Battle Brothers Is Like A Medieval Jagged Alliance

Battle Brothers is what we call Adam and John when they get into the crawl space together and start causing a ruckus. But it’s also the name of a turn-based strategy game which takes its cues from Jagged Alliance and XCOM. You lead a squad of mercenaries around a procedurally generated worldmap, get in fights for money, and level up your squad. It’s still in development, but there’s a new trailer and a demo linked below which give some idea of its potential boardgame-y charms.

Every time I try to write ‘Battle Brothers’ I accidentally type out ‘Blood Brothers’ and I don’t know why.

From the game’s Steam Greenlight page:

The game consists of a strategical layer, or worldmap, and a tactical combat layer. On the worldmap you can choose where to travel next in order to find places worth looting, enemies worth pursuing or towns to resupply and hire men at. This is also where you manage, level up and equip your troops and chose the next target of your traveling party. Once you move close to an enemy force or potentially dangerous place you will switch to the tactical combat map where the actual fighting takes place. Both the worldmap and the combat maps are procedurally generated so no two playthroughs will ever be alike.

If this sounds like your kind of thing as much as it sounds like my kind of thing, there’s an early combat demo available for those who want to discover what the fighting might feel like. It’s obviously just a thin slice of what the trailer outlines though.

Given that it’s an indie game and thus far incomplete, does that mean that a Kickstarter campaign is just around the corner? Thank goodness, it appears not. Over at IndieDB, the team said back in March that they’re instead aiming for early access. I don’t have a problem with Kickstarter, but it’s nice when a few games don’t make it a de facto part of their development plan.

Not yet ready to commit to that demo download? The game’s TIGSource devlog has plenty of more information about features and design decisions.

57 Comments

  1. Tomo says:

    Made me think of the Heroquest game on my Amiga. Fuck that was good :(

  2. thaquoth says:

    “Blood Brothers” makes me think of that dreadful Iron Maiden song that is just “we’re blood brothers” 500 times.

    Game looks kinda intriguing. I’m always glad for more squad-level tactics things.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      That song is in their top 10 on Spotify for some reason.

      I’d be great if someone with the time to check the demo reported their findings here.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        I checked out the demo but it only lets you play through the first side of The Number of the Beast.

    • Anthile says:

      I love Brave New World but screw that song. I skip it every time these days.

  3. Vegard Pompey says:

    There are few things in life I want more than a Black Company simulator. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

  4. Quiffle says:

    Neat. Hopefully the tactical scope of this will be more than just “melee” and “shoot”. I kind of like the Unity of Command type unit aesthetics, along with being able to see how characters are equipped by just a glance.

    • ColCol says:

      To be fair. The melee weapons do feel distinct. Each weapons also usually has several unique abilities.

      • Quiffle says:

        Nevermind. I now completely redact my statement, just now having experienced the demo and having understanding the importance of a proper shield/spearwall. It wasn’t pretty. Reeeeally looking forward to the release of this.

  5. Kefren says:

    Blood Brothers. Simultaneous two-player platform game on the Spectrum. link to worldofspectrum.org

  6. cptgone says:

    I love the Unity of Command-like look.

  7. Dave Tosser says:

    Looks neat, but I’m not seeing anything remotely like Jagged Alliance 2 or X-Com aside from it being turn-based. Title conjures up Boreale’s speech in Soulstorm.

  8. Ansob says:

    But how many guns does it have?!?!?!

    If JA2 1.13 has taught me anything, that is the most important question, always and forever.

  9. Steve Catens says:

    This game is written into my DNA. This game, and double-jointed thumbs.

  10. ColCol says:

    I think some info discussed may be outdated. Recent post in a few forums talk about a kickstarter campaign. I can link if need be.

  11. slerbal says:

    I am keeping my Eye of Sauron on this one. Looks intriguing – definitely looking more Unity of Command than JA2, but that is still fine as long as the play marries up well with the style.

    • JFS says:

      It does look like Unity of Command, but it plays more like Jagged Alliance, only without stances.

