Review: Strange Brigade – Somethin’ strange is goin’ on

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Strange Brigade is the latest title from developer Rebellion Developments that invites players to 1930s Egypt as a member of a ragtag group of explorers known as the Strange Brigade who has come face to face with the Witch Queen Seteki who is more than upset they are there. Find out what we thought of this hilarious adventure in our review.


Pros:
+Some of the best shooter mechanics in recent days
+Absolutely hilarious narration that brings the 1930s horror film vibe to life
+Mummies are a welcomed changed from the zombie-filled horde shooter genre
+The Horde mode is an absolute blast and offers tons of replay value

Cons:
-Singleplayer is almost a non-option due to the games overall mechanics
-Would benefit heavily from a progression system for fans to enjoy.


It’s dank in this cave, one where I’ve already bit the dust due to some pissed off skeletal pirate that has stabbed me a few dozen times with his cutlass. In turn, a pissed off Mummy has already come out of the ground from somewhere nearby and has begun eating the faceoff my Allen and I’s random player partner that has joined our crew – I’m pretty sure his face is gone by now and he might as well wrap it up in some linens.

Now, I’m unsure how I got to where I am at – a giant sarcophagus that I’m banging my fists against in order to get out. Before I know it, I’m greeted by the cool and dank stench of the cavern that we’re about to dive deeper in. Before I know it, I’m already dead once again, I wasn’t expecting that giant swinging blade slicing across the path ahead of us or the flame walls sprouting up from the floor before me.

But that’s what makes this game as exciting as it is difficult. Strange Brigade is, in sense, a successor to Rebellion’s zombie-filled coop shooter known as Zombie Army Trilogy. The action itself is exciting, it’s fun and it’s a breath of fresh air thanks to the lack of zombies and something a bit more unique with bringing the likes of one of our most formidable phones down a peg or two. That’s probably why Seteki, the Witch Queen, thinks we’re a bunch of assholes to begin with.

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After all, we’ve been running through her hordes of mummies, champions, and giant statue figures that share the likenesses of the God of Death himself, Anubis. Unlike its predecessor series – Strange Brigade takes a different approach to how game mechanics work. There are traps for beginners, there are massive hordes of mummies, there are runes to power up your weapons with and every character has a unique approach to combat thanks to the amulets they can equip.

Also, these dudes are more undead than undead. They’re literally being controlled by a pissed-off witch who wants to exact revenge on those who’ve wronged her and her way of punishing you isn’t by letting you get downed and picked back up. Dead is dead and your only way out of being dead is by saving your health potion or having a friend find the sarcophagus that may serve as your final resting place.

If you’re looking to have a game that holds your hand and pampers you all the more, Strange Brigade isn’t going to be that game. It takes that 50% or so of what Call of Duty: Zombies or Zombie Army Trilogy does and makes you work for the rest in order to encourage your team to work together. This means deaths can be final, especially in a major boss fight where rescuing a friend is more lethal than it is helpful.

The best part of it all sounds like a joke to some – Six adventurers walk into an airship, a mercenary, a professor, a warrior, and a mechanic who can be joined by the likes of a cowboy and the gentlemen who is sipping his brandy in the back of the room – all of them forming a unique group called the Strange Brigade, a group of explorers that go plundering, raiding tombs, solving ancient puzzles, and taking out massive crowds of skeletons and zombies in order to amass their riches and moving onto the next task at hand.

Unlike other games, Strange Brigade isn’t the typical loot-shooter that you would expect. Rather, it’s something along the likes of an arcade shooter-gone-loot-based shooter. Instead, the grind is actually welcoming, it’s not one where you’re going to spend weeks on end trying to get a single item (here’s looking at you Destiny 2). Rather, weapons and unlocks are earned at a modest rate, rewarding you for every adventure you partake in rather its the horde mode or the actual adventure itself.

