Battle Brothers Preview – Rolling With the Rat Bastards

Battle Brothers is a recently-released, turn-based RPG that I’ve been playing over the weekend. Since its launch on March 24, Battle Brothers obtained a “very positive” accolade on Steam, and according to the developers, the sales figures are positive as well. After spending a few hours with the game over the past few days, it’s not hard to see why. Battle Brothers is a very engaging game, and as someone who normally shies away from turn-based RPGs, I found myself hooked on the game’s hospitable gameplay which was either intuitive or easy-to-learn.

Battle Brothers is based around a group of mercenaries that players recruit, equip, and send out on missions. Players can choose some basic customization options at the start, but the most important part of any mercenary group is the name. After some deliberation, I selected the name, The Rat Bastards, for my mercenary group. It seemed a proper name for such a down-on-their-luck gang.

After the basics are established, it’s off into the medieval world of Battle Brothers, and then hopefully onward to riches and glory. Realistically though, there’s going to be a lot of blood and death before riches and glory are aplenty. A lot of blood and death, actually. Like, a lot, a lot.

I learned the hard way that sending a former monk armed with a pitchfork into battle against a hillside of thieves with nothing to lose is a good way to send that monk to his maker a lot sooner than he probably would have liked. Rest in peace, Volker, we hardly knew ye.

Battle Brothers is sporting a healthy dosage of Oregon Trail inspiration in its blood, adding a bit of nostalgia to work with the stat-based decision making. I felt compelled to take care of my mercenary units that I have had the longest, even if they weren’t the best units I had. Battle Brothers will remind players that a particular character has been a part of the group for X-amount of days, or that he partook in that one big battle, or survived a massacre, or so forth.

This feature made deaths in Battle Brothers more impactful, though I’d imagine that sense of obligation wanes if it’s a player’s second or third time through the game.

I’m not reviewing Battle Brothers; I don’t play enough turn-based RPGs to really have a good sense of what this game does better/worse than other games. On top of that, I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to thoroughly/fairly play through this game. But, as I said, I enjoyed Battle Brothers far more than I expected to, even as someone who doesn’t usually jump at the chance to play a game from this genre.

If you’re on the fence about the game, I’d say it’s a safe bet that you’ll like it. Besides the lack of diversity (a few hours into the game and I only have had the option to recruit white dudes), there wasn’t anything about Battle Brothers that rubbed me the wrong way, or stuck out as a poor mechanic. Sending your gang of mercenaries through the map on longer treks can become a bit tedious, but the ability to fast-forward time slightly, and the occasional random event, do serve to break apart the monotony.

Battle Brothers is available now for PC.

[Battle Brothers on Steam]

A retail copy of Battle Brothers was provided to Epic Brew for the purpose of this article.

Tom Talks: Turok 2: Seeds of Evil

Turok 2: Seeds of Evil was one of the first M(ature)-rated video games that I played.

As a pre-teen who was just discovering the taboo thrill of violent video games, there was nothing as exciting as inviting my friends over and listening them howl in amazement as a gush of blood burst out of a raptoid’s head, courtesy of a well placed shotgun blast. Or how shocked they were when I showed them just what the Cerebral Bore does to enemies. Turok 2 became the game to bring to middle school sleepover parties. After my friends’ parents went to bed, I slid the black Nintendo 64 cartridge out of the bottom of my backpack and the real party began. Well, as much of a party as a handful of eleven year old boys high on Surge and Warheads can have while maintaining the faintest of sounds. Couldn’t wake the parents, or it’d be lights out.

There was something special about having Turok 2. As I mentioned, even the cartridge was black, which elicited an essence of menace; it was, according to the Entertainment Software Rating Boards, a game that we shouldn’t even be playing. Luckily, to our parents, the E-T-M ratings were just another foreign symbol on a video game box littered with terminology that might as well have been Egyptian hieroglyphics. My mom, for example, literally bought me Turok 2’s sequel, Turok 3 for Easter.

Can you picture that? Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion nested atop bright green Easter basket grass, jellybeans sprinkled about, a chocolate rabbit wrapped in tin-foil leaning against the side of the game box; I still can’t believe it.

Turok 2, for me, was almost a rite of passage. Where other boys kissed girls in empty hallways, or snuck glances at porn magazines in the book store, my friends and I were giddy about pixelated blood pouring out of roughly-rendered, polygonal dinosaur men.

Hey, I never said I was one of the cool kids.

It didn’t matter to me or my friends how cool or un-cool it was. We were doing something we knew we shouldn’t (playing a super violent video game), and that meant we were breaking rules…we were rebelling, we were pushing the limits of what we could get away with. It wasn’t exactly stealing money from grandma’s purse or smoking pot behind Kmart with a friend’s older brother (I mean, that’s just where I heard that kids went to get high), but we were good kids, you know…but Turok provided us with a very definitive line that separated the kids and their E for Everyone games, with us….whatever we thought we were at the time.

For awhile there, my friends and I sought out the most violent video games we could find. It was almost a challenge for us to find the next thing to shock one another with.

Then, one day in middle school, we heard that terrorists attacked New York City and a lot of people died earlier that morning.

For weeks and weeks, everything was all about the Twin Towers collapsing. How many first-responders had died, how many people blew up in the planes, how many people jumped from the burning buildings; it was everywhere. It was, in one word: tragic.

In two words: eye opening.

Grand Theft Auto 3 came out a little over a month after September 11th. My friends and I had been looking forward to that game for a very long time. But when it came out, we played it differently; almost respectfully. I cringe to think of how we, how I, would have played GTA3 before September 11…I probably would have played it like how the news media so often portrays it: as a civilian/hooker/cop-killing game.

But I don’t remember playing it with that goal in mind. I remember having a fair number of shoot outs with cops, sure, that’s part of the game…but I don’t ever remember intentionally trying to kill anyone I didn’t need to. After September 11, in a matter of weeks, I had grown up.

Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, was the starting point of the line that divided my childhood and my young-adult life, and it wasn’t the line that I thought it was at the time. It wasn’t the line that devided T-For-Teen and M-For-Mature, it was the line that seperated “Loads of violence is awesome!”-Me, and “Okay, that’s a bit too much blood…”-Me. Thankfully, I was able to grow to appreciate games for far more than their ability to shock me, or make my friends gasp in excited-disgust. I started noticing the graphics, the story, the design; everything that came together to make the wonderful form of art that are video games.

Turok 2: Seeds of Evil was recently re-released on Steam for PC.