Matrix Software's Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is a sequel to the 1998 PlayStation game Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, a tactical role-playing affair that featured a mix of strategic map manoeuvring and turn-based battles played out on a hexagonal battlefield against the backdrop of a fantasy tale of warring factions. The original didn't review particularly well upon release but it has garnered a following and become something of a cult classic in the intervening 22 years. This fresh addition to the series features the exact same core gameplay as its predecessor, but plays out in a brand-new setting with an interweaving storyline that links together the six different factions you'll get to chose from in order to unify Runersia.
The story here presents players with a tale of a magical land where people are granted extraordinary strength, power and knowledge through a never-ending supply of mana which rains down upon them from the mana God. Amongst these men and women are rune knights; unique warriors who are blessed by this mana with the ability to control armies of monsters and wield powerful magic spells. These rune knights amass armies and fight one another for control of Runersia whilst trying to get their hands on the Five Brigandines, pieces of armour which have been embedded with potent mana stones and give the wearer even stronger powers.
It's a tale that had us pretty interested starting out but loses its shine pretty quickly due to the rather bland info-dump nature of how much of it is delivered. There are some nice static scenes that play out as characters explain their motivations, with the camera zooming in and around to give things the illusion of movement and the art style is certainly pretty, but the dialogue itself is just so heavy-handed and monotonous that it's pretty hard to remain all that interested.
For our first run through the game on normal mode, we chose the Mana Saleesi Theocracy as our faction and each of the six nations here have different numbers of bases spread across the game map as you're starting out, as well as varying numbers of Rune Knights, monsters and mana reserves that are worth taking into account as you decide who to go with. Depending on who you choose, you'll see the story play out from their perspective and there are all manner of intricate goings-on involving the other factions with whom you'll be vying for control of Runersia. As much as the story might not be our cup of tea, it's definitely an improvement on the original game and we can see fans really enjoying the huge amount of back and forth between clans as they battle for control across the lengthy campaigns.
Gameplay takes place over a set amount of seasons depending on which difficulty setting you choose to run with; easy mode gives you limitless time to conquer Runersia whilst normal and hard charge you with completing your objective in 120 or 60 seasons respectively. Each season is split into two phases: an organisation phase and an attack phase where you'll go about moving troops between your various bases, generating new monsters for battle and ensuring you haven't left yourself open to invasion before jumping into the fighting side of things.
During the organisational phase, you'll use your mana to summon monsters to your bases and then form these monsters into troops, each of which is headed by a rune knight. Each rune knight has a magic pool and this pool determines how many monsters they can have in their troop at any one time, with each monster costing a different amount to set in place. Once you've got your troops sorted you'll either move them between your bases to defend positions or deploy them to invade an enemy camp – the twist here being that once you move them you'll be unable to use them for one turn after they've travelled. You'll also send knights out on quests – rendering them unusable until they return – in order to pick up XP and find a host of useful items, armour and weapons which can be equipped in order to give various stat boosts.
There really is quite a lot of depth and choice when it comes to how you organise and build your troops here, with one hundred rune knights and fifty different monster types to summon who you can then take and level up and evolve through lots of different classes and types as you raise their proficiency level during battle. Early fights can feel a little bland and losing units doesn't hit you very hard starting out, but once you've raised a unit up to its max level and evolved it into some enormous and devastating force of nature on the battlefield, it can be a real killer to see it perish because you made the wrong call.
Battles themselves can be pretty long affairs and the game again runs into a little trouble here as it's all very slow every time an encounter kicks off – you'll take a good three or four turns with your troops before you actually get within striking distance of your enemy, something that grows tedious given the sheer number of battles you'll engage in. Moving your troops around can also feel like a little bit of a slog as you'll need to move each unit individually, keeping your monsters within range of their rune knight's circle of influence and ensuring that you have each one sat on the correct terrain type where possible.
Speaking of terrain types, each monster you control during battle has a preferred terrain that grants them a stat boost, as well as one which sees their battle potential negatively affected. Vicious attack dogs gain a boost in meadows, for example, whereas mandrakes fight better in forests and flying creatures have the sweet ability to manoeuvre around any terrain without taking a stat penalty. It's the only aspect of the battlefields that has any impact on the fighting; there's no high or low ground taken into account here, but it's easy to get your head around and adds another little layer of strategy to proceedings.
Pacing issues aside, combat in Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is easily where the game is at its strongest and getting to know your various monster's attack abilities and using them to whittle down enemy numbers in order to move in on opposing rune knights can be exhilarating stuff. Killing an enemy knight will see their entire troop of monsters taken out of the battle, sometimes you'll even take a few prisoners to add to your own units, and remaining knights may very well sack off the fight and run from the battlefield should they feel the tide has turned too much in your favour. Playing on normal mode, we did notice a couple of inconsistencies with this mechanic, however, and had some foes give up on a fight that was pretty much evenly balanced. It didn't happen often, but it was a little disappointing when it did.
