Does Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia stand out on the Nintendo Switch?
Title: Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia
Developer: Matrix Software
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: June 25, 2020
Ever since I started playing video games, RPGs have been my favorite genre. They were a rarer breed than most others for many generations of consoles especially, not really exploding until the original PlayStation came out and arguably Final Fantasy VII really popularized the genre as a whole.
The PlayStation was host to all kinds of RPGs and even plenty of different sub-genres such as turn-based tactics RPGs, most notably stuff like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. As a fan of pretty much the whole genre I ate almost all of these games up, even some of the most obscure ones. And I remember most of them very well.
One I think I might’ve played, but don’t remember very well at all is Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena. The cover art looks kind of familiar, and it was a turn-based strategy RPG, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you more about it without looking anything up. Did I miss out on it? Was it a hidden gem of the PlayStation era? Well, somebody sure thought so because over 20 years later, we have a follow-up, Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia for the Nintendo Switch.
But much like the original PlayStation era, we’re kind of overwhelmed with RPGs right now. Especially on the Nintendo Switch and even sub-genres like turn-based tactical RPGs are numerous. What does Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia do to stand out? The answer seems to be for better or worse to be largely the same game it was over 20 years ago and while that old school approach may hold appeal for some, I don’t think it worked super well back then and it’s just gotten worse with age.
The basic premise of Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia actually is reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite strategy games, Dragon Force for the Sega Saturn. Though it was real-time and had armies instead of individual units, both games have you choosing from a handful of kingdoms with different rulers, managing troops, and trying to keep your strongholds from being taken over while also invading other kingdoms.
Here comes the first significant flaw that certainly wouldn’t be a deal killer if Brigandine was stronger in other areas, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Simply put, Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is one of the blandest and most generic-looking RPGs I have played in a long time. It’s not impressive graphically, but as someone who still plays Shining Force II and other older turn-based strategy RPGs all the time, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. The real problem is the character and monster designs aren’t unique at all and there’s nothing fun or exciting about the presentation.
This applies to the rulers you have to choose from as well. There are characters that on the surface sound like they might be fun, such as the pirate queen Stella, but once you get to the still portraits with text that qualify as cut-scenes, it’s all a lot of incredibly boring poorly written dialogue and you don’t care.
And honestly, any veteran of RPGs would tell you this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. An RPG can have a bland presentation, mediocre graphics, and uninteresting characters if the actual gameplay is compelling enough and fun. Unfortunately, Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia falls somewhat short in the aspect as well for several reasons.
Let’s start with Mana. Not like magic “mana”, but “mana” as a resource. As a ruler, mana is something like income. You have only so much to spread around and you use it to fill up your squads with various monster troops, some costing more than others. But there’s also upkeep.
I’m pretty familiar with having to manage a resource or two in order to hire troops, and I think Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia does a poor job with it because no matter what ruler you choose, you instantly have a lot of commanders who are severely lacking troops. Rather than really letting you figure out how to properly manage it, the game almost immediately demands you staff up quickly because those other kingdoms waste very little time in trying to invade you.
Which leads to the battles themselves. These are very standard turn-based strategy affairs you’ve seen in dozens of these types of games before. For the most part, these are actually pretty ok except for a couple of absolutely baffling design decisions.
One is more of a personal taste thing arguably, so I’ll address it first. Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia has permadeath. Sort of. Your commanders can’t die, they can only be out of action for a short amount of time. Your nameless units though, once they die they are gone for good. I’d appreciate an option to turn this off, but the game is also poorly balanced in difficulty as well early on. You might have some troops you’ve built up to promotion and are counting on to be key to your eventual taking over the rest of the kingdom.
Whelp, here comes an opposing commander with one monster 10 levels higher! You manage to beat them, but at the cost of most or even all of your troops. Gotta start all over again, hire new monsters at level one and pray nobody else comes along and attacks you until you’re ready or at this point, your entire game progress is screwed as well! See the problem here?
Save scumming wouldn’t even matter now. If you are going to have permadeath like that, you have to balance it somewhere. Brigandine makes no attempt at this.
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The other one is not a matter or taste and just a massive annoyance. There is magic, but there are also “skills”. Skills usually cover your physical attacks and magic deals more with elemental attacks, buffs, debuffs, and most importantly, healing. You can move and execute a skill assuming a target is in range. You cannot do this with magic.
I cannot express how insanely stupid this is. It makes it ridiculously difficult to properly position a caster for either a key attack or a heal spell that in literally any other tactical turn-base RPG I can recall playing would be a simple matter of repositioning my caster on their turn and said caster getting in range to heal. Just because it’s unique doesn’t make it good, and frankly, it feels like a really cheap way to add difficulty.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is at its heart an utterly generic RPG that is old-school in mostly bad ways and doesn’t offer anything compelling to make itself stand out on a platform filled with really good examples of the genre.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.