Twenty-two years after the first Brigandine arrived on the PlayStation One, 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: PlayStation 4, previously on Switch
Developer: Matrix Software
Publisher: Happinet Corporation
Release date: December 10th, 2020
Availability: $24.99 via PlayStation Store
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 last June, the title arrives on PlayStation 4 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, learning the basics should take the tactically fluent only a few hours. Others with less experience with the genre can opt to take a comprehensive tutorial. On the other 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 few weeks, you’ll unlikely veer from some of the surefire strategies for success.
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 plunging each nation into strife. As you play, you’ll view optional cutscenes that provide an impetus for each country, and many of these cinematics employ animation and dexterous voice-acting. At the center of 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 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 building 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 PlayStation 4 received some minor AI improvements. 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 limits, 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 there 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 to 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 a dominant strategy for success.
View from the Frontlines
When it’s 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
PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher