As a fan of all things strategic, tactical and turn-based, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, the Nintendo Switch exclusive Tactical RPG which is a direct follow up to Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, a 1998 PS1 game. I’ve spent many hours working my way through this incredibly detailed and complex title, ensuring that I got my head around the various mechanics and took in everything it was trying to teach me. Despite having a few issues at the beginning, due to how deep this game can get, I feel I knew what I was doing after a few hours of trial and error!
Developed by Matrix Software and published by both Happinet and Limited Run Games (physical), Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia turned out to be a lot more complicated than I first thought it would be. As such, I’ve gone into quite a lot of detail with my review, taking a deeper look at the various mechanics and breaking down how it works. Hopefully, by hearing my experience and mistakes I made, you will have a deeper understanding should you wish to pick up the title as well.
So, let’s take a deeper look at this beautiful and addictive Tactical RPG…
Long ago, the land of Runersia was blessed with a limitless supply of mana being showered upon it. Mana, a power with mysterious traits, was bequeathed by the Rune God. Mankind with their greedy nature continued to collect this mana and with it came their ability to control it. This allowed mankind to gather profound knowledge on the once mysterious mana, granting them abilities to wield swords far beyond their skill accompanied by magics equal to that as well.
With their ever-growing knowledge and skills, came the ability to call forth ancient monsters that would obey their every command. The warriors that were to command these monsters, wield these swords, and call upon the magic at their will were given the name of Rune Knights. Power as great as this though comes at a price, it seems as though the Mana itself had driven the Rune Knights mad in their quest for greatness. They would use their powers to amass armies and wage wars with other Rune Knights just to seek further powers. The Rune Knights with the most powers were the ones that harnessed Brigandines; Armor pieces or accessories that came embedded with one of five mana stones, gifted by the Rune God itself, granting the wearer powers far superior to standard Rune Knights.
This story, these wars, this history, were all recorded in a book; The Legend of Runersia. As time went on, the book continued to have records faithfully stored within it of the knowledge gained. There was a legend though of a true Rune Knight that’d unite this land again, but unfortunately, the wars that continued to be waged had destroyed this fabled book. It is your job to harness one of the five Brigandines: Justice, Sanctity, Freedom, Glory, or Ego, to lead a path to total conquest. In this conquest, it is hoped you shall find the pages once lost and return them to find the truth of what had transpired in Runersia.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia (hereby referred to as Brigandine) starts off in Runersia, Year 781, with the ability to pick between which Brigandine to represent.
• Rubino the IV of the Norzaleo Kingdom, the Justice Brigandine, is a kindhearted male character.
• Eliza Uzala of the Republic of Guimoule, the Glory Brigandine, is the daughter of the president of Guimole.
• Talia of the Shinobi Tribe, the Freedom Brigandine, is the daughter of Chief Mother Della.
• Tim Gustav of the Holy Gustava Empire is Brigandine-less, yet still a powerful Emperor.
• Rudo Marco of the Mana Saleesia Theocracy, the Sanctity Brigandine, is a son of a Holy Sovereign.
• Stella Hamett of the United Islands of Mirelva, the Ego Brigandine, is a descendant of a legendary pirate.
Brigandine has two sides to it, on one side you’ll command your armies to move through your cities whilst defending them or invading neighbouring cities in hopes of conquering them. You’ll do this by managing your armies’ size, classes, equipment, skills and spells, quests, and much more. The other side, which is the crux of the game, is the vast and in-depth combat you’ll experience when invading.
Essentially, it’s a turn-based Tactical RPG, where you’ll utilise dozens of mechanics to overcome your enemy, driving them away or defeating their army in hopes of securing their city and later, their nation.
Starting off in Brigandine can be overwhelming due to the amount of information presented to you, even after the tutorial it’s still quite overwhelming. You’ll get a choice between The Legend of Runersia, which is the main game, Alternate Chapter, which is the post-game content, and the Training, which is the very much needed tutorial. The tutorial will cover: Introduction, controls & movement, organise & invade, battle basics, combat strategies, quest rewards, and tips for class changes. All of these have multiple steps and sub-sections to them as well – did I mention how in-depth and overwhelming this can be yet? Once you master of all these, you’ll employ them through the main campaign and aim to unite the nation through total conquest.
Brigandine is a very big beast to tame, I had to restart the game a few times, even whilst in the first fight, as I still was getting my bearings.
Your first task is to read the synopsis of the nation you like and pick them; I went with the Holy Gustava Empire for my flagship nation. If you can’t decide, don’t worry, that’s half the joy of Brigandine as to fully understand the story, and the entirety of Brigandine, you’ll have to play through all the nations as they each have their own history and story to tell. Bear witness to them all and you shall be rewarded! Though, contrary to the grandiose story the game sets up, the follow-through can be a bit dry. The stories that’ll unfold through the nations are simply motives for the said nation, lore, or bits of story that aren’t too finely detailed.
