In Braveland, you take on the role of a young villager. Your town was pillaged and destroyed by a band of thieves and mercenaries. Taking up arms, you venture into the world, in search of followers, weapons, and vengeance. The journey will take you across lushes plains, barren deserts, and the cold, unforgiving realm of the Empire.
Braveland is a Real Time Strategy game. You begin on a small map, where roads, cut through the world, lead you to your destination. At specific junctions, there will be a circular sphere and the icon of a small, chibi person, where events and story progress unfold. During these moments, you will meet allies that will aide you in battle, enemies that usually want to steal something from you, or blood thirsty boss battles.
The H.U.D. has two different variants. The first is the over world H.U.D. which appears during the map and travel segments. There's a picture of the main character, next to star and a green bar that denotes your level, and how much money you have underneath it, with a gold coin. If you click on the main character's image, it opens up the inventory screen, where you can equip gear, and sort your army.
During combat, a different H.U.D. appears. A question mark in the top left gives character hints, and in the top right is a run away icon, to flee battles, and a gear that lets you save. On the bottom of the screen is where the battle icons show up. The first is your character's special skill, next to an hour glass that (I think) skips a turn, and a shield for defense. On the bottom right is the Fury gauge.
So, as you traverse the map, if you meet a friendly NPC, they usually end up selling you items, or joining your team. You begin your quest with a Peasant, which attacks with a pitchfork. You eventually meet an Archer, which deals long rang attacks with arrows, a Healer, a Pathfinder, which acts as a swift assassin, a Soldier, a Footman, an Arbelester, and a Knight. You can only have five of the seven in your party, at a time.
Battles take place on a rectangle shaped grid, made up of irregular hexagons. Your forces always begin on the left side, while the enemies occupy the right side of the grid. Battles occur in turn based fashion, just like chess. First, one character moves. Each soldier has a set limit to where they can move on the board, with tiles darker the closer they are to the character, and gradually getting lighter. If a character moves to the furthest, lightest tile in their movement area, they will automatically end their turn once they get there.
If there is an enemy in the vicinity, a red circle will appear beneath them, meaning that they are within striking range. Soldiers have two attacks at their disposal. A normal attack, which can be done by clicking on the enemy, or a special attack, that can be performed by clicking the special icon on the bottom left of the screen. There are also a few more devastating, or helpful attacks, that can be used once the Fury gauge reaches a certain level.
The Fury gauge goes up in number every time a member of your team receives damage. There are several different attacks that the Fury gauge allows, from a single burning arrow that hits a single enemy, or raising your attack, defense, or speed for one turn, and raining down flaming meteors that hit three random targets.
Character and enemy numbers are unique in this game. Each character is an army unto themselves. You may have 23 Peasants, but only one character shows up on the field of battle. Each has a number beneath them, which tells how many of that specific soldier you have. But it acts more like a health bar. When that character is attacked, they can regenerate health as many times as they have soldiers. Once the number runs out and hits zero, they fall over dead.
The art style is really nice! I really dig it. From the characters, to the world, everything is colorful, vibrant, has a lot or nice shading, and intricate gradients. It looks like it's done in flash, with NPCs, enemies, and allies animating pretty smoothly. Most of the animation is relegated to the battles. It's quirky, and fun to watch the wolves, golems, mages, and all the other little people walking up to each other for a strike.
The gameplay is easy to follow, and simple to pick up. It's not overly complicated, and allows anyone to jump right in and learn all the basics of play. Combat has enough to offer in terms of attacks, specials, and strategy, while the over world map allows you a bit of freedom during exploration. You can decide to take branching paths to find new weapons, characters, and armor. Or, you can forge ahead, and attempt to rid the oncoming horde at you leisure.
I'm not sure how I feel about the “army of one” mechanic used in Braveland. As I said, you have seven soldier types at your disposal: Healer, Archer, Peasant, Footman, Arbelester, Pathfinder, and Knight. Only one character shows up, with the rest of the army of that specific character acting as a health bar, which is pretty nifty. But I would have liked if I could set that amount of soldiers on the field! Like, if I have five knights, I want to brutalize the field with five knights. Not just one.
The game unfolds with a very slow, linear pace. Even when you near the end, there is never a sense of real danger or urgency. Enemy encounters have playful dialogue, and even encounters with bosses never turn into anything frantic. Which isn't really a bad thing, since what the game does, it does right, and is pretty solid, without any unnecessary fluff.
I also never really found myself using too much strategy. Well, not really. I would usually move in, gang up on the most dangerous enemy, and slowly work my way to the archers or mages. Then again, that's a strategy in itself, huh? Maybe not the best, though. Anyways, it would have been nice if certain enemy types were stronger against specific types, and weaker against others. Or if there was a strict magical order, where fire was stronger than ice, and the like.
Despite having 50 battles, a lot of items to buy, and people to recruit, the game is very short. If you decide to sit and blaze through the entire campaign from beginning it end, it would take you less than an afternoon. If you were really hardcore, that is. Problem is, because of how linear and slow the game is, I could never sit through more than a few battles and segments of the game before I needed to set it aside and do something else.
Braveland is just nice, simple fun. It isn't overwhelming, and the overall presentation, from the beautiful art, the simple gameplay, to the adventure, and light story itself, makes for an interesting game. It never gets too serious, and will give you a few hours of RTS action. Braveland also never becomes epic, or deals out any real urgency. It's lighthearted through and through, and a nice game that will keep you entertained in small, casual play sessions.
Review copy courtesy of Tortuga Team.