Jagged Alliance With Skellingtons: Battle Brothers

Mercenaries are great. I’ve never met one in real life, mind, and don’t think I’d want to, but they’re invariably great when they pop up in games. Perhaps part of the appeal is that their apparent amorality lets us play soldiers without considering politics or aftermath – whatever the reasons may be, I’m usually glad to see a band of guns/swords-for-hire. Whether they’re a shortcut to short-term success in a strategy game or the delightful bastards of Jagged Alliance, the mercenaries of gaming are alright with me.

Now we can add Battle Brothers [official site] to the list of Good Mercenary Games. Currently in Early Access, it’s a very lovely thing indeed.

It’s entirely possible that you’ve turned your nose up at the mention of Early Access. Turn it back down again. No, that’s too much. Now it sort of looks like you’re glowering at me.

Here’s the thing – Battle Brothers is already capable of providing good times. Every new game begins with the creation of a world, made up of settlements for shopping and quest-gathering, and other places for actual questing. You’ll hire your band of brothers (sisters may be added before full release), each with their own background, traits and skills, equip them, and then take a job.

Some of those jobs are escort missions. You’ll click on the target location and watch as your squad trundle across the map, hoping that they don’t encounter anything unpleasant. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll hope that they do encounter something unpleasant so that you can play around with the excellent turn-based tactical combat. It’s simple enough, with ranged weapons, melee skills, elevation and flanking advantages – everything you’d expect – but it’s all pitched just right. Maps are small, encouraging swift resolution and focus on the fine details, and the graphics are crisp and clean.

At first, you’ll be fighting bandits and the like, but darker forces soon come into the picture. We’re talking skellingtons and other unpleasantries. There’s no overarching story at the moment, although one will be added later, but there’s a decent sense of progression even though the current version (updates/fixes have been almost daily since the launch last week) doesn’t have a great deal of content.

The stuff that’s already there is great, though. Each class of weapon has a unique attack rather than simply changing stats and combat is brutally tense, as a perfect blow can kill even the mightiest mercenary. You’ll spend a lot of time replacing fallen brothers, as well as gear that deteriorates over time, and even though you’ll see the same text cropping up again and again, the backgrounds and traits of your soldiers are just detailed enough to hang stories on. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

All of this is to say that even in its current state, Battle Brothers is well worth a look and certainly one to keep an eye on as development continues. Hurrah!


  1. Baring says:

    Two of my friends and I already bought it. We’ve played around just short of 30 hours each and we’re all loving it so far. Different enemies have different AI, forcing you to come up with tactics for each type. The outfitting and level-upping of your men, forming them into specialised roles, making them deadly in what they do. The feeling you get when you manage to beat a superior enemy by sheer skill. The greatest moment was when all my men died in my 2nd fight, even though I outnumbered the enemy, and the game punished me for not taking it seriously.

  2. JFS says:

    Oh noes. I am craving getting the early access version, right now and in the last days. And lo and behold, open up your browser and what springs up at you? Battle Brothers coverage. Would you recommend it? I played the demo and found it very atmospheric and interesting, but a little clunky in execution. I think I was hunting the last zombie for twenty rounds or something (X-COM, anybody).

    Now, I decided for myself I wouldn’t do early access anymore, since it just brings so many pitfalls, and at $20 isn’t exactly cheap with this one. But. RPS saying it’s good already makes it hard to uphold that decision. Has anyone else entered early access and can give his or her opinion?

    • Triglav says:

      Being they’re an indie team with regular dayjobs when not working on the game, I bought the supporter’s edition for double the amount you mention, in hope it helps them gain more financial independence and be able to work on this gem of a game full-time. Bearing in mind I paid about the same amount for XCOM when it came out and ended up terribly disappointed by it, the investment into Battle Brothers so far has left me with no bad feelings whatsoever. Over 40 hours played in about a week since release. There was heorism, there was glory, there was tenseness, there were tears. Definitely a very good experience so far and what I’m even more excited about, it’s just the beginning. The list of features they plan to implement is long, the devs are very responsive to the community, there are updates and patches coming through Steam nearly on daily basis. Big game firms should learn from these guys…

  3. Ishy says:

    Played an alpha of this, it’s quite a bit of fun, recommended.

  4. Hanban says:

    It’s such a great game. Even in its barebones state it’s hella fun, which makes me real excited for it becoming more and more feature complete.

    There’s also the possibility for great modding/expansions. I would just love to see some kind of nercromancer spin as a future add-on.

  5. Gothnak says:

    I assume this isn’t a PC breaker as i’m about to go on a 5 week honeymoon with lots of relaxing at villas, and this looks like it’ll run well on my few years old laptop?

    • Wowbagger says:

      I imagine it would run on a piece of spam chiselled to look like a PC,
      min specs according to steam:
      OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
      Processor: 1.2 Ghz
      Memory: 1024 MB RAM
      Graphics: OpenGL 3.0 compatible video card

  6. JiminyJickers says:

    This game is stupidly good. I’m having a blast, can’t wait for more content.

  7. ribby says:

    The demo of this game made me so frustrated!

  8. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I just want to know if I can hire a physician called Croaker.

    • hypocritelecteur says:

      I’ve got a game with a svlcholar names Croaker, a retired soldier named Elmo, a witch hunter with a sweet hat named One-eye, etc.

      Also have a team of criminals and misanthropes named the Brave Companions.

  9. flagoon says:

    Comparing this game to Jagged Alliance (in a good way) makes me very interested. But to be honest, I don’t see complexity yet, and Jagged Alliance was complex as hell.

  10. Ishy says:

    Day 3: Accept mission escorting a caravan from one town to another, trip of a couple days.

    Night 3: We’re approaching a forest, I walk a little ahead of the caravan to get a view of the other side of the forest, scout ahead and all that.

    Wait. Wait some more. Uh, guys, the caravan should have caught up with us by now.

    We walk back into the forest and discover that the caravan has been slaughtered, so brutal that several of my brothers are sick. Well we can’t have that, might as well see if I can get loot from whatever bandits or skeletons or whatever did this to try and recoup my losses, so we poke around in the forest a bit looking for whatever party did it and well… It was werewolves. You can’t really run from werewolves at night in a forest. I tried my best, brothers, but I don’t think my party survived two turns.

  11. Crafter says:

    I think that Early Acess is an extremely good fit for procedural games, Roguelikes, sandbox games, or pretty much anything with very high replayability. The core game + independant features that create emergent gameplay allows to have a development cycle where EA makes a lot of sense (as long as there is a demo to let people decide whether or not they like what they are paying for).
    Of course there is always the risk that the game will be pushed to v1 with too few features.

  12. Sigh says:

    When did the internet agree that you spell skeleton “skellington”?

  13. fdisk says:

    I played their demo and the game is fantastic; I’m going to hold off buying it until it’s out of early access because I don’t want to ruin the experience for myself. This is the type of game I’ll play once and put away, so I’d rather wait until it’s feature complete and enjoy it in full.

  14. Antlia says:

    Played it for 10 or so hours, but really don’t want to play more, even if I do, terribly so. I want to wait for the full release and then delve into this game. It’s an unfinished gem.