Overall then, the fighting here is solid stuff, for the most part. There are plenty of little tricks and tactics to use in order to surround and weaken stronger foes, as well as decent variety in attacks from monster to monster. Rune knights are also satisfyingly powerful and can pull off some pretty spectacular special attacks that can turn the tide of battle quickly. Character attacks and spells each have their own little animations that play out, and you can zoom right up into the action to get a good look at the carnage as it unfolds. In the end, once we'd got to grips with things, we ended up finding the whole thing strangely relaxing, taking our time to consider each move in order to ensure our teams were always backed up by healers and strong units as we moved forward to try to rid the battlefield of opposing rune knights as quickly as possible.
There's also plenty of replay value; each of the six playable factions has their own tale to tell and if you dig the core gameplay there's potentially hundreds of hours worth of strategy for you to tear into. The game also features a bonus chapter that's unlocked once you've cleared the campaign with your chosen faction – a properly robust training mode to teach you the ropes and guided gameplay which can be turned on and off at any point and carefully explains the ins and outs of things as you take your first steps. Away from the main battles and story, there are unlockable achievements that take the form of various events, encounters and stories that happen during battle, and unlocking all of these as well as all the various monster types is a properly gargantuan task. There are also galleries of 2D illustrations detailing each and every monster and knight in the game, something that long-time fans of the first title will be very happy to see.
There's no doubt that Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is a pretty niche title that takes a good bit of learning to settle into a groove with but, once you're in that groove, it can be pretty compelling stuff. It's glacially slow, for sure, with far too many menus and a very po-faced style that can be rather off-putting, but this is also a game that will absolutely satisfy fans of the original and should win a few new converts amongst those willing to jump in and give it a try. It's also an experience that feels right at home on Switch and is a perfect fit for pulling out and playing a few rounds on in handheld mode; we're certainly glad that Matrix Software took on the task of making this belated sequel and are pretty sure fans of the original will feel the same.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia takes the exact same core gameplay of its 1998 predecessor and transports it into a brand new storyline whilst giving the whole thing a modern lick of paint in the process. The story, although an improvement on the original game, is still pretty bland stuff for the most part and battles are certainly where this one finds its main groove. Those fights may be a little on the slow side and are inherently repetitive affairs, but they're still rather enjoyable nonetheless and give you a reasonable amount of choice in how you take on your enemies and evolve and upgrade your troops. There's a ton of content here and, in the end, the whole thing feels like a pretty successful celebration of what made the first game a cult classic in the first place. It's not going to be to everyone's tastes, however, and if you like your strategy action to be a little more intense, you might want to stick with something like Wargroove or Fire Emblem: Three Houses instead.
Will stick with Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark, Fire Emblem, Valkyria 4 & Wargroove have for my Switch strategy / tactics fix
Demo didn't really give me good vibes about this one unfortunately, every single map in that was basically the same, move your units to the chokepoint while the enemy does the same and then just wail on each other until one army dies. I wouldn't mind a SRPG that tries to take itself even a little bit seriously like this one especially now that FE has turned into half highschool sim but unfortunately the gameplay here really doesn't seem that interesting to me. I'll still give the actual game a shot but my expectations aren't very high.
Tried the demo. Not for me. Serious storylines are my jam but the gameplay was obtuse and too slow for me. Also, translators really need to stop literally translating Japanese mannerisms...
Just waiting for that LRG copy to ship.
Pre ordered the physical copy, cant wait
@Daniel36 But there are also people who WANT translations to adhere as closely as possible to the original Japanese meaning. Hard to please everyone when it comes to figuring out the language gap.
Very pleased to see a review for this one, I was hoping it wouldn't fly under the radar.
I think what appeals to me most is that losing battles is actually a part of the campaign. If you are under strength and you get attacked, you may have to retreat or stage a desperate defense to do as much damage as you can before losing. A lot of games like this would make you replay a battle after a loss, but here you can accept it and fight back another day. That leads to more investment in the planning, in my opinion, and some good iron man style challenge.
Cool stuff! I like it slow anyway.
How is the difficulty, by the way? From what I heard the first one had AI that didn't really put up much of a fight once you knew how they worked, even on hard.
I like a little strategy, but this game felt pretty obtuse to me when I tried the demo. It sounded interesting but anything more complex than Final Fantasy Tactics level of strategy and I start to lose interest quickly.