It can be daunting to pick a nation though as they all come with different bases, mana reserves, total knights, and total monsters, but that doesn’t affect much as you can change the tides of war fairly easy with some well thought out plans. The difficulty of play is dependant on the skill level you choose as Brigandine uses AI intelligence and a timeframe to determine its difficulty.
Once you finally begin Brigandine, you’ll have the choice of utilising helpful guides or not, to which I recommend doing so until you get a feel for the game as it’s quite complex at first. The game’s most basic concept is the phases you’ll play; each “season” consists of an organisation phase and an attack phase. Organisation is where you manage your army and cities, with Attack being as you’d expect, possible invasions and ensuing battles. You’ll always know which phase you’re in by the emblem in the corner, horse for organisation and sword for the attack. Organisation also lets you check on enemy cities with a summary window when panned over; displaying mana, knights, monsters, and CP (Combat Power). Despite a bit of loading time between phases, there’s always something going on.
As for your cities during the organisation phase, it’s a lot more complicated. You’ll get to summon monster units which aid in your CP as they’re assigned to knights, be wary though as each knight has a Magic Pool limiting their summons. All monsters come with a labelled Magic Cost, so you can plan things out with ease. The summoning menu also has turn-end summaries and income, so you’ll never be surprised with a shortage of your funding anywhere. The more expensive ones aren’t always the more powerful for situations, I learned that when half my team was Golems and I was slower than molasses.
In Brigandine everything is done through movement of your troops, invading, defending, events, etc. Only stationed troops can be moved, and they must not be preoccupied to do so. It’s easy to succumb to setting up training regimes for your weaker units only to folly and realise that you’ve diminished your turns current CP output for that city, leaving it a sitting duck. Moving comes with its own limitations but it’s all reasonably justifiable. Knights on quests can’t expedite, knights who just had a journey can’t participate in a battle, etc. Brigandine surprised me with how vital moving and character placement is in this regard.
With having connections to a multitude of cities of many factions, you’re open to invasion from all angles. Unfortunately, you only have a small knight accumulation at the very beginning and have to choose; equal defence and possibly keep them all, abandon the weakest city and come back for it, do you march large armies of smaller levels or lesser armies of high levels, etc. Something as small as movement plays a grave decision, as does everything in Brigandine.
When I first started my campaign, I had level 1s, 3s, 7s, 11s, 23s, etc. Brigandine does not start you off from the beginning with everything at level 1, you’ll have experienced knights, new knights, apprentice knights, an actual array of an army which adds to the experience and strategy it wishes to employ. What was originally a turn-off in gameplay turned out very reasonable! Low levels let you choose customisation and paths for characters how you see fit, whereas higher levels already have pre-determined earlier choices. Gaining level ups can be done with ease through battle experience, but in the Base Menu, you also have the opportunity to send them to training missions which have no dangers besides occupying that knight for the season.
Whereas training missions reward knights with experience, you can alternatively send them out on actual quests. Quests are how you’ll receive equipment, knights, and/or monsters, so you’ll need to balance the outweighing of a loss of knight for a season vs the potential rewards. Be forewarned though, you can receive duplicates and/or class-specific armours which essentially destroys the potential reward if its something you have no need for or can’t use.
Questing in Brigandine is an essential process though as you’ll have low-level knights that need experience, need new knights, new monsters, and new equipment. I’ve already talked about training quests, so we’ll focus now on exploration quests. Exploration quests are what gives you rewards of new stuff, the success of these missions is dependent on the knight you sent. In the quests menu, you’ll have a summary of every mission before send-off, so you know what to likely expect; quest name, reward types, and outlook. The reward types occasionally have a flashing Rune Knight icon which will indicate if there’s a potential of earning a new knight – which I greatly appreciated as there’s enough RNG involved already without guessing if you’d get a knight reward or not.
RNG is not as relied on as one would think though as every quest has an outlook, the degree of how successful the mission will be, which changes with the knight’s level or class. This greatly plays into the strategy of conquering Runersia, do you take the chance of taking over the neighbouring city even though your Paladin is earning a new knight? Do you send a lesser successful class because you’ll need the healer with the encroaching enemy? Like everything else, Brigandine is all about strategy and the choices you’ll make.
Once you finish your organisation phase, it’s time to bring the heat to the enemy via Brigandine’s combat! On paper, it’s a simplistic idea; be the remaining force on the field to take over control of the invaded region or to defend your nation. You’ll have two options on how to approach this, by either defeating the knights or the ruler. The knights are common enemies and their defeat results in the withdrawal of their troops, whereas the defeat of a ruler will result in the withdrawal of all enemy forces.
