If there’s one thing that the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have enough of, it’s a library of solid strategy games. Games like Wargroove, Fire Emblem and Into the Breach may fill that void, but I’m talking tactical brain-scratching conundrums with a more retro vibe. Back in its heyday, ye olde PlayStation was home to one marvellous such game: Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia!
Twenty years later and with the Nintendo Switch slowing gaining a more tactical edge, Brigandine lives once again in a sequel that manages to scratch many a particular itch that fans might have for the forgotten franchise. It’s a collection of strategy and good ol’ role-playing mechanics, as you command an army made up of recruits from across the land in Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia.
That’s the real charm of Brigandine, a familiar warmth in assembling your archaic avengers from various side stories and watching them grow in power as your army begins to shape up. You’ll need to keep your troops in tip top fighting shape as well, as you’ll be sending them deep into enemy territory and establishing new strongholds within those lands as you look to conquer the nations who oppose you.
Where you start from, also has an impact on how your personal story unfolds. With one of six nations to choose from when you begin, you’re thrown into a deep end of a storyline and decisions that influence the strategy you wield in battle while flying the flag high for your homeland of choice. From here, you’re launching an invasion as you seek to dominate the battlefield using a mixture of organisation and action: The key to victory lies not only in aggressively pushing forward, but being prepared for the battles ahead.
No matter how strong your units may be, you’re more than likely to lose a few if their gear hasn’t been upgraded, their needs met or their classes examined for promotions that can unlock more powerful forms. In battle, you’ll need to also focus on where your troops are on the hexagonal grid, which leaders are pushing forward and which monsters from the fantasy handbook can back that charge up with magical firepower.
There’s a lot of micromanagement to be done in Brigandine, many balls in the air to juggle at any time. That’s the attraction here, with players needing to focus on troops, defending, attacking and claiming new bases while also engaging in side missions that offer rewards with plenty of wartime punch. Knowing when to go on the offensive, when to pull your troops back and taking a gamble on sending some of your heavyweights out to scout ahead, makes for plenty of admin before you even begin to think of drawing up a new battle plan.
For min-max fans, that may sound like a dream. With a fantastic visual style and a banger of a rousing soundtrack, Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia certainly looks and sounds like it’ll fit the bill. It doesn’t always feel like it will though. The primary hindrance to growing your army and tinkering with their structure over the course of man campaigns is that all of this depth is opposed by shallow gameplay.
Missions tend to follow a familiar path, painstakingly slow executions of strategy that lacks any energy when they eventually unfold. While permadeath is a sweat-inducing feature that’ll make you think thrice before you initiate any action, Brigadine’s steep challenge will still see even the mightiest of dragons brought low by overpowered ghouls who’ll make a mockery of all the time and energy you poured into that ally.
Good strategy is rewarded with victory, but when a single blunder on the battlefield can result in your army being wiped from existence then it’s back to the save game drawing board as you hope for some luck that’ll allow you to emerge from this latest roadblock with your most treasured units in tow.
Last Updated: July 7, 2020