Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is a turn-based strategy game that is similar to XCOM 2, with players commanding the armies of one of six nations for complete domination of the Runersia continent. Tactical base management and turn-based strategy come together to make you feel like you are waging a war, managing your soldiers and deciding the fate of the continent.
While there are missed opportunities when it comes to storytelling and the gameplay isn’t supportive of ambitious strategies, Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia has a strong foundation and improvements over the Switch version that will please fans of the strategy genre.
Story – One Nation To Rule Them All
The story of Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia starts with one of six nations in the continent of Runersia. It is a fantasy setting, with each nation having different circumstances and backgrounds. Five of these nations have a gem known as a Brigandine, which grants great power to those who wield it, and have been vital to a nation’s prosperity.
At the beginning of the game, a series of events that occur throughout the continent ignite the flames of war, prompting each nation to declare independence and battle each other to become the dominant force in Runersia. You will take control of one of the nation’s leaders, who will become the focus of the nation’s story.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia does a good job of developing the background and motivations behind each leader’s actions, as well as introducing their lieutenants who provide more background details about each nation.
These are not static characters that you control, with each character having a distinct personality that drives their actions and conversations. This is also true of soldiers that you recruit, as each one has their own background, personality and motivation.
Unfortunately, there are no grand stories in the game. Once each leader rallies their nation to war, it becomes a typical winner-take-all conquest story, with few story developments or major twists to shake up the narrative. It feels like a missed opportunity, because each nation has a unique story behind them, characters have unique interactions with warriors from other nations, and general world-building scenes are present throughout the campaign.
The foundation to tell a story unique to each nation is there, in a manner similar to games such as Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but that foundation isn’t capitalized on. The story instead goes in a different direction which all leaders will experience when they achieve world conquest, which is hinted at in the story, but doesn’t seem to have a clear alignment with any leader’s goals.
The trappings of a good story are present in Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, but it plays it safe and sticks to the bare minimum. Fortunately, the gameplay is where the game truly shines, putting you at the forefront of managing a war campaign.
Gameplay – Turn-Based Combat With Empire Management
Gameplay in Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia takes place over two phases: the Organization and Attack Phase. Understanding both phases is crucial to succeeding in the game, since you can easily put yourself in a bad position if you don’t understand how each phase works.
Organization Phase – Planning Your Next Steps
The Organization Phase is where you manage your nation’s bases, organize your armies, equip your units and manage your quests. You are looking at the map to check what territory you currently hold, as well as the enemy bases you are planning to invade.
Every nation starts with their leader and a team of Rune Knights (the in-game name for an army commander). Each Rune Knight will come with a few monsters, inspired by mythological beings in other fantasy settings (ie. Golems, Gremlins, Unicorns). All Rune Knights have their own abilities, and have monsters to supplement their capabilities or make up for their weaknesses.
The combination of a Rune Knight and their monsters will form an army that you can take into battle, and you want to find the optimal combination of monsters to bring out your Rune Knight’s potential while also staying within the limits of a Rune Knight’s monster capacity.
You also have to make sure that you are aware of other nations and their potential movements. Everyone is trying to compete for dominance over Runersia, and armies will come together to invade your territory regardless of how prepared you are.
But it isn’t just bases that everyone is competing for. There are many unaffiliated Rune Knights who need to be recruited on quests. However, recruiting them isn’t guaranteed, as other nations may recruit them before you do.
These quests are also essential for finding new equipment to strengthen your monsters and Rune Knights, or spending time training weaker Rune Knights to make their army suitable for battle.
Making sure that you are aware of enemy movements while plotting your next move is crucial to succeeding, and it forces you to make strategic moves, as if you were a war commander assessing the situation on the field.
But once you have figured out a plan, have allocated your army to the right locations and prepared your defenses, it is time to execute the plan in the Attack Phase.
Attack Phase – Battling The Other Nations
The Attack Phase is where you start attacking other nations’ bases, with up to 3 Rune Knights per assault. You will then clash with the other nation’s opposing forces, who will be defending against your invasion forces. This also happens when other nations attack your bases as well.
The battles will take place in different environmental settings, from rivers to mountains, and each Rune Knight/monster will have environments that they thrive in. You will also have to pay attention to the elemental alignments of the Rune Knights/monsters, as this will indicate which opponents they are suited for, and which opponents to avoid.
Combat is similar to that of XCOM: Chimera Squad. The turn order on the battlefield will be decided by the level of the Rune Knights, instead of having the turns evenly split into ally and enemy halves. You can look for terrain advantages to give yourself an edge, but eventually you must approach enemies to battle them.
During a Rune Knight’s turn, they get to direct where they go as well as their monsters. You can check an enemy’s attack range and decide whether it is worth rushing towards them or taking a cautious approach. The enemy will do the same, and planning ahead becomes essential as combat begins.
To prevent the attackers from stalling, there is a 20 turn limit (when everyone has had a go, that’s 1 turn) in battles which will give the victory to the defenders if the attackers aren’t able to win. This forces the attacking side to engage the defenders and not take their time.
If either side feels that the battle is hopeless, they can retreat to avoid losing monsters permanently and avoid getting a Rune Knight injured for one turn. This allows either side to avoid wasting resources and fight another day, in case an attack proved to be too much or a continued defense is clearly hopeless.
Seeing enemies attack you and respond to your own strategies forces you to think ahead. You might have to give up on a hopeless battle if the cost is too great, or you may have to hold off on invading an enemy base because their defenses are too difficult to overcome.
The only problem with the Attack Phase is that the turn-based format isn’t particularly suited for aggressive conquest strategies. On difficulties greater than Easy, you have a time limit for conquering Runersia and defeating the other nations. This will pave the way for players to try and conquer more than 1 base at once.
While the feeling is amazing once you have managed to invade multiple bases and carve through your enemies, it can start to take its toll on you as you have to wage multiple battles every turn without rest. This is true if other nations try to invade you as well.
Having to deal with many battles in a single turn can take its toll on a player, taking the fun out of the game. You might try to play the game similarly to XCOM where you only fight one battle per Attack Phase, but you might run out the clock because you were taking your time.
Despite not being the perfect fit for aggressive strategies, the two phases are great at putting you in the commander’s chair, making you strategize and plan your every move to avoid being caught unawares.
The PC version also has some new features to stand out from the Switch release, such as having a new Creative Mode, items that carry over to future playthroughs and Steam achievements. Even if you have played this game previously, there are still new goals to complete and new ways to expand upon the existing formula.
Audio & Visuals – Smooth 3D Visuals & Fitting Background Music
When Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia was first released on the Nintendo Switch, there were instances of choppy transitions and slow camera movement as you tried to move around the maps/battlefield. The transition to PC has largely eliminated those issues, and the smoothness is appreciated as it speeds up the game pace.
The 2D illustrations used in cutscenes and story instances are well drawn and detailed. It helps each character to stand out, and helps you differentiate the monsters that are in your party. The 3D sprites and battle animations are just as impressive, helped by the smoothness of the transitions.
The soundtrack is also one of the game’s strengths, with intense music used when something drastic has happened, or the background music that plays as you are going through the phases. The music fits the tone of the moments, and it brings on the right mindset when enjoying the story or engaging an enemy in combat.
The only downside is that Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia has no English voice acting; there is only Japanese voice acting in the video game. While this is not a large problem as the Japanese voice acting is fantastic, it might turn away players who were hoping to hear the game’s lines in English.
This review for Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia was played on Steam with a key provided by Happinet.