*Gonna try a thing here - while I'm apprehensive about doing flat out reviews, I do play a lot of games that I want to highlight, and the easy out is to write up a summary of my experience. Instead of trying to score the games on some random scale based in nothingness, I figure I'll just give you an idea of who I think this game would or wouldn't cater to in as an objective method as possible. You be the judge if I'm successful or not, and you be judge on if my suggestions make sense, but I hope giving you an idea of what these games are, what they're about, and gives them (however little) additional exposure.
So, here goes the initial Unique Drops SYT. -Chris
Brigador is an isometric mech/tank/hovercraft/*insert war machination here* shooter based in an 80s-futuristic Blade Runner esque world, so everything is set to an awesome synth soundtrack with high contrast visuals - dark settings against a ton of awesome neon and explosions.
I LOVE giant robot/mech fighting stuff. I like synth and neon and the 80s, but I LOVE MECHS.
Do I love Brigador? Should you try Brigador?
Well, how about I’ll give you a long, wordy dissertation of how I feel. The first thing you need to know; this game is tough.
I’m a fan of challenging games so long as they’re interesting (check my thoughts on Hyper Light Drifter for similar feedback) so this doesn’t deter me, but I can certainly see this as something that could turn a lot of players off.
Right off the bat, while the game uses the familiar WASD and mouse combo, the vehicle movement are not quite what you’d expect. Mechs and tanks are setup to drive like a tank - you rotate to point your vehicle in the right direction with A or D, then go forward/backward relative to the direction you’re facing using W/S. Hovercraft can strafe with A/D instead of pivot, so turning becomes dependent on mouse cursor placement.
Aiming requires that the mouse cursor be placed on your target which is unlike most arcade style overhead shooters where line of sight is good enough to land a hit.
Juggling the two is tough to wrap your head around and means lots and lots of dying while you’re getting comfortable.
Even when you get the controls down, the game forces you to use different techniques or strategies in different levels so brute force isn’t going to cut it. Some level of thinking will be required as well as some trial and error (read: you’re dying some more). The game requires that you intelligently navigate levels as to avoid being swarmed by enemies using some discretion, or stealth capabilities depending on your vehicle. Rationing ammunition is also a concern, as there are resupply depots in each level, but only one per ammo type and enemies drops ammo refills infrequently, so being mindful of wasteful shots and depots locations is vital.
If you are cool with all that, the game is going to reward you with a deep roster of customizable weapons and vehicles (40 and 45, respectively for those counting). Learning about the different weapon types and how well they work (or don’t) with certain vehicle types is all part of the fun. Each segment of tanks, hovercrafts, and mechs has a number of model variations from quick and light to heavy bruisers. Each vehicle carries and primary and secondary weapon, as well as a third ability usually used in a defensive method (stealth fields, smoke grenades, etc). Weapons range from smaller caliber machine guns to rail guns and artillery. As you can imagine, this leads to a huge amount of combinations between speed, firepower, shields, health, stealth, range of combat, etc. to explore.
As for the world Brigador exists in; it’s so cool. It’s a dark, faintly lit neon future where dystopian rulers fall and warring factions rise from the ashes in a battle for control. I know that much, but I can’t say that a lot more of the story has stuck with me. There is a lot of lore to discover, just don’t come to this game expecting Final Fantasy levels of storytelling to be laid out for you. I really enjoy the fleshed out bits of the world like the different pilot designs, and the small blurbs written about them, or mission locations, mercenary contracts, etc. - it gives the world a little bit of character that goes a long way and adds to the bits of immersion between missions.
I do have a few minor quibbles about the game; the UI isn’t really useful during firefights because it’s so far out of the way. It’d be nice to know what your health/shields are at or when your weapon cool down is over without having to glance into the far corner of the screen.
Learning about the different weapons is difficult as descriptions don’t give you the clearest idea of what you’re about to select. It would have been great to have a preview of the weapon in action in the selection screen.
Visually, the game is a bit dark - I think it fits the theme well, but maybe a little too well - it leaves the game feeling a little one-note. In the same way, the isometric view has to stay far away from the action in order to allow you adequate range of view, but it also means you don’t get to enjoy the small details that have gone into the levels or vehicle design. When spotted, enemies are outlined with a neon border to make it easier to identify targets, but at the height you view from, I often found myself thinking “Ok, here comes 3 triangles and 2 hamburger looking things.”
The biggest criticism though has to be leveled at the control scheme. The tank style WASD movement in conjunction with the mouse aiming requires you constantly check what direction you’re facing with your machine which means taking your eyes off of an engaged target and leads to frustration in really heated battles. The mouse aiming isn’t always the most precise either, as you’ll have your cursor on top of your target, but find your projectiles going overhead; I found aiming right in front of the target solved the issue most of the time and it’s pretty easily accounted for, but it’s one of those things that adds to the learning curve.
In my opinion, it doesn’t seem anything would have been lost with a normal WASD movement scheme. It’s certainly doesn’t ruin the game, but aside from being unique, I’m not sure it brings anything to it either. Admittedly, this may be just a personal preference, but it might have been better to give people the option between the two.
So what does it all mean? Do I love Brigador?
Love is a very strong word; I’d say I have a fondness for the game - I certainly like it and have enjoyed my time once I got past the initial hurdles of getting comfortable. If I’m honest, it’s the character of the game itself and the level of detail that went into it all that really captured my attention - even before I started playing. The mechs and tanks, the customization and testing new weapons, the neon and synth 80s world, and those little tidbits sprinkled around that give that splash of color to the world; I love that stuff. I love the craftsmanship that goes into the levels and the vehicles. It’s obviously been a labor of love, and it is well polished. The game is bespoke to the creators vision, and it’s quite a sight to behold.
But, in the same way a suit is bespoke to the preference of it’s wearer, this game just has some tailored pieces that might not fit others so well. The challenge of learning a unique control scheme wasn’t a huge hurdle to overcome, and I was able to adapt and enjoy the game, but it sticks out and I don’t understand the attempt to recreate the wheel.
Should you try Brigador?
Brigador is a very niche game. If you’re looking for a unique experience that isn’t available anywhere else and/or open to trying out an isometric shooter, this might be a good fit for you. Provided you don’t mind a challenge, Brigador is a fun way to spend many hours customizing war machines and soaking up (and blowing up) the many nuanced details that make up a neon clad battleground.
If you’re already into isometric action games, then I’d certainly suggest Brigador (unless you have something against neon or mechs). It’s challenging and well crafted, with a deep roster of playable machines and lots of replay-ability - completing levels with different machine types requires a different strategy and you get a different experience each time. My qualms with the controls aside, it’s a high quality game that rewards good play.
Taking into account all of the above, this game isn’t going to be a good fit for you if you think you’re going to jump straight in and succeed - you have to be prepared to invest some time in getting comfortable with the controls and understand some of the basic game mechanics or you’ll find nothing but frustration and death.
So that is a slightly qualified ‘yes’. I think people should try this game if you have any passing interest in what you see or the isometric shooter genre, but I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.