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There are even unique weapons you can find in item boxes that cost 500-to-600 of your in-game gold you earn by just playing the game. In my time with the game, I’ve bought numerous weapons, including some of the higher tier ones that let me socket more runes than the beginner ones and I’ve even made it so my guns bust through mummy armor and freeze them while they’re at it.

Those special weapons I mentioned, you can earn those by finding the boxes that are randomly placed across the map. The one that costs 500 gold varies in what it contains. Each weapon is different than the other, each having their own unique upgrades (runes), damage ratios, and what they’re good at. The 1000 gold one has supplied me with an explosive crossbow and a flamethrower on more than one occasion, which makes these weapons quite valuable when coming up to an inevitable boss fight at the end of every mission.

But you may be wondering why the characters sound like each has a class. That very reason is that they technically are. Each comes with their own unique personality, each of them comes with their own unique amulets, each coming with their own unique abilities that can be unleashed once their amulet has been charged. For example, the Engineer, she’s great at unleashing havoc on a single target with her brawler-style approach to combat.

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The warrior, she’s great at devastating foes with her powerful magic, allowing her to slam into an area and obliterating any foes that are nearby while the Mercenary is great for one thing – he can turn Seteki’s forces against themselves by raising his own band of the undead to fight for him. But there is a problem here with this approach, rather the characters having a class approach. Each of them is an expert at something. The professor – for example – can find hidden rooms with his amulet.

The engineer, well, she’s just good at blowing things up. Sometimes sing things. The gentleman, well, he’s just that, a gentleman. But it brings forth the point that you will sometimes get overlapping characters, making the group not entirely useful without a bit of communication. However, this approach doesn’t just hurt the multiplayer experience without some coordination between members of your team.

Instead, a big part of it also comes from the singleplayer element of the game. It’s almost inaccessible on your own. I found myself growing frustrated rather quickly as every encounter, especially boss encounters, felt like a slog. They were frustrating, they were hard, and I found myself having to do them over on more than one occasion, which left my spirits broken as I headed back to the multiplayer portions of the game.

The only reason this happens is that there’s no growth for your character. There’s no room for them to be expanded upon as an individual. There’s no leveling system in place for players to enjoy, which would add to the excitement of the game or give solo players a reason to play the game how they would want. Don’t get me wrong, I love the chaos off playing with my pal Allen and the randoms we get matched up against, but there are times, albeit seldom times, that I would like to just fight off a massive horde on my own and felt rewarded for doing so.

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But this game focuses purely on the four-player chaos that will ensue when four of the six currently available Strange Brigade crewmen are running about firing off their guns at mummy hordes. Even for such a simple concept, it does bring forth the question: Will Rebellion reconsider the single-player elements to entice solo players to keep on playing alone or is it their mission to ensure they play with others? Why not a few A.I. members that fill those spots so they can play how they please? That would have been nice.

But that does mean that some of the puzzles that hide deep within the labyrinthine-like maps could be hard to do. Some of them require more than one player in order to complete. Some have their solutions scribed upon a wall while others require a player to call out specific positions a statue may be in. That also goes for the hidden vases and crystal cats hidden across the maps. Each of them is hard to do alone and all of them require a bit of teamwork in order to complete.

Though it sounds that this game is in pure trouble, it’s far from that, and I can’t stress enough that it is. Ripping across 1930s Egypt with a ragtag crew of misfits is an absolute blast and I love it. I can’t get enough of it when I want a mindless set of fun with my pal Allen (as seen in the screenshots). We’ve explored plenty of tombs, raided plenty of riches, and even tore across countless battles searching for treasures we’ve yet to find.

Strange Brigade
Platforms: 
PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Edition Reviewed: 
PlayStation 4
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher:
Rebellion Developments
Release Date:  Available Now
Cost: Standard: $49.99

The only downside of it all? I just wish I felt a bit more rewarded, I wish I felt as if my completions actually mattered and that at the end of it all – I’d finally feel as if I had accomplished something when said and done. While I do love my trophies, achievements, and notifications, I just wish there was something a bit more that made every adventure worth the endeavor.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 7.5 out of 10


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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