Seems like it does what it set out to do well, at least. Not a bad game, but a bit too hardcore for me.
FE is the wrong comparison for this game; it’s really a console version of the PC game Heroes of Might and Magic. Less resource management, simplified overhead map, but more extensive combat. The gameplay loop is really similar otherwise. I don’t think it’s as great as HOMM3, but I thought the original was enjoyable. Like the review notes, it’s slow pace can be oddly relaxing.
I’m looking forward to my LRG physical copy!
@Lapses Just going off the demo, the AI didn’t seem terrible, but it’s hard to tell. In the original, much of the difficulty came either from the faction you play and their position on the map (some are surrounded by enemies and constantly under attack, others are fairly isolated and allowed to build up armies), and time limits on how long you have to conquer the map
@XiaoShao I wish that Ubisoft would just port over some or all of the HoMM games period. Even a updated/ sequel for MM: Clash of heroes would be nice.
@Indielink Well... Yeah... But it's like... The meaning of a sentence and the manner in which it is spoken are two seperate things. Of course I want the story to be the same as the Japanese one, but that doesn't mean that every character has to use every... single... variation... of "in any case" or "that said" every... other... sentence...
The first time I really noticed it was with that Legend of Heroes game on the Vita. I swear half the script was them rehashing their point with an "in any case".
There's a reason why they started calling translations localisations. Because the English speaking world just doesn't talk like that.
That said, I didn't like the game mechanics anyways. In any case, I will try other games instead.
See? It doesn't jive well.
Also, funny to see other people lamenting on HoMM. I too was thinking about that game.
@Darknilious Yeah, given this game and Civ play well on the Switch, it could definitely be done. Although I much prefer the older games, and not the more recent entries.
But if you enjoy HOMM, give this game a chance. It’s enjoyable in its own right!
I wonder how the announced king's bounty will stack up to this and HoMM
This has a [very] faint hint of Tactics V: "Obsidian Brigade, but no one has reviewed that yet here, it looks intriguing... graphics aside. And that's been out quite sometime now...
This review seems lacking. As someone who fully completed the 1998 game Brigandine: Legend of Forsena, I can say that this new game sorely lacks in the fleshing out stories of the non-main characters.
In the first game, you can observe their interactions when you clump certain knights together in a fort. The absence of these scenes makes the game pretty bland since all scenes revolve around the main character of each faction and their inner circle.
That said, devs doubled down on main character stories with scenes and story. Good stuff. Still wouldve loved side stories and banter between the other knights though.
Art is really ecchi. They ramped up sexualization to popularize the game but if the story and character banter was as good or even more refined then it wouldve been perfect. Sexy af tho.
Quest system is the biggest let down. In the first game there would be narratives and randomized outcomes but now all we have is a straight out result. Boring. Lazy.
Battle system is still as good as the original tho they couldve modernized it by giving knights map abilities like sabotage ala total war.
Also a 7/10 for me. Sad. So hyped to see innovations but the game feels like it took a step back
@Lapses The AI is mostly competent, though it does seem to heavily favor attacking your weakest units. This sounds like a good strategy and often is, but you can exploit this by throwing cheap, expendable fodder into range of enemies to stop them from killing your more valuable monsters. They also have an unfortunate habit of retreating from battles they would have been able to stall out by camping the castle. They don't seem to understand the 12 turn time limit.
I was interested in the game but the review's negatives put me off. May look it up in a discount, but not sure tbh .
Just about finished my first playthru on the lowest difficulty setting. The game is pretty slow but definitely can be relaxing and can get into a "just one more turn" vibe which is nice to sink into. But I agree on the story... it has a lot of potential but the translation is not great, and often scenes go on way too long especially given how static they are. Having character portraits with more emotion beside each text box like fire emblem may have helped. As it is there is basically one image for each character used across the game. That said, I find support convos in FE3H tiresome at times too soooo...
I was honestly disappointed by the number of monsters and the fact that many can't evolve past their level 10 form. There are only "50" if you are counting each variant of dragon etc. Unfortunately all the dragon types play essentially the same so it does not feel like a different unit to have a frost dragon vs a fire dragon
Also, I had to turn sound effects off because the beeping noise from clicking through the walls of text was annoying AF.
Overall I think 7/10 is a super fair score. There is a lot of good in this game, it offers a lot of gameplay variety and the game is satisfyingly crunchy, but it lacks polish in some places where it could really use it
@WhereTheSkyRuns If you haven't played Mario + Rabbids yet, you really really need to. It's astoundingly good. It has no right to be anywhere as near as good as it is. It's the best tactics game on switch, and that's saying a lot because the Switch has a ton of high quality ones
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