Early Access Preview: Battle Brothers

Early Access Preview: Battle Brothers

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CHANGE LOG:
Page 1: May 6th, 2015 (v. 0.4.0.32)
Page 2: May 2nd, 2016 (v. 0.6.0.21)

Germans over the course of history have invented some pretty neat things: airbags, beer, gummi bears, the MP3, and ShamWoW, to name a few. However, there are few video games that come from good old Deutschland (at least that I can name), but Hamburg-based Overhype Studios seeks to challenge that.

An indie start-up with only a handful of employees, Overhype has just recently released a beta version of its first project Battle Brothers, a turn-based strategy RPG. Combining tactical combat similar to XCOM (or even Gladius, if those can recall LucasArts‘ hidden gem from yesteryear) with open-world, medieval simulation like Mount & BladeBattle Brothers has you forming your own band of mercenaries, searching for fame and blood money in a country plunged into chaos.

As I played, it was easy to forget that this game is actually an Early Access title. Although extremely polished already with addictive battles and intricate resource management, at present, it’s only at version 0.4.0.32. I’m not an expert on reading crazy version numbers, but I assume it’s indicative of “not even half way.” Each character and world is procedurally generated, and each campaign is thoroughly unforgiving. You will lose men.  You’ll be humbled by overestimating enemies. The emotional trauma is almost on par with Game of Thrones what with all the beheadings and your favorite characters dying unceremoniously and randomly.

It’s this brutality that forces the player to be adaptive and strategic. The AI gives no quarter. Not only will you fight brigands and highwaymen, but all sorts of dark fantasy creatures: zombies, ghouls, orcs, and werewolves among others. And each enemy has its own behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses.

For instance, the undead are numerous (my first encounter with them was 9 vs. 18) but are relatively weak, either lacking armor completely or clad in damaged gear. At first, the initial wave of ghouls and zombies fell quickly to my spearwall–which is a pretty handy counterattack/overwatch feature that damages and pushes back enemies a tile. But the problem with the undead is they have a hard time staying down.

While I was hacking away, fleeing ghouls would trample over their fallen brethren, sometimes stopping to eat the remains, growing bigger and stronger. Did I mention this was still in beta? Because despite putting in a couple of hours into this game, there’s always some new twist I find every battle.

In addition to its superb combat, Battle Brothers in itself is a work of art. Everything from the characters to the cities and villages, the forests and mountains all look like an oil painting come to life. And though I’ll admit it took a little bit of time (all of seven seconds) to get used to all the units’ legless depictions, it gives the game an almost chess-like feel. Between its art style and the game’s soundtrack, it’s easy to lose yourself in this world.

Given its polish, this title is leagues ahead of most Early Access games (though it seems nowadays if you can just get a program to run, that qualifies). However, this is a double-edged sword that leaves areas in need of improvement vulnerable to the prying eye. That isn’t to say there are really any major bugs or problems with the game–and again, it’s not even halfway through development. But as the game’s scope is already pretty epic, the UI could use some more finetuning to help manage the whole experience.

It’s clear that a lot of effort has went into the game’s mechanics and concept, though with the UI tooltips and layout as they are, it makes for a steep learning curve. With that on top of a lot of reading and text (mind you, I personally don’t mind, but I know some gamers favor the sword over the pen), it can be rather intimidating to the uninitiated.

Aside from that, my only gripe is that I want more. Battle Brothers has such potential and already stands firm as a solid game. Luckily, more features including crafting, female characters (because, with these guys’ quality, rendering and drawing these characters is gonna take some time), and maybe even prisoners. They already have an FAQ that goes over their development goals but I’m still curious about a few things:

  • Will there be multiplayer support; if so, how would they envision it? I will say the game’s big enough as it is that it doesn’t need multiplayer, but it’d be sick if it was a notion Overhype would at least entertain.
  • Will your mercenary band be able to own land or set up camp? Orcs can set up and spawn from blots. There’s tons of elements that could come with fleshing out the strategic overworld map more.
  • Could there be support characters who follow your band? Such as a doctor, merchant, blacksmith, or hunter. They (and your fighters, depending on their backstory) could help support the party’s resources or imparting bonuses like selling loot for a higher value or randomly foraging for food and supplies.

Regardless of what they do, it’ll be interesting to see Overhype take off with this game. In a marketplace that’s becoming oversaturated with games half-made and forgotten promises, the future is bright for Battle Brothers. If you have some money you’re willing to part with, you can snag a copy on Steam.

NEXT: Update to v. 0.6.0.21

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Anthony Magestro

Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.