Bad North (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 06.09.2018

Review for Bad North on Nintendo Switch

Bad North is as simple as an RTT can be, while still offering some semblance of engaging gameplay. Gameplay is incredibly to the point, forgoing complexity in favour of a more refined core gameplay loop. The simplicity is appreciated all the more thanks to the title's minimalist aesthetic, combining a fairly muted colour palette with a subdued soundtrack. On paper, Bad North is an excellent example of why a simple game isn't inherently a bad one. Unfortunately, and perhaps fittingly, it's in the game design's complexities where it suffers more than anywhere else.

Every feature or mechanic that works in Bad North works due to the developer striving for a cohesive simplicity. Battles involve moving units across the field to attack incoming enemies with the most basic of unit management in-between stages. It's almost deceptive in how simple the core mechanics are presented, but that really is the full extent of the gameplay. Not that that's a bad thing, though. Rather, the gameplay comes off all the stronger without bells and whistles bogging it down.

There's an elegance to seeing an enemy ship appear off-screen, knowing that the only viable strategies involve moving units around and keeping an active eye on where enemies run off to in order to quickly reconfigure a unit's trajectory. On top of that, with multiple units in the party, the moment to moment strategy ends up involving a considerable amount of quick thinking that would have quickly become overwhelming with more mechanics or concepts to juggle.

Screenshot for Bad North on Nintendo Switch

Each stage essentially involves fending off Vikings in order to protect houses. Once all of them are slain, coins are rewarded based on how many houses withstood the battle and whether or not they were damaged. Said coins can then be distributed to units, which can, in turn, be used to purchase or upgrade their skills. This is as complex as the core gameplay gets, and it works. A simpler approach results in a more satisfying gameplay loop.

With so little to micromanage within stages, difficulty ends up a concern. Thankfully, Bad North doesn't hold back in the slightest. As soon as enemies land on shore, they are prone to scattering, requiring a reflex-based approach to movement. In this regard, gameplay requires both the ability to think critically under stress and quick fingers. It's the best of both worlds for a real-time tactics experience.

Screenshot for Bad North on Nintendo Switch

Unfortunately, problems arise in the campaign's second half when enemies begin to become all the more aggressive. Early on, stages are paced with enough time in-between enemy spawns whereby tension builds without outright overwhelming a player. Upon entering the home stretch, however, stages forgo any semblance of difficulty pacing in favour of pure challenge. It makes sense to up the difficulty when reaching endgame, but stages become too brutal all too quickly.

It certainly doesn't help that the developer has gone with procedural generation over traditional level design. While this does result in some interesting layouts, deliberate level design would have gone a long way to ensuring the difficulty curve progressed more smoothly after the first half. For those who take their time in mastering the mechanics and upgrading their units, this approach can eventually pay off as it guarantees a consistent stream of new content. Anyone looking for just a simpler take on the RTT genre, however, will find themselves disappointed upon reaching endgame.

Screenshot for Bad North on Nintendo Switch

It's also worth mentioning that Bad North, while technically sound in levels, can freeze once returning to the overworld. This isn't a major problem as the title does autosave frequently, so restarting a game on the Switch isn't particularly difficult, but it's still quite annoying either way. Thankfully, this seems not to occur within levels, where a technical glitch would matter most, but it is worth making note of.

Technicalities and the folly of procedural generation aside, Bad North does succeed as a beautiful piece of minimalism in gaming. Both the soundtrack and visuals are expertly crafted, giving the title a truly unique and potent atmosphere. It's a shame the difficulty curve falls off so hard after just a few levels as it genuinely comes so close to ending up as one of the best entries in the genre.

Screenshot for Bad North on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Endearingly minimalistic and simple enough without compromising potential depth, Bad North works surprisingly well with its premise, but is ultimately held back by from reaching the greatness it easily could have attained. A roguelike RTT is an interesting concept, but the title does suffer from a lack of traditional level design once the difficulty curve begins to spike. On top of that, freezing can occur when returning to the world map after a mission. Autosave ensures progress is never lost, but it's nonetheless frustrating. Bad North is not a bad RTS by any means, offering a fairly strong first half, but a lack of cohesion between difficulty and level design makes its back half less palatable.

Developer

Plausible Concept

Publisher

Raw Fury Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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