Twenty-two years after the release of Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, can this sequel shake off that dust? Let’s find out in our review for Brigandine.
+If one thing can be said of Brigandine, the cast of characters is amazingly diverse, from bandits to princesses can be in your army.
+The inclusion of customizable difficulty unlocks a plethora of play options for the more hardcore TRPG crowd
+There are specific restrictions that make proper micromanagement of resources especially important to get the best edge in battle.
-The story of the game is quite scattered, pieces of information only dropping on us sporadically after successful battles or just from idling around.
-There are no region-specific Monster units in this game. Every Kingdom will have access to the exact same variety, bringing a disappointing lack of diversity.
-Equipment Drops and Experience Gain from quests are dependent on luck, which is something the AI seems to have in spades
-The gameplay unfortunately gets very old very quickly. On the surface, there appears to be much to do, but when you dig into the game you realize how woefully lacking it is.
I never had an opportunity to play the original Brigandine title, as my household was a Nintendo one when I was but a child. These days I am near-fanatical when it comes to tactical role-playing games and can find myself lost for just about an entire day in one.
Let’s break down this title from the good to the bad to the unmentionable. I wanted to be extra thorough with this title for reasons I’ll get to later, as such I approached the title on both the easy and standard difficulty level in addition to a few custom difficulty settings.
Will these empires rise, or will they fall? Let’s take a deeper look at Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia.
A Realm Divided, A Realm Conquered
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia places us in the role of one of six leading figures in respective Kingdoms and Empires. Each of our protagonists is introduced in a fashion which reflects their character type. In my time I took a look at only three of the six factions; The United Islands of Mirelva, The Shinobi Tribe and The Republic of Guimole. Mirelva is an archipelagic nation founded by pirates, they have established their own code; acting as a sort of dichotomous nation which offers protection to merchants while simultaneously plundering others, they value their freedom above all else.
The Shinobi Tribe is composed entirely of women, having expelled men from their tribe due to a massive conflict in the past they seek to protect themselves from once more becoming little more than slaves. Lastly Guimole, a nation which proudly claims itself as the birthplace of Rune Knights the world across This nation observes the Mohana Sect of the Rune God faith; for the sake of bringing glory to the birthplace of Rune Knights, they step into war. While their motives are varied, the goal of each playable faction is to otherwise conquer or unify the continent.
Players are given command over a selection of Rune Knights from the start, with more recruitable as you progress. These unique characters function as commanders for squads, composed of the Rune Knight themselves and a group of Monster units. This is unfortunately one of the foremost flaws I witnessed during my time in the game.
No one faction has unique monsters based on their location. For example, the Shinobi Tribe dwells largely in forests, so one would expect to see a plethora of forest-based creatures such as Centaurs and potentially Dryads. However, much like all other factions, they have immediate access to Monsters such as Giant Serpents, Skeletons, Demons, and Dragons.
This, unfortunately, lessens what could otherwise be a potentially rewarding experience. One in which a player would gain access to different monsters to allow more strategy to be employed.
Expedition and Inquisition
The main flow of the game is broken into several sections, each marked by its own phase. The main phase of the game is the Organization Phase. During this time you are able to summon new Monsters to fill out your ranks, prepare squads to undergo quests to either gain experience or recover treasures as well as move units between your various claimed castles.
This draws into play several of the core mechanics within the game. Every castle you claim increases your total Mana production which is then used to summon your Monsters and fill out your ranks. This is great because it means as you gain momentum in your conquests you are able to further expand your army. However, there is a limit to your ability to do this, and in some cases a definite line which you should not cross.
Every Monster has a Mana Upkeep per turn which is subtracted from your Mana Production. Should your Mana Production fall to or below zero, every Monster you have will start a battle with an immediate thirty percent loss to both their HP and MP. Fortunately, there are two ways to remedy this; assail more castles and take them over as mentioned above, or you can retire Monsters to reduce your overall upkeep.