      • slerbal says:

        Sounds interesting! I realised in retrospect I was being a bit overly cautious in my earlier post – I’ll definitely be tracking this one :)

  12. JFS says:

    I played the demo. For once, the promise of “Jagged Alliance and X-COM” isn’t exaggerated. The inventory system seems well thought out, with a lot of equipment with different statistics. Not too many elements to keep track off (so no 1.13 middle compartment of the left pouch of my thigh holster stuff), but enough in my opinion. There’s two different kinds of armour rating, vision range, fatigue, initiative, moral, health, two sorts of damage and a chance to hit the head. Also, action points.
    The gameplay reminds me a lot of X-COM and JA. Moving and attacking is like a mix of JA/early X-COM (how many points are left, can I still do that maneuver), but since there’s only 9 action points (at the moment) and only a few different maneuvers, it’s also reminiscent of the new XCOM, just not exactly as slickly streamlined. The infamous “bug hunt” after the last enemy is definitely there, for all us old-school X-COM fans. Moving your guys up across the map with just too few action points also features, with compliments from JA.

    Where the short combat demo really shines is in atmosphere. Combat is gritty and serious, and it makes you gnash your teeth, triumph and has you on the edge of your seat all the time. Also, it’s creepy. Like old X-COM. It really is. I was in a forest, there were enemies shuffling, I couldn’t see them. One showed itself, but when I circled to get it the main thrust came from the other side. One enemy, two enemies, I kill one, the next appears, fog starts to roll in, enemies move in and out of sight, my frontliner is slowly getting exhausted, my archers can’t get proper LOS on the accroaching enemies, it really feels like battle. I died a little when one of the enemies got back up (you remember Chryssalids… yeah). Then a zombie slew my swordsman. I looked for a “retreat” button. In the end, I pulled through and won, but the game is difficult. I lost a man and had another seriously wounded by the last remaining enemy after having his shield broken and no way to reliably defend himself. There’s also lots of X-COM styled I-can’t-believe-this-missed swings ;)

    The great look is just a bonus. Also, your guys look very distinct, have names and their avatars are basically paperdolls. Who doesn’t love paperdolls!

    All in all, if they get the strategy part right, have enough variation regarding enemies, terrain, special attacks and maps, and don’t overdo the diffculty, this might turn out to be a real gem. Your little soldiermen even have a page called “History” (the others being Statistics, Skills and of course their inventory), and if they manage to implement that well, they might really hit it out of the ballpark. I don’t know if they plan on dialogue, interaction and choose-your-own-adventure stuff on the strategic level, but I sure hope so.

    • khomotso says:

      I want to believe, but am having a real hard time seeing past the bobblehead-doll look of the combat. Part of me feels bad about getting hung up on appearances, but part of me is also prepared to acknowledge that character models and animation can make a big difference in the feel of the game, and even whether I become attached to my team as people.

      Medieval JA2 without character models and animation.

      • JFS says:

        I would concede that it does actually feel somewhat like a boardgame or tabletop miniatures. To me, that’s not a problem, but I can see how it doesn’t appeal to everybody. I guess the main issue is the small size of the developers and their limited budget. Animation takes a lot of work. They really do have a lot of variability in paperdolls, though. I feel that mitigates it a little.

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          Phasma Felis says:

          Yeah, I’m really not into the bobblehead look. I don’t mind the tabletop-esque bases, and I don’t even want animation; I just want to see the whole figure standing there, like you would on the tabletop.

          Oh well, I may give it a try anyway.

          • Reapy says:

            Man, my thoughts exactly. I want to be into this game, gameplay wise and even theme wise it seems like it is spot on for me, just, the damn bobble head look of the guys really wrecks it. I even like the style of pixel art they have chosen too, just man, bobbleheads.

            There is enough positive there though to keep an eye on it. Can’t help but think it might be better on my phone than pc though. Sigh, bobbleheads.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Same, I should be verrrrrrrrrrrry interested in this but the look of the combat just turns me off it completely. Looks like chess pieces from a really tasteless chess set jiggling slightly next to one another, not grim fantasy dark ages combat.

  13. TheMightyEthan says:

    I like how in battles it looks like everyone is buried in the ground up to their chests.

  14. RedViv says:

    Still weirded out by the ‘MORE SKELETONS AND WEREWOLVES, but no “””””females”””””‘ stance. And the demo plays so nice…

    • JFS says:

      I guess they just don’t want to change the name to “Battle Siblings” at this point.