Battles take a good amount of time to complete, each separate invasion can last upwards of a half an hour or more! Every knight, as stated previously, has a gaggle of monsters under their control, and you’ll see their ‘influence’ circle in blue; if they move outside of this influence then they’ll become drastically weaker, though it’s a rather large circle. Inside this circle will be different varying terrains that’ll affect different units based on the units preferred terrain type; Plains, Forest, Mountain, Swamp Water, or Sky. The modifier affects the mobility, accuracy, and evasion stats for a unit, which I found myself prioritising as you’ll often have wide differences of levels and stats in battles. It’s not uncommon for a level 4 to be fighting a level 15 in that regard.
You wouldn’t think it’s easy to get an enemy to stay on a disadvantaged tile for long, but that’s where Brigandine pulls its limitless strategies card! Each unit has a Zone of Control (ZoC), which is the surrounding 6 hexagons of a unit, and when two units of the same side’s ZoC connect it creates an impassable area allowing you to manipulate the enemies path. If you manage to connect the ZoC’s on-top of an enemy though, your influence over them will prevent them from moving! So, as you can see, it’s just a continual chain of strategies that have more depth than in any strategy game I’ve seen in a long time. The one strategy that I was probably most impressed with though was friendly fire; a good majority of spells and skills that have AoE has friendly fire, forcing you to strategise even further – as does the A.I.
You’ll easily get a hang of combat after a few invasions, the only thing to gripe about is that there isn’t a large rotation of environments to battle in, so get used to seeing the same drab scenery.
Brigandines actual combat execution is nothing short of as deep as the prior paragraphs either. You’ll move your units and maybe even employ that ZoC technique as well, though it might be worthy to weigh the option to not move. Attacking in Brigandine is done through Skills and Spells, some of which can’t be used after moving, so studying your units and spells is yet another thing you need to be mindful of! Through these spells and skills, you’ll have more than 26 varying stat changes and conditions that heavily affect the outcome of the battle. Studying the spells is heavily important as you’ll need to know the range, power, elements, mp costs, accuracy etc.
I failed to utilise this at first as I felt overly confident from the tutorial, only to find I constantly missed all my attacks and got absolutely destroyed within the first invasion – it took me a couple of retries until I understood the severity of summaries within this game. The amount of displayed information might not be fully understood at first, but that’s alright because before accepting the command, you’ll see a summary of what it will do or not do to the enemy. You can always cancel the attack, the previous movement you made, and any adjustments you’ve done, nothing is final until you execute a command.
This allows you to check a unit’s every possible output and get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses to really understand what each unit is capable of.
Knights and monsters in Brigandine, through levelling up, are capable of changing classes. Knights, dependent on gender, have a wide array of classes to choose from and they can be any class if they have the right stats. Every time you gain a level up, you’ll gain proficiency in that class up to a maximum of 5 ranks. Attaining this 5th rank is important because it lets you carry over most of the skills and spells you learned from the previous class. The small print in this class changing contract is that you can’t revert to earlier classes – so if you didn’t carry over skills and spells, or you fancied the prior class more… too bad.
You might think that you’ll always master proficiency before moving forward, but sometimes you’ll have to sell short to succeed in the coming invasion as you might not have the needed class for the battle. As much as I do like this impeding strategy, it felt punishing in some regards. A lot of classes have branching paths into specialities, but you’ll be forced to choose only one as you can’t go back to earlier classes, so you’re left unable to try the other branch. Class changes are fun though, not only for the gratifying stat boost and addition of new spells and skills, but you’ll have sprite changes as well to fit the aesthetics if it’s a knight.
It makes sense that monsters can’t shapeshift into another design, but they could’ve changed more than a simple palette swap – which is what we get here. Monsters don’t have varying class roles, so it’s just an improved version of that monster.
The replayability through Brigandine was a heavily appreciated factor as you’ll need to play through all six campaigns and the bonus story to see all of the content, but you’ll most likely play more if you want to collect everything! I love the art and detail given to the monsters, how each one is individually crafted and has their own animations, and life breathed into them, but the downside is there’s only 58 of them. Knights come in at a little over twice the amount, with 119 to collect – I wished it was the reverse – I prefered the use and employment of my monsters more than the knights themselves. Amongst the 400+ records of the story and 125+ gallery items to collect, you’re nothing short of dozens and dozens of hours of gameplay to sink into Brigandine.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia breathes life into a genre that still struggles to be noticed. The revitalisation of this genre is by bringing the tried and true perfected tactical RPG magic from the ’90s into a new and shapely 2020 title. With its replayability, huge depths of strategy, and vast mechanics, Brigandine is not a Switch title you want to pass up.
If you’re still not sure if this complex title is for you, there’s a free demo on the Nintendo eShop which you can download today and try it out before you buy!
BRIGANDINE: The Legend of Runersia£44.99
- - Vast amounts of strategy involved
- - The sprites and artwork
- - Depths of the mechanics and gameplay
- - Large and satisfying combat
- - A massive roster
- - Unable to return to previous classes
- - Besides the plot, the story isn’t as involving
- - Battlefield environments are quite similar
- - Phase transitions can be a bit sluggish