A downside to this is that promoting a Monster to a higher form will raise their Mana Upkeep, and Cost to be assigned a party. Sometimes these increases are dramatic, typically for the more powerful or tankier units.
Unit promotion for Rune Knights is far more interesting than it is for your Monsters, as Rune Knights have the option to reclass into different archetypes should they meet a specific minimum requirement. Promotion is dependent on two factors, your Level and your Class Proficiency. You will need to max out proficiency for the current step of the class to increase to the next tier.
Unfortunately, even Promotion brings out a most curious issue. Divergent evolution has one very noticeable oddity, for a very specific class. Dragons are able to promote into an elemental variant, but once these upgraded units are ready to advance to their final class, they reconverge into the exact same Ancient Dragon. This makes it less desirable to advance your Dragon beyond the second stage, as you’ll lose their elemental leaning which can round out a squad.
These factors will force players to consider very important information when determining what squads to send where, as well as which monsters and Knights to bestow all too hard to obtain equipment to. Equipment, to no one’s surprise, will raise the overall stats of any unit it is equipped on. Unfortunately the only ways to obtain equipment is to either potentially recover a single piece when a Knight returns from a quest, or to pilfer a piece dropped when an enemy unit is defeated.
Neither of these are guarantees, as consumables are mixed into the loot pool for quests as well, and enemy Knights seem to superglue their equipment on. This is another area of the game I felt was somewhat lacking, so much of your success in progression seems to be tied to RNG. Quite the contrary, the enemy AI seems to have a much higher degree of success, resulting in a massive discrepancy between the levels of units.
Despite this negative aspect I can say I greatly appreciate that during both the Organization and Attack phase you have the ability to inspect not only the power of castles bordering your own, you can even take a direct look at what the composition of squads inhabiting said castles are. This is essential information for the subsequent two phases, and paying attention to this will either lead to glorious victory or crushing defeat.
Once you have determined whether you will be sending squads to train or explore, summoned new monsters to bolster your ranks or moved squads between castles to protect borders we can progress from the Organization phase to the Attack phase. The Attack phase is just as it sounds, it enables assaults on castles sharing a path with your borders, and for enemies to do the same to you.
The combat strength of a castle is displayed as a cumulative number, drawn from the levels and stats of Rune Knights and Monsters deployed, above border castles. Should the value be red, it means your power is significantly weaker than that of the neighboring enemy, white represents near equal strength, and the green represents overwhelming strength. These values can be seen during both the Organization and Attack phase and can allow you to plan ahead and redistribute your squads as necessary.
Whether you prepare to attack or defend, the next phase is the Invasion phase. This switches the view from a world map to a battlefield consisting of an enemy castle or keep, up to three enemy squads, up to three player squads, and various terrains which grant buffs or debuffs to your units. This phase is where diversity in monsters is the most important, as each Knight and Monster has an elemental leaning which will affect their damage dealt and taken, via a weakness wheel.
Battles are, in so many words, dull. If your strength is too overwhelming, there’s a chance the enemies will immediately retreat, robbing you of some much-needed bonus experience, if it isn’t high enough they will fight to the bitter end. To a certain degree that is. I’ve yet to find a way to fully kill an enemy Knight. I swear I’ve repelled some of the same knights five or so times in a single campaign, and they always come back for me. That aside, there are specific skills that each unit on the field will have.
Most Monsters have access to normal attacks, skills, and Magic. Both Skills and Magic will consume your MP, which begs a very pertinent question. Is using this limited resource on buffing abilities that frequently only last a few turns a worthwhile investment? I can say with all honesty, no. Every time I used an ability to buff myself or debuff an enemy it almost immediately resulted in the death of one of my trained up Monsters. I’ve found that the best use of your MP is to use healing or regenerative skills, if a unit has them, or to use more powerful damaging skills against enemy Knights.