      • RedViv says:

        Just shortening it to Bros. seems to be enough for FEMALES to participate, going by a short look around games.
        Gotta love a game like Dungeonmans too. Everyone can be a Dungeonmans! Be they mans, womans, humans, not humans!

        • JFS says:

          You’re right, womens are also mens in a way. Battlemens? Sounds like someone lost a letter on their crennelation.

        • Niko says:

          FLOWERS for DUNGEONWOMENS, AXES and SWORDS for DUNGEONMENS!

          • Shadowcat says:

            Dungeonmen are from dungeons, dungeonwomen are from other, different dungeons.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Yes, but skeletons and werewolves have been proven to exist.

      • RedViv says:

        Ack, the blinding light of truthiness! Curse your logomantic ways!

    • TWChristine says:

      Cue person coming in to say: “Well in the medieval era there were no female warriors!” And when you prove them wrong, they will say: “Yea, but that was just a few one off cases, so not enough to justify adding them!” And when you say that there’s been more females in history picking up weapons than just Joan of Arc, and it doesn’t matter anyway because this is a fantasy setting and can be whatever you want, they will say: “I want my fantasy to really mean fantasy and not have real world politics thrown in!”

      • RedViv says:

        The (good) point a dev made about them working on a low budget and wanting to work more on play-relevant things is interrupted with a “since early medieval battles were predominantly fought by men” smashed between them, so consider that partially done.

        • JFS says:

          They score a point by using “predominantly”, don’t they?

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          Phasma Felis says:

          Hrm. I’m kind of okay with women not appearing in the generic rank-and-file cannon fodder of a medieval-ish game, especially if they’re trying to have a single iconic figure…head…whatever for each character type. I haven’t played it yet, so I don’t know if there’s much in the way of unique characters; that’s where I’d want to find some women.

      • Niko says:

        Who cares about real history anyway, it’s not like this is a Totes Accurate Historical Simulator or something.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Female mercs were something of a staple of JA (also well developed character personalities), they can’t really try to associate their game with JA without having that.

    • Quiffle says:

      The women are clearly busy at home knitting those cute little padded coifs that the Battlebros are wearing and staining with their own blood and cerebral fluids.

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      What are you on about? The one on the right is clearly a woman. She uncannily resembles my mother.

      • RedViv says:

        I am not glad to do this, but it needs to be done: JCC, I think your mother might be a tree, and she might be dead.

    • JFS says:

      On a serious sidenote, is there peer-reviewed science about female warriors in the Middle Ages? The Wikipedia article notes about 20 women per century involved in fighting (at least documented cases), of which many either fought while defending their hometown/castle or accompanied their husbands into battle. Very few female mercenary captains.

      If that article is an accurate depiction, there could be women fighting in the game, but probably only one or two per game. I have nothing against that, but I really don’t see it’s feasible to implement when you’re a four-piece studio.

      Edit: All based on the assumption they’re modelling their “low fantasy world” after our real Middle Ages, which at least the equipment seems to indicate. Yeah, they got werewolves and undead, but there are in fact documented cases of those in the Middle Ages as well ;)

      • Niko says:

        Banner Saga has a lot of female warriors (and characters), and it’s pretty great.

      • Razumen says:

        Something in me says that correlating the frequency of documented women fighters in the Middle Ages to the actual number that existed is a bit flawed, if only because I doubt documenting such things were really high on their priority list at the time.

  15. Quiffle says:

    I’m surprised to see that no one has mentioned Battle for Wesnoth yet.

  16. Shieldmaiden says:

    I’ve just played up to the “Defend the Hill” mission and I’m really liking it so far. I really appreciate abstract mechanics being able to convey real life feelings of tension and fatigue, which this does extraordinarily well. I’ve got plenty of experience of melee combat (of blunt steel re-enactment and rubber boffy LARP flavours) and this feels right to me. The interplay of spears and shields and axes makes sense.

    Unfortunately, I think it’s despite the art style. I really like the presentation, but I’d much prefer properly animated little people. I want a little simulated Ironclad happening when I play. With zombies.

    Also, battlewimmenz please.

  17. OpT1mUs says:

    No game has ever come close to the perfection that is JA2

  18. drewski says:

    brb starting a new game of JA2