Battle Brothers (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Chris Leebody 22.03.2021

Review for Battle Brothers on Nintendo Switch

Released in 2017 originally on the PC, Battle Brothers comes from German-based indie devs Overhype Studios. This punishing role-playing game sees the player leading a band of mercenaries around a gritty medieval fantasy world. Procedurally generated, this open world is primed for adventures and tales of glory and despair, with X-Com style strategy on a hexagonal top-down battle map. After a successful development journey on PC, the title is finally heading to a natural bedding point - the Switch. Portable adventuring sounds good, right?

Battle Brothers on Switch feels like it has carved out its very own niche. There really isn't another title like this on the console. Choosing from a whole heap of scenarios involving different starting situations, there's no hand holding and a fancy story delivered in the beginning. No, it is straight into a punishing but highly rewarding world - where gold reigns and death is always around the corner.

There's two phases really to the core gameplay. First - is a sort of strategic overworld that is procedurally generated every time a new campaign begins. Dropped into the world that feels like a warring European continent, it is very much a case of getting straight into the thick of the action.

Littered with towns, the player can pick up new mercenaries. The first really cool aspect about this is that it isn't just a case of random no-name troops to recruit. Each of these people available has their own name, their own personality and traits and even their own backstory. From an ex-miner who lost his job after a war, to a thief who has spent his life robbing from town to town - each available recruit feels like they have their own purpose in this world.

Screenshot for Battle Brothers on Nintendo Switch

It's a highly effective tool of making each campaign feel immersive. Too often in procedurally generated worlds, it can appear a tad artificial. Where Battle Brothers succeeds is that the player really cares about each of these men.

That ties in neatly of course to the other phase of the game - namely, the battling. Switching to a turn-based hexagonal grid, battles are fantastically brutal and nail-biting affairs. From the small fights against a group of peasants, to edge-of-the-seat battles against the hordes of the undead, the reason why it matters so much that each man has his own personality is that their deaths are inevitable.

It is impossible to beat the thrilling sense of agony, having spent 5 hours completing quests, raiding outposts and spending a fortune on equipment - only to lose poor Knut because of a silly tactical move. Death is permanent. Those who die on the battlefield remain dead and the battle system does not pull any punches.

Screenshot for Battle Brothers on Nintendo Switch

It has to be said, it feels a little bit intimidating when first stepping into it. While the game ships with a tutorial of sorts into the overworld - as well as a tutorial battle to get to grips with how the system works - it really does take a lot of experimentation to understand the fact that each weapon has its pros and cons.

Use spears to form a shield wall. Use axes when the enemy has shields. Crush armour with a hammer. That's all alongside the benefits of positioning, surrounding enemies, attacking from behind and the morale and fatigue systems. There's a lot to get a handle on and it's probably lacking in actually sitting down and explaining this. Frustration in the opening hours is likely - particularly as the RNG is definitely out for blood when it comes to hits missing.

However, it's worth powering through that frustration because once that is out of the way, there is so much to enjoy here - particularly as it is portable. This open-world really does feel open. Helping a town, by for example escorting a trader, will actually then feed into the local economy and improve supplies and prices.

Screenshot for Battle Brothers on Nintendo Switch

Equally, getting rid of a pesky band of raiders will improve the safety of an area and make the population happier and the roads safer generally. It is a world that feels alive and adaptive to the player's actions. Add on top of that some really cool events that trigger during particular sections - including an invasion of the undead - and this is suddenly a world that is impossible not to get lost in.

So, obviously coming from PC there is going to be a few compromises. One of those is definitely in the controls. From moving around by clicking on the map, to actually giving commands during battle - it is fiddly. Particularly if playing undocked and using the default joycons. The UI is pretty flooded generally and add in tool-tips that appear and suddenly the screen is pretty busy. Attacking the wrong enemy because of a rogue click also happened more than once.

The game world looks very pretty with a real old-style map quality to the environments and a distinct sense of the grittiness of the world and the downtrodden nature of this band of mercenaries and their adventure. That said, there was a few hitches of slowdown. Nothing game-breaking or too distracting, but it is easy to tell there's a lot going on here under the hood. Battles themselves though ran absolutely smoothly and the character portraits that pop up like little chess pieces give it a real table-top quality.

Screenshot for Battle Brothers on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Battle Brothers feels like a really natural fit on the Switch. The open-world nature of the game is one that is easy to get lost in and therefore having the ability to take it on the go is a fantastic attribute. As good as that is, the clunkiness of some of the controls on the console will take a bit of getting used to. However, the fact is there is not really any other title like this on the console with such a uniquely procedural role-playing feel. Making the player care about characters is one of the hardest tricks in gaming and Battle Brothers delivers this, with the sense of loss after a tough battle being really palpable.

Developer

Ukiyo Publishing

Publisher

Ukiyo Publishing

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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