Battles are resolved in a few ways, all enemy units retreat, you are forced to retreat, or you completely decimate your foe. There’s a chance of enemy Monsters lingering in battle after a Knight retreats, keeping them alive until the end will allow you to add them to your own army. Or you can kill that Monster on the spot for the free experience, and keep a lower Mana Cost. Battles can drag on; and while there is a hard limit on how many turns can pass before the game makes a declaration of loss or victory, most battles simply will not stretch to the turn limit unless you are actively wasting turns.
Resolve and Resolution
Once all Invasions have been resolved, either successfully or unsuccessfully, the game enters the last phase of the cycle. Simply put, the results. This breaks down which quests bore which results, and whether or not a deployed Knight encountered a new recruit for your expanding army. Results from Training quests and Exploration quests are broken down into three distinct ratings, the bottom rung will get you either one hundred experience points for each unit in a squad or a one-star consumable item or piece of equipment. This goes the following two ratings for two hundred experience and a two-star item, and lastly three hundred experience or a three-star item.
Armor, weapons, accessories, items that permanently boost stat parameters or allow for early promotion of units. There’s a plethora of potential loot to be obtained, which in itself is a bit of a problem. The loot pool is so massive that, with each quest having the potential to give multiple types of items it makes it that much more time consuming to get what you actually want or need.
Add to that certain pieces of equipment are restricted to specific Knight classes or outright being exclusively Monster equipment, there’s a heavy reliance on luck in these instances. This could see an improvement by making either a more restricted amount of potential loot per quest, or to reduce the overall types of equipment and items in the game altogether. Another possible change would be to add more types of quests while limiting the types of items obtainable from each quest.
This portion of the game is also where you’ll see most of the plot unfold, as scarcely as that happens. These two points are where I see the game falling behind in particularly worrying ways. For a game which is composed of six factions warring over a continent, you’d expect to see a story that’s a fair bit more fleshed out. This is also the downfall of the game, as there are six factions that means there’s no fixed route on your path to conquest. Cutscenes are dropped after specific requirements I’ve yet to understand are met, and while they can be fascinating additions to the overarching story which can give a glean into the deeper motivations and mysteries of the game, it just doesn’t quite mesh well.
Typos aside, which became less frequent the longer I played, the writing is rather well thought out. This draws me to the second issue, character interactions. Or rather, the lack of them. When you encounter a new recruitable Knight, it switches to third-person explanations of what the specific character would say, instead of holding an actual conversation.
This is confusing as the Knight you encounter speaks directly to you, the player. This is somewhere the personalities of your characters could be further fleshed out, an opportunity which is sadly missed. One thing this game desperately needs is more character interactions to flesh out the roster. Part of the fun in such a game is having a diverse cast of characters, some of whom you will love, some who you will hate.
This was very difficult for me to write. As stated at the very start, I adore this particular subgenre of RPGs. I swear by them, I recommend them. Needing to plan turns ahead to minimize your losses while managing resources and which unit will go to battle so you can distribute experience amongst your forces. These are the things I adore. I have to say with great sadness though that, playing Brigandine was almost a struggle for me. I started and restarted, checking out new settings and factions to see if I was just missing something.
No matter how many times I sat through the tutorial, or restarted on different difficulties, Brigandine just failed to engage me in any meaningful way. That isn’t to say I don’t respect what they set out to do with this title however. Despite seeing the flaws which I did, I have a single parting opinion of this game. Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is in the very starting stages of becoming a beautiful gem.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia
Platforms: Nintendo Switch and PlayStation
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Matrix Software
Publisher: Happinet Corporation
Release Date: Available Now
I look at it as a raw, uncut precious stone. If given more polish, and time, I believe it could be an amazing experience. Regardless of my experience with this title, I applaud the developer for tackling a series that has laid dormant for so long and await their future endeavors.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Kennard Daniel Prim isn’t just your average gamer, he’s a die-hard fan of the single-player genre, specializing in imported games from Japan as well as his love for everything RPG related.