I was lucky to get a chance to review Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia. I was a fan of the original Brigandine on the Playstation. At the time, I was very much a fan of strategy games on the console – especially those with an evolution mechanic for summoned monsters. The number of those types of games was few and far between. Needless to say, when I learned that a new iteration was coming, I was thrilled. Nevertheless, was my enthusiasm misplaced? Did the magic I felt when I was young have the same effect on me in my jaded, adult years? Find out below – This is our Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia review!
I have to say, the Legends of Runersia is really pretty. I mean, like, really pretty. The characters are well-illustrated, although you’ll see many of the same pictures recycled, much like older JRPGS or visual novels. The characters are generally unique in appearance and appear to all be voiced (albeit in Japanese, with English subs). Monster models are well designed, even if I’m not a fan of the interpretation that developers had of what the various monsters would look like. Animations are smooth, varied, and pretty. Music was ok, but I ended up turning it down after a while as it started to grate on my nerves.
Similarly, writing initially looked good. Main characters, such as the faction leader and commanders that have important roles around the leader have well-established voices and were colorfully written. The stories were more fleshed out than I would have at first guessed, and dialogues at the start and end of each battle add life to the characters. Yet, after a while, unless a unique matchup occurred that prompted characters to speak with new and fresh lines, I ended up with the same old lines… which became tiresome. One last word on writing – not all of it was translated or edited well (e.g., a paladin-type character’s attack was called “Variant Slash,” where it was clearly intended to be “Valiant Slash”).
There were some unexpected twists during gameplay, all of which were welcome. One unexpected turn, for instance, involved the ancient founder of the faction which I had chosen to play joining me as a lord under my control – although twists were not common, they helped to spice up the storyline… which was a significant portion of the depth offered by Legends of Runersia. You can expect some unusual and different types of fights towards the endgame, which again, serves to vary gameplay. Although it was nice to have that variety, at that point I just wanted to beat the game.
The goal of Legends of Runersia, at least at the outset, is to conquer the continent. The storyline describes how a Rune God gave humans magical power, which they then promptly used to kill the other people around them. Said power allowed humans to summon critters to do their dirty work, and in those few sentences, you have the premise of the latest installment of Brigandine. Five of the six factions have special magical gems (called “Brigandines”) that, at least according to each nation’s beliefs, correspond with various virtues. What’s nice is that you’ll have an opportunity to collect those Brigandines and add them to your various army leaders, which has in-game benefits.
The mechanics are rather simple, which although it makes the game easy to learn, leaves much to be desired. Upon starting a campaign, you’ll have an option to select from six faction leaders, each with various strengths and weaknesses. One faction may have a high powered faction leader but start with multiple enemies surrounding them. Each faction also, as hinted above, has several other commanders aligned with them, which are distributed among the faction’s holdings. All cities are claimed at the beginning of the game, which gives the feeling that the player is coming into the story mid-way.
This also means that Legends of Runersia is not a sandbox, although some freedom is offered in which direction you want to fight. I started with the northern-most faction and conquered west, maintaining my borders to the south until I swept my enemies before me, crushing their will like so much tissue paper. It was satisfying watching enemies gloat before a battle, only to see them run with their tails between their legs. I never really felt like it was my story, though. I was going through the motions for someone else. I suppose that’s fine, but when I play a game, I like to be in the story myself. It was hard for me to do in this game.
Each turn is separated into two seasons – a degree of simplicity that is as limiting as it is refreshing. The first entails summoning monsters, commanding lords to either move or engage in quests, assigning monsters to parties, and evolving or equipping units. Quests yield more lords, new items, and experience, all of which will increase your overall power. This is more the strategy stage – where you’ll need to ensure your vulnerable cities (attackable usually by only one or two paths) are secure. Lords who move or quest that turn are not eligible to then attack, so you’ll want to think carefully about who does what and when.
The second season is the season of WAAAAAAR! Seriously, you declare your attacks at this point. Only three of your lords can participate in each battle, although you can move more than three lords in a single attack move – handy if you want to maintain your momentum. The battles themselves are on hexagonal grid maps with various types of terrain. Each critter has a preferred terrain type, in addition to a preferred element. Victory hinges on mastering those match-ups. For instance, you’ll do better against a water-aligned creature if that creature is on land and your attacker is of the appropriate element to counter water. I liked the setup for the battles, but the switch controls felt awkward, given the number of moves you’ll need to make each turn. It wasn’t off-putting, but it was noticeable. Towards endgame when you’ll sweep your armies across the map to paint it in your nation’s color, the battles do feel tedious, but some events towards the end do breathe fresh life into the battles.
After finally finishing the campaign, you’ll be treated to an optional challenge mode that gives you the option of picking from any of the lords you collected earlier in the game and using them in an attempt to go from one territory to as many as you can in a limited amount of time. I would have preferred a more sandboxy kind of gameplay, but I could see value in building your dream team. I didn’t complete a challenge map, but I tried it out… it is, in fact, challenging. I don’t know that it would add too much to replayability for me, but it’s nice to have the option.
In all, Brigandine: Legends of Runersia is not a bad game, nor is it a great game. Its greatest assets are its visual appeal, its throwback to earlier, happier times, and its solid if simple mechanics. The simple mechanics, however, can at times feel shallow, which I think leads to tedium. Combined with its lack of innovation, I’d say Legends of Runersia misses out on taking a solid step forward for the genre. Even so, I’m not saying don’t buy the game – I did have fun playing it – but I would temper my expectations a bit.
A Nintendo Switch game key was provided for this review.
COMPARE TO: Ogre Battle; Brigandine