It's been over 20 years but there's finally a sequel to the fantastic PS1 strategy RPG Brigandine so pick a side and let's go to war.
Back in 1998, Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena released for the original PlayStation. At the time, I was hugely into SRPGs after playing mind-blowing games like Vandal Hearts and Final Fantasy Tactics. So, I rented Brigandine and it really captured my imagination but for whatever reason, I could never find it anywhere to purchase yet the period in which I played it remains a good memory nonetheless. Now that it's over a couple decades later, I'm very happy that this somewhat obscure SRPG has a sequel and I'm even happier at how incredible of a game it is. You basically choose 1 of 6 nations then try and claim the entire continent for your kingdom. Although this sounds simple, the core gameplay is incredibly complex and will have you sink hours upon hours in before you even begin to see your kingdom expand by a substantial margin. Therefore, I can only recommend it to gamers who have a ton of patience.
The gameplay of Brigandine The Legend of Runersia involves 2 modes: a Risk-style map where you configure your bases and a hexagon-based SRPG battle system. During the organization phase, you'll move troops around to increase your defenses wherever needed, summon monsters to join troops, equip soldiers with newly found gear, change character classes, and assign troops to carry out quests which either reward items or experience points. As you set all of this in motion, you'll have to keep an eye on each base's combat power rating to ensure that it isn't in trouble as well as each troop's magic pool so you can maximize your power without going overboard. Needless to say, there's a lot to tend to but doing so is immersive and exciting if you enjoy managing such things like I do.
Once you're done setting everything up which could take up to an hour if you really want to optimize every aspect, you'll initiate the attack phase where you can attempt to invade neighbouring enemy bases. Choosing which ones to invade requires a lot of thought because you don't want to take over a base then divide your defenses so much that those bases will be in jeopardy so choosing carefully is a part of the strategy. Once you're confident, you can begin a battle which will determine the fate of the warring bases. If you win, you'll take over the enemy base and expand your nation but even wins can involve devastating loss as you may lose a few valuable monsters or even entire troops in the battle. However, you may also recruit some NPCs who each have their own unique stories.
The SRPG battles themselves are rather simplistic as all you do is command units while your opponent does the same whenever it's their turn. Each unit can move and use skills or magic and once a troop leader is defeated, their entire troop leaves the battle. One cool aspect is that if you manage to defeat the final leader while they still have monster allies on the map, you can capture their monsters and recruit them to join your base. Anyway, the battles are enjoyable but they do become very chaotic which is partly due to their hexagonal layout even though the same setup worked out much better in Blackguards 2. In other words, it can get exceptionally difficult to keep track of what each unit is capable of so it's often tricky to know what to focus on. The battles are still great fun, though.
When it comes to presentation, I absolutely loved the character artwork in Brigandine The Legend of Runersia and meeting new NPCs only to watch their intriguing back-stories with the help of the Japanese voice cast was always a treat. However, the environments within battle are quite unvaried and constantly switching from those back to the same old map causes much visual repetition which can be tiresome after a while. Thankfully, the medieval orchestral soundtrack is excellent and provides the perfect backdrop.
Considering you can play through Brigandine The Legend of Runersia as any of the 6 warring nations, there's a ton of replay value. Each playthrough can take dozens of hours and once you beat it the first time, you'll unlock Alternate Chapter mode which acts as a whole new challenge so you could essentially play for hundreds of hours if you want to experience absolutely everything.
It's hard to believe that a sequel to a game from 1998 released so much later but it was worth the wait. Brigandine The Legend of Runersia is an excellent strategic experience that will blow SRPG fans' minds with its immersive level of depth.
- + Awesome in-depth combination of kingdom management and SRPG battles
- + Fantastic artwork and music
- + Tons of replay value
- - Requires a lot of patience to enjoy
- - Battles quickly become visually chaotic
- - Lack of environmental variety