Nearly a quarter of a century after the first Brigandine delighted strategy fans, Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena rekindles the basic formula. The mix of vying for control of bases alongside hex-based encounters still beguiles, only a bit less than it once did.
Platform: PC, previously on Switch and PlayStation 4
Developer: Matrix Software
Publisher: Happinet Corporation
Release date: May 10th, 2022
Availability: $39.99 via Steam
A board game known as Othello once boasted that play would take, “a minute to learn but a lifetime to master”. Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia pushes these two boundaries toward each other. Released on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 two years ago, the title arrives on PC with numerous tweaks and a few additions.
While Matrix Software’s (Alundra, Billion Road) latest might look like one of those games with myriads of menus, the tactically fluent will learn the basics in an hour or two. Others with less experience with the genre can opt to take a comprehensive tutorial. On the other side of the equation, interest won’t be as long-lasting as other SRPGs. Sure, there’s variation between factions, units, and general approaches. But within a week or so, you’ll unlikely veer from some of the surefire strategies for success. It’s fun, but play isn’t perineal.
Like the game’s predecessor- 1998’s Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, this sequel feels like a sophisticated table-top game, blending Risk-like territorial control with wargaming-esque battles. With games taking up to 120 turns (referred to as “seasons”) to complete, it’s a pastime where patience is compulsory. Sure, you can auto-battle and even speed up the pace of combat, but you’ll overlook what Runersia does best.
Tactical Gaming with a Plot?
Irrespective of which of the six countries to guide toward victory, Legend of Runersia bookends each play with a healthy amount of exposition. All but one territory has control of powerful a relic called a Brigandine. Much like the Infinity Gauntlet, possession of all Brigandines allows for complete control, with contention pushing each nation into conflict. As you play, you’ll view optional cutscenes that provide an impetus for each country. Many of these cinematics employ animation and dexterous voice-acting. At the center of it all are Rune Knights, humanoids who not only form the base of leadership for their country but can also summon monsters who obediently fight on the battlefield.
Each season has two main phases. First comes the Organization stage. Beyond being able to check stats for each castle, you can move units around, equip items, upgrade troops, summon monsters, and even change your Rune Knights classes. Naturally, there are limits on your troops, with platoons limited to six monsters and each type of creature drawing a different amount from your mana pool. During Organization, you can even send knights out on generic quests, earning beneficial items like armor or weapons. While these assignments are handled automatically, you’ll have to be careful since adventuring units won’t be available for battle.
Planning is Fundamental
Success in battle expands the size of your kingdom as you acquire rival bases. Unsurprisingly, there’s a tension between constructing a sufficient defense at each station while simultaneously building bands of Knights able to topple opponent stations. Here, play takes place on network of connected bases. Like any up-and-coming commander knows, controlling choke points is crucial. Legend of Runersia does tout different difficulty settings and the PC versions received some minor AI improvements over the original Switch iteration. But it’s still a bit too easy to influence your AI rivals, who seem to examine troop size over more nuanced factors.
On the upside, games start off at a gradual pace, as your challengers steadily build their forces. The slow simmer soon comes to a rollicking boil, and if you’re not careful, persistent invasions will plague your bases. But Legend of Runersia rewards players who use a decisive strategy. Heading into the game with a focused plan will definitely pay dividends when conflicts inevitably heat up.
Cautious Confrontations Help Win the War
Whether you opt to attack an adjacent base or are the target of an assault, Brigandine switches to a close-up, hex-based perspective during confrontations. Regardless of how many Rune Knights are garrisoned at a base, you may only take three (alongside their accompanying monsters) into battle. This doesn’t feel like a limitation but keeps combat from becoming complicated affair with a plethora of units. Another rule to ensure things don’t devolve into a quagmire is a twelve-turn time limit. Before that threshold expires, you’ll need to defeat all enemies or seize an enemy stronghold by stationing a unit there for one full turn.
This time limit was in the original Brigandine and tends to result in confrontations where troops bunch up in the middle of the map, hoping to punch through the enemy line as quick as possible. Knights are often targeted. While they are especially strong, eliminating one immediately removes all their accompanying monsters from battle.
Like XCOM, if any unit dies in battle, they are permanently eliminated from the game. When this rule is coupled with the tendency for higher-leveled monsters to pack a formidable punch, you’ll be forced to protect those vital veterans. While developing an affinity for characters is admirable, all too often, Brigandine provokes a play style of a few teams of experts and a circulating farm of fodder feed the grind of war. Although elements like terrain types and items purport to add variety, there’s a strong argument to be made that a combination of ranged damage-dealers and healers are the dominant strategy for success.
At present, the PC port of The Legend of Runersia in infuriating uneven. The first time the game was played, Brigandine defaulted to a windowed view. Heading into the Graphics sub-menu to switch to fullscreen resulted in a hard crash. That instability was wasn’t isolated. Across the next twenty hours of play, three other crashes occurred.
While the localization of in-game text demonstrates linguistic proficiency, messages in the game’s menus are oddly phrased (“changed to graphics”) Through the tutorial, the game omits a space, instructing users to hit the “YKey” and “Ikey”. Undoubtedly, this should have been noticed before release.
Beyond odd key mapping choices, such as press “K” to proceed and “J” to cancel, unit select during combat phases offer their own quirks. Typically, clicking on the actual sprite will highlight the unit. But with Brigandine you’ll have to get accustomed to selecting the hex instead. Between the perspective of the battlefield and the size of animated units, some combatants don’t fit cleaning in their space.
The good news is that performance is habitually solid, with the game delivering a consistently fluid sixty frame-per-second output on an old i5 laptop. Best of all, you might not even need a discrete GPU, with The Legend of Runersia playable on anything with at least an Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics chipset. If your rig is less than ten years old, there’s a good chance you can run Brigandine.
View from the Frontlines
When it comes to aesthetics, Brigandine is oddly mixed. Qualities like overworld maps and character portraits are reasonably detailed and attractive. But in battle, units don’t exhibit much personality, with a plainness that dominates time spending clashing. If you’re invested hours studying the virtues of tactical role-playing games, Legend of Runersia’s interface might not win you over. Like the perspective of the battlefield, it’s adequate, but lacks the satisfying snappiness exhibited by peers. Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack delivers a number of solid tracks, with each faction has their own theme song, but leans a bit too heavily on traditional fantasy/Celtic sounds.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is a thoroughly average game. You’ll enjoy the intermingling of exposition in between the base conquering and wargaming. But before long, stagnation will inevitably emerge. It’s not enough to damage a single play-through but returning to Runersia isn’t something you’ll be rushing to do.
Brigandine: the Legend of Runersia was played on
PC with review code provided by the publisher