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Keep Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...
Randomness in games is a divisive issue. Some people abhor it, other swear by it. Usually, I'm firmly on the pro-RNG side of the argument, but in Battle Brothers even I have to admit that at times it can feel like you're not playing a game about a mercenary company, and instead are just pulling the levers of some multifaceted slot machine over and over again. Pretty much everything in the game is random in one way or another.
You can scout the enemy composition but if you attempt a particular fight several times, you'll find that the weapons your enemies wield, and the obstacles on the battle arena are different each time. The markets in towns are randomly stocked and with the sheer variety of gear in the game, it can be a real chore to find a particular weapon or a piece of armor. Your prospective brothers all have a random set of starting traits that you can't know before you hire them and even the stats they gain on leveling up are determined by a roll.
The game positions itself as some quasi-roguelike and if considered in that regard, all the randomness makes sense. However, every system in the game goes against such a notion. This leads us to my biggest piece of advice – do not fool yourself into thinking that playing the game on Ironman mode, or Ironman-style where you just deal with whatever the game throws at you without reloading, is the way to go. Unless you know exactly what you're doing, playing Battle Brothers in such fashion will kill your enthusiasm for the game faster than the enemies kill your troops.
Do not believe the loading screen tips that try to convince you otherwise. Truth of the matter is, the game's length, both when it comes to the overall campaign and the individual battles, makes dealing with the consequences of bad decisions annoying, more so than anything else. Unless you have a squad of highly leveled brothers in the best gear available, a stray crossbow bolt can one-shot them, a good attack roll can decapitate them, and a single stupid move on your part can cause you to lose half a company to some rabble.
And the thing is, while this can be fun if a game is designed around it, in Battle Brothers replacing your fallen units takes quite a while. We're talking hours upon hours of real time here. Not to mention that more often than not, the gear your brothers have on them when they die seems to disintegrate, and good gear in Battle Brothers costs a small fortune. But even if you have some money saved and manage to equip your new recruits well, there's no guarantee that they won't all be brittle-boned cowards who die in their first battle.
The time and money investments you pour into your prospective brothers are just too large for how easy it is to get them killed. It's not fun to lose a 40+ hour campaign just because you took one unfavorable engagement, especially considering that your enemies don't have the same problems as you do. While you struggle to purchase good gear or find recruits that don't completely suck, the forces of evil keep getting stronger. In such a situation, coming back from a bad loss, or even a Pyrrhic victory, becomes increasingly difficult and tedious as the game progresses. Losing is only fun when you can regain your lost progress in a reasonably timely manner, so do yourself a favor and save often.
The first thing everyone notices about Battle Brothers are the visuals, as the game looks quite basic at first glance. All the characters are represented by these tokens that look like something out of a board game, which some may find a bit off-putting. I can definitely understand that, but give the game a chance, and you'll start noticing just how detailed everything is.
Weapon models get bloody as the fight goes on, armor and helmets get banged up and even destroyed, characters get injured and start panting as their fatigue meter rises. It's all relatively minor, but these details add up to create the feel of a progressing battle better than any fully-rendered character model in a low budget game to date. It's clear that a lot of love, skill, and ingenuity went into these little tokens. I also have a great amount of appreciation for how crisp and clear the visuals are. You get all of the necessary information without your eyes being assaulted by flashy effects that make it impossible to figure out what exactly is going on.
While the game's visuals can be a divisive issue, I think it's hard to argue that the audio is well above average. The music fits the setting perfectly and manages to convey the mood, be it while traveling the roads or fighting the goblin hordes, without fail.
When it comes to performance, Battle Brothers can put any other game currently on the market to shame. It starts up fast, takes seconds to save and load, runs well, and hasn't crashed on me once.
The only gripe I have with the game on the technical level is that, from my understanding, you can't change the keybindings, and the only way to even know them is to hover your cursor over the interface buttons. You can quicksave/load the game with the classic F5/F9 combo, but since there's no interface button for that, you simply have to guess it or learn about it from the community.
Battle Brothers is not quite a great game. It has the foundation of a great game, but it misses that mark ever-so-slightly. However, despite any such flaws and questionable design decisions, the game still manages to make time disappear, while lending itself well to a more leisurely pace. You can sink entire days into it, and then emerge from your dimly lit cave with the eyes of someone who had just wasted a week of their life and doesn't regret a single moment of it, or you can come home from work, launch Battle Brothers, complete a contract or two, and feel quite satisfied.
Even with its flaws, Battle Brothers is a fun game that is well worth your time. Given that this is Overhype Studios' debut project, I can't wait to see where they go from here.
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