Revising World War II weapons in VR has never felt better in this rouge-like shoot-em-up. Reminiscent of successful VR titles such as In Death, players will have the opportunity to fight a variety of challenging enemies in procedurally generated locations. The game plays to VR’s established strengths, and offers a new and aesthetically pleasing journey. However, players may take issue with the Spartan sense of punishment when they encounter deaths. Light Brigade excels in game feel, atmosphere, and gameplay.
Light Brigade is available on Steam, PSVR2 and Meta Quest Stores for $24.99. Also, check out more of our VR reviews.
Story – Hinting at Something Greater
Light Brigade shines its world building and immersion, as well as in the uniqueness of its setting. The world thrusts players into a fantasy setting that defies conventional magic and sword worlds. Players grapple with a hybrid of World War II aesthetics (Weapons, Enemies) with magic spells, prayers, and charms to augment gear and themselves. Players are part of “The Light Brigade”, a rag-tag team of human individuals in a hub world (similar to Dark Souls) who venture out into procedurally generated, deviously difficult, locales.
Light Brigade takes pride in the ‘show don’t tell’ form of storytelling. Most of the text you’ll read will be in short dialogue from the souls in the hub world and in the dungeon, as well as quotes and bits of history in loading screens. These snippets of context hint at a deep history to this alternate timeline, and add to the charm of the game.
Gameplay – Excellent and Punishing
Light Brigade makes use of its fantastical setting by having several paths to upgrading weapons and characters, as well as suiting different play styles. There are several classes you’ll unlock along the way, determining your loadout as you explore the dungeons.
The rifleman is the first class you’ll start out with, and you’ll be given a Ghewer to fight your foes. Reloading this bolt action rifle feels satisfying in VR. The Rifleman doesn’t have immediate access to a pistol or a wand, but you can unlock this by visiting a blacksmith character. The unlocks for classes are gated behind ‘stars’, gained by collecting souls – Dark Souls style in the main game. There are three tiers of unlocks for each weapon, indicating a boost to damage/ammo capacity. You can also find other miscellaneous boosts such as gold dropped along your journey.
After rescuing certain characters and getting a certain amount of stars for each class, players will unlock new classes with different main hand weapons, such as a scout (with a small machine gun) as well as a pistoleer. Classes have different enough playstyles to make it worth unlocking for a new experience.
Players need to unlock a sidearm for the particular class they are. Reloading the main weapon in the heat of battle may spell a quick death for the player. EXP for stars gets harder to level up as you progress, so players should focus on leveling out a weapon that they particularly enjoy using over an even distribution.
One of the highlights of this rogue-like title are unlocking crystals and charms to attach to your weapon, reminiscent of the show Tanya The Evil. You’ll feel like a world war two battle mage as you unlock a series of effects for your guns and wands. Effects vary, and include a boost to magic damage, to a poison silencer attachment to whittle down your enemies hit points. You will also unlock tarot cards that give you smaller boosts along the way.
Players can unlock these through both finding them rarely in the level, using starter gold to purchase them before a run, or You’ll need all the help you can get, as the enemies in Light Brigade are ruthless and death can feel overly punishing. You’ll be sent back to the hub world and have to grind through all the different areas again, without checkpoints on death.
Loot Mechanics and Death
Players will find plenty of gold and occasionally upgrades to health in chests. These chests are small urns that are scattered throughout the various levels, and in spite of the procedural generation, are usually hard to spot. This encourages careful gameplay and being observant of surroundings. If players speed through the early levels too fast, they will run into issues against the later enemies that demand several upgrades to weapons and gear. Health upgraded and Gold do not stick across runs, sometimes causing a feel of being ‘forced to loot’ too often. On the flip side, this encourages players to kill as many enemies as possible in order to collect their souls, which do stick after runs. These souls transfer to stars that permanently upgrade classes.
There are several elements of death mechanics in play as the player progresses through the game. Players will have two lives to lose as they traverse the levels, with a catch: Players will lose all the souls they gathered if they are not able to make it back to their body in time, very reminiscent of Dark Souls. With the ruthless and fast reacting opponents, places where the player has failed will force the player to be more observant and approach the situation in a more cautious manner. As a mechanic, this is excellent as it improves the skill level of the player.
Bosses Are Hard
Bosses will show up at the end of each area, really challenging the player in new ways. They will use a combination of magic and guns to fend you off. Players will need to be quick witted, and figure out the mechanics of the boss fight quickly in order to avoid losing all of their progress. In addition to their hard hitting abilities, players will find that the bosses are tanky — they have multiple HP bars, forcing players to use the environment for cover well. Players will have to rely on skill instead of luck to get through these fights.
Graphics and Sound – A Highlight
Although The Light Brigade is optimized for mobile platforms, it looks great on both standalone and PC, thanks to the art style that takes advantage of a cell shaded look. Each of the areas have fantastic atmosphere direction, and there is a sense of unity in the design. Enemies are intimidating husks of humans, guns sound phenomenal, and the time appropriate music score hits the right emotional beats. If a player really takes their time from the frantic gameplay, they will be able to spot the polygonal nature of the world.
Players will feel that they really are in a blizzard in the early levels, or in a damp, dark sewer as rats scurry past their feet. They’ll shoot their way through a necropolis, a graveyard, an church abandoned to the elements, and more. The areas feel distinctly different, and often possess different mechanics that add to the challenge of the area.
Weapons Feel Good
Funktronic Labs modelled the various guns of Light Brigade well. Bullet casings fly out of guns when they shoot, and satisfying *clicks* and *pings* occur, as you expect with WWII weapons. Charms and Crystals that you attach to your weapon react properly to physics, and add greatly to the aesthetic of the game. The ‘pray’ to complete actions in the game is simple, but adds to the immersion of the title. The developers nailed the feeling of going on a crusade against demonic warped enemies.
On the downside, the game could benefit from more voice acting. The text in dialogue throughout the game is read-only. Additionally, allies spawn sometimes on your journey, and it’s difficult to identify if they are on your side or not, causing some cases of friendly fire. I personally found that I often aggro’d allies before I realized they were on my side, causing a difficult additional opponent to appear. Regardless of these shortcomings, the game is still beautiful.
Light Brigade was reviewed on Oculus Quest.