 (Nintendo Switch)

Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)

The Nintendo Switch has proven to be a good platform for tactical, strategic RPGs. Plotting out your troop placements and executing successful plans of attack can be quite satisfying. When things go wrong, however, it can be very disappointing. The best games encourage players to look at their mistakes, and try out a new plan. Then there are those that punish players with permadeath. The latest strategy game to the Switch from Overhype Studios is a mix of both. Battle Brothers can be addictive in its gameplay loop, having you reload your last save to try again. But it also can be frustratingly punishing, killing your party and forcing you to start a new campaign.

There’s a good clue on how Battle Brothers is going to go when you boot up the game. Right on the menu screen, it tells you that the game is hard, and even recommends the tutorial campaign on beginner for even seasoned strategy veterans. The game has you lead a band of mercenaries, with the goal to build up your crew and gain fortune and glory by traveling town to town taking on jobs that can involve escorting a caravan, disposing of pesky brigands, or eliminating dangerous monsters. You start small and with lower paying jobs until you can build up your reputation. Thing is, you may not live long enough to ever achieve your goals.

The map is very large, but towns can be spread far apart, and the land is filled with plenty of danger in the form of bandits, wolves, orcs, giant spiders, and even the undead. Enemies can be overpowering even in the early going, making it difficult to live another day to level up your band and make any dough. Thankfully, the game allows you to see anywhere on the world map, so if you die (and you will), you can reload your last save and try a new approach. It can be difficult to keep your party alive for any length of time (my longest stretch to date in keeping my mercenaries alive is 22 days).

There are loads of factors that can work against you, from never having enough money to hire more members, to running short of supplies, to having members desert in the middle of the night.. Having a good mix of weapons in your party is key, as is leveling up as soon as you are able. Enemies can sometimes have overwhelming numbers, something you won’t know until you’re in combat with them. Retreating is a viable option, but some enemies can be very persistent in pursuing you across the map. It’s always satisfying to win a battle and claim the loot, and then subsequently get paid for the job. But staying alive can be very tricky.

Most towns have markets to resupply yourself and pools of men to hire from. Thing is, you won’t have all battle hardened soldiers to choose from. The best men are prohibitively expensive early on, so you’re forced to choose from lesser candidates. That’s not to say you can’t whip a mongrel unit into shape. But chances are you’re going to lose a lot of recruits along the way. Weapons and armor are varied, but you need to pay attention to their condition. Same with supplies, as food can spoil over a few days. The worse the condition your equipment or supplies is in, the less you can sell it for to try and raise enough cash to hire new members.

With all of these odds against you, Battle Brothers does give you a host of options to choose from. There are three endings, over a dozen starting scenarios, three difficulty levels, and multiple end game crises to choose from. It also helps that the game can promote that “just one more try” feeling, and since each time you begin a new campaign you get a new map to try and conquer does give the game some built in replayability. The game is terrible at telling you how to do anything, but once you start to get a handle on its mechanics the game does have some real depth. The permadeath also forces you to weigh decisions carefully. Even with the punishing difficulty, this can help to keep players engaged.

Battle Brothers is a very hard game to recommend. Even fans of strategy games may be put off by its punishing difficulty, but those searching for a challenge will certainly find plenty here to test their mettle. The amount of depth and a somewhat addictive gameplay loop can lead to plenty of hours of gameplay, but many may never see any of the endings or may just quit in frustration. For the most part it controls nicely and has a unique art style, so it does stand out among other games in the genre. For those willing to try, Battle Brothers can prove to be a satisfying challenge. For others, dying while trying to get paid may prove to be too much.

8/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus