[Beyond PlayStation] Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia Review
Brigandine: The legend of Runersia is a new hardcore tactical RPG on Nintendo Switch with a ton of content to offer. Learn more in our Brigandine: The legend of Runersia review!
Tactical RPG is a difficult genre to get right. With so many moving parts all rumbling in the background, and many nuances to consider, if just one aspect fails then, the whole thing falls down like a house of cards. Things become even more complicated when you decide to throw in a grand strategy element into your game. And here we are with Brigandine: The legend of Runersia on Nintendo Switch, a game that, for the most part, gets the important things right, although there are some minor that you will need to be aware of.
Published by Happinet and developed by Matrix Software, the game is a new entry in the half-forgotten Brigandine series, following on from the original Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, which released in the late 1990s on the original PlayStation console. This new entry tells a new story this time set in the continent of Runersia, where six nations fight for control over five relics of immense, powerful armor known as Brigandines. With numbers so uneven, war is inevitable, and you must assume control of one of the six rulers to plan your way towards dominating the entire continent or surviving long enough to avoid being wiped out of existence.
For those familiar with grand strategy games, Runersia’s setup will be something you recognize right away. You are given a map with 40 territories unevenly divided between all six nations. As the game progresses, each nation must battle their way towards total dominance. The set up requires you to be constantly vigilant as no territory is completely safe and is always open to attacks from multiple angles. The AI here can be ruthless as it has no qualms with picking apart the weaker nations and will not hesitate to cannibalize you if it sees an opening, especially on the harder difficulties.
The strength of each territory is judged by how powerful the Knights and their monsters on that territory are. Monsters are assigned to different Knights for them to control. Each Knight is capable of holding a maximum of six monsters, as long as the Mana requirements for the combined monsters do not exceed the amount the Knight can handle. The strength of the Knights and their monsters combine to make up that troop’s strength, and the three most powerful troops stationed on a territory are combined to establish that territory’s strength.
Brigandine: The legend of Runersia can at first seem daunting, especially for those not familiar with tactical RPGs or grand strategy games. To their credit, Matrix Software knows this can happen, and that is why the game has a pretty sizeable tutorial explaining all of the basics for the game. This tutorial is presented to you even before you start a game. If you are new to all of this, I strongly recommend you take your time with the tutorial, since going in uneducated can leave you open to a world of misery and a ruthless experience.
As for the main gameplay loop of Brigandine: The legend of Runersia, everything is broken down into three phases. The first is the Organization phase. This is where you summon new monsters to assign to the Knights under your control. You can also reassign Knights to different territories, allowing you to bolster up your defenses or to set up your next attack. You can organize the equipment for everyone in your control, be it Knights or monsters. New equipment can only be gained by sending out your troops on quests, which can only be done during this phase. Quests are also the only way to recruit new Knights, apart from erasing other empires from existence. You will also need to keep an eye on the upkeep of your armies as the mana you gain from each territory may not be enough to support your troops, and not being able to support their mana needs can make you end up with some pretty harsh penalties.
After the Organization phase comes the Attack phase. During it, you can preview the battlefield layout of each territory, have a look at the set up of any opponents you might be about to fight. This is useful as it is also where all current surviving nations can execute any attacks they have been planning. You will need to be careful when planning an attack as any Knight who used the Move or Quest action in the Organization phase cannot participate in an attack on or the defense of a territory during this phase, and will have to wait until the next cycle before they can do so.
If you somehow made the mistake of moving all units or of sending them on a quest to a piece of land that is next to hostile territory, do not be surprised if that territory then proceeds to attack. Attacks can come from multiple angles, so if you have an enemy territory sandwiched between two of your own, you can attack that enemy with a pincer attack, but you are only limited to a combined total of three troops from both territories. This strategy can be a blessing and a curse as it can split enemy attention when in combat, but it will affect how your teams are placed on the battlefield.
The Invasion phase is the final one. It is when all the attacks that were executed in the previous phase are played out. This is where you will spend the majority of your time as combat in this game can get pretty lengthy. If you try to execute multiple attacks in the same phase, the fights will happen back to back, and there is no “quick battle” option even for the ones that are clear cut, so strap in, because you will be spending a lot of your time in this phase. Each combat session takes place over 12 turns. Attacking teams will have 12 turns to either completely wipe out the opposition or force the defending Knights to flee from battle whilst the defending team can either wipe out the opposition, force the offending knights to flee or survive till the end of the fight to be declared the winner.
As simple as that sounds, fights can seemingly drag on unnecessarily as the enemy AI always seems reluctant to advance, meandering around its starting location, whether they are attacking or defending. This would not be that much of a problem if the battlefield maps were not so big. Because of this, you will end up spending the first 3-4 turns just trying to reach your opponents to get the fight started. This problem could have been solved by either making the enemy a bit more aggressive in how it advances or by making maps a little smaller. With that said, the AI does not slouch when it comes down to the actual fights.
Combat, as you can imagine, is where the main chunk of the game is. The turn order is decided by which Knight has the most agility, and during their turn, all Monsters assigned to them will also get a chance to act. While this system works quite well in the long run as it really makes you think about your teams and how they are structured, it also does show just how superfluous the monsters are made to be. There just seem to be far too many restrictions placed on monsters for you to truly get attached to them.
For example, each Knight has a zone of command that they emit wherever they are on the battlefield. If a monster strays too far from that zone, they are inflicted with a debilitating debuff that makes them weaker or less agile when attacked, so the monster is limited in what it can do for the most part in a fight. If a monster has limited mobility, to begin with, and cannot keep up with their Knight, then that monster is effectively useless in a fight.
Another issue is the fact that when monsters are killed in combat, they are completely dead, unlike Knights, who only retreat. The only way to revive a dead monster is to use a Revive Stone, and these are incredibly rare items that can only be found during quests. In a 40-hour playthrough on the easy difficulty, I only managed to find four stones, and this was after I made it to the end-game challenges. The drop rate does increase when playing on harder difficulties, but not by that much. A simple system of spending more mana than necessary to revive fallen monsters would have been better than finding stones. Yes, you are able to summon new monsters during the next phase, but each new summon starts at level 1, which is bad when you consider that some enemies can be in their 20s by the late game.
All is not lost, though, as even if you go into a fight being weaker than your opponent – or have fewer numbers in your team – the tide can easily turn in your favor. Once a Knight is defeated, or they are forced to flee, any monster under their command are also ejected from the fight. On some occasions, monsters can fail to flee, and if they are still alive by the end of the fight, you can claim them as your own. On rare occasions, you can encounter an opposing Ruler on the battlefield. Should you defeat them before anyone on their team, the group will instantly forfeit the battle. It should be noted that anything you can do to your opponents they can do to you, so strategy is very much the word of the day here.
The rest of the combat mechanics are standard tactical RPG fare. Every single tile you step on has attributes that each monster or Knight will get an advantage or disadvantage from. For example, Goblin monsters like tiles that are forested or with trees. Should they land on one, they will receive bonuses to their attack and evasion stats. However, if they stand on a tile that is not good for the unit, it can lead to a stat debuff of up to 20%, so it really pays to pay attention to the layout of the map before jumping into battles.
Runersia uses a hex-based combat system allowing for more maneuverability in combat. Should you manage to surround an enemy unit, it can add minor debuffs to their agility. The game is accommodating to players as it allows you to preview the consequences of your moves and attacks before finalizing them. It tells you the likelihood of your attacks landing and the consequences of your enemy’s retaliation. If the odds or outcomes are not to your liking, you are free to disregard and try a different tactic.
The game is usually fair with its statistics. When it says something has a 70% chance to hit, it usually means 70%, unlike in most games where 70% almost always means a hit. That is not to say that sometimes the outcomes can feel a little bit suspect, or that the stats cannot be manipulated if the game wants a particular AI unit to appear stronger than they are.
In summary, the gameplay is superb. Apart from a few complaints, there is nothing overly egregious to put you off. The only thing that players might find royally biting is if you choose a team mainly consisting of magic users. Magic users seem to have a major downgrade in this game. Spells are very expensive to use in battle. An already paltry spell list is made even less attractive by the fact that Knights and monsters alike can only cast one or two spells before becoming useless. Even at higher levels, magic users tend to be a “one and done” type of unit, before they are left spending the rest of the match just milling around not doing anything.
This is made even more frustrating when you consider the fact that most abilities and all magic spells in this game require you to forfeit the movement portion of your action to use them. If, for whatever reason, you need to move, be it that your target is out of range or that staying where you are will leave you open to an attack, then you will not be able to use your spell in that round and will have to wait until the next turn. Add the fact that there is no way to recover MP in combat, and magic users are only for very special occasions. But when all is said and done, the combat is just the right amount of challenging to keep you engaged. Yes, most matches degrade into an “I punch you, you punch me” round robin due to the way the ability system works, but in the overall scheme of things, the narrative of the evolving war is compelling.
With such rich lore and history to the world, you will not be surprised to hear that there is an actual story in Brigandine: The legend of Runersia. Assume control of one of the six nations, and you will get to experience the story from the perspective of their leader. The stories are told through still images and text scenes that focus on the experience of that leader and their most loyal knights. The stories can range from humorous to somber, but you never truly feel there is a pressing overarching story until the very end when the main story does come into focus.
No matter how you cut it, the game is beautifully presented, and the artwork is excellent and does a great job in pushing forward the personality of each Knight you meet along the way. The maps are excellently designed as well, from the overworld map to the specific maps of each different battlefield. There is an abundance of information crammed into every detail of the maps, especially the overworld map, which, with the push of a button, can tell you in an instant the state of play concerning each nation, but it doesn’t stop there. Runersia is jam-packed with a wealth of statistics that help you keep track of how your nation’s army is performing in comparison with other nations. Matrix Software has done a marvelous job in making sure the gameplay feels informed at any given time.
Another great aspect of the presentation is the audio design. The voice work is good, although it should be noted that it’s only available in Japanese with English subtitles. The combat audio and sound effects are good but can get a little jarring as you progress through the game. Where the sound work truly shines is in the soundtrack. Tenpei Sato’s work is excellent and worthy of note. While not the most robust, it does a great job supporting the scenes on the screen.
Speaking of the screen, the visuals, while great, can be a little hard to see at times in Handheld or Portable Mode when in combat. A lot of maneuvering of the camera is required to avoid hitting the wrong target of choosing the wrong option. However, in Docked Mode, new problems occur with some stuttering during cutscenes and loading screens, but it generally maintains a solid 30 frames per second. All in all, the presentation here is good all be it held back by some minor and unimportant issues.
That pretty much covers the game as a whole. There are lots of great things held back a bit by some minor issues, and there is a lot of content here! There are six campaigns to get through with their own story to experience, three difficulty levels if you wish to challenge yourself and a separate Challenge Mode that unlocks when you complete the main story for the first time. The Challenge Mode itself adds a new way to view the game by giving you goals and achievements to aim for at certain points of your campaign. Should you fail to complete them, then it is game over. It’s a simple yet welcomed inclusion to an already jam-packed game.
Brigandine: The legend of Runersia is an excellent game that should not be skipped by anyone looking for a superb tactical game on the Nintendo Switch. If tactical RPGs are not your genre of choice, it might still be worth a look just to give the genre a try since Brigandine: The legend of Runersia might surprise you with its great gameplay mechanics and the ton of content to enjoy.
This Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Happinet.