The Brigandine series is one I wasn’t familiar with. This is probably due to the fact that I was ten years old when the first title released here in North America for the original PlayStation. That was twenty years ago. It never would have grabbed my attention back then, but as an adult who loves diving deep into tactical RPGs, I had to give it a shot.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is a challenging game. Let’s get that out of the way early. Anyone familiar with titles like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics has a basic idea of how gameplay works here but with a more board game-like twist. Legend of Runersia often feels like a game of Risk as players work their way around the kingdom taking over enemy territory and bases.
Players pick from one of six nations that are split up over a continent. Each nation has its own unique story. This is similar to Fire Emblem: Three Houses or even Octopath Traveler to an extent. Most of the tactical RPGs outside of the Disgaea franchise don’t exactly discourage replayability, but they often don’t give players a ton of reasons to come back, either.
Having such differing stories across the continent really feels emblematic of the world we live in today and how people often want to hear others’ stories. I don’t think I’m quite ready to jump back into Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia just yet, but it will be staying installed on my Nintendo Switch for some time.
It doesn’t just come down to the basic plot for each nation either. The driving forces behind each of these groups are different as well. So players find reasoning and passion behind a lot of the characters.
Now, that isn’t to say that the stories and narratives are always interesting – far from it, actually. Plot points often become dry and boring, but the push-and-pull while taking over territories is very rewarding and will probably drive players through those moments.
One of the more interesting things about Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is how the difficulty choices work. Selecting varying degrees of difficulty determines how long your game plays out. Moving around units and preparing for battle takes up seasons, and the difficulty you play on decides how many seasons you have to complete the game. It’s a unique way of handling difficulty. Even playing on normal, I was always questioning in the back of my mind how much time I had left.
Seasons play out in two phases: organization and attack. The organization phase lets players recruit monsters, equip different characters, send characters out on quests, and arrange their teams. Monsters are unique in each territory and can be equipped and taken into battle. As players move their units around (moving takes up a full season) and try to coordinate attacks, it becomes increasingly clear that it’s impossible for Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia to go exactly the way you want it to go.
Because it takes so long to move units around, a coordinated attack on enemy bases is usually out of the question. Since you generally do not have all your units with you, it comes down to positioning. Rune Knights – which are basically leaders for each group of characters – can only take a few monsters into battle with them.
But even with only a few characters, the visual style of Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia often means that things become confusing as to which nation controls which monsters. With the hexagonal grid-based combat here, it’s easy to lose track of which monster is which. That’s an issue.
The long slog
There’s a lot of trial and error here too, especially early on when players are still learning how systems work. I’ll admit that I closed and restarted my game a number of times early on when I was experimenting with gameplay systems. It gets frustrating because taking over enemy areas – and even the battles – proceed very slowly. If I was trying to get something done in-game before going to sleep, there were a number of times I put my Switch down and just picked it up again the next day. I wish the battles were a bit quicker, which is only exacerbated by the more mundane story moments.
I mentioned the visuals briefly when talking about losing track of monsters, so let’s jump back to that. Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is not an ugly game, but it is a bit generic at times. The character models are fine, but the hand-drawn characters in the menus and story moments are far more unique and interesting than anything I ever saw in-game. It has a beautiful art style that I would’ve liked to see splash over into gameplay a bit.
I enjoyed my time with Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia. Again, I won’t be jumping back in anytime soon. However, there is a ton of content here for players to dig into and adjust with different character types and the other nations. Hardcore tactical RPG fans will find the most enjoyment here and will probably get the most out of their playtime. This isn’t a casual game, so be aware of that going into your first playthrough while selecting difficulty.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.