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Battle Brothers newest DLC invites you to visit the frozen frontiers and battle barbarians. From Overhype Studios, Battle Brothers was ...

Battle Brothers - Warriors of the North DLC Battle Brothers - Warriors of the North DLC

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Battle Brothers

Battle Brothers newest DLC invites you to visit the frozen frontiers and battle barbarians. From Overhype Studios, Battle Brothers was one of my favorite games of 2017, and you can read my original review here. In this excellent mash up of Mount and Blade and XCOM, you build up a plucky band of mercenaries as you travel the land taking on jobs to earn money. More money means you can hire more men, buy them more expensive gear, and keep them fed. If, like me, you enjoy sticking new gear onto an RPG paper doll, this is the game for you. Each man in your company has his own little equipment screen, where you can equip him with armor, headgear, weapons, and trinkets. Each mercenary also has an extensive set of stats like morale and max fatigue that can be improved over time. The game has two layers, the over world, which is very much like Mount and Blade, and turn based battles. If you want to read more of the details of the general gameplay, check my review linked above. If you are familiar with the game, you probably want to know what this new DLC is all about.

Warriors of the North, as you might guess from the title and artwork, adds in an entire new faction of enemies to face: Barbarians. These guys have a primitive Viking/Rus feel to them, coming at you with fur covered armor and horned helmets. Like the other enemy factions in the game, they have some unique mechanics that you will want to consider when you go into battle against them. The barbarians like to come in hard and take big swings, but this tires them out quickly. They'll often be accompanied by a tribal drummer, who restores their fatigue at quicker rate. They also might have a beastmaster with them, who brings along a big scary pet or two. Taking down these special enemy types will play a key part in your strategy. 

To go along with these new northern enemies, the north end of the map has been fleshed out a bit, and the game has received some new music tracks. I usually don't pay too much attention to music in games, but I found these to be noticeably good. All the barbarian gear can of course also be looted and equipped by your soldiers, giving them a more "northern" look if you so choose. This is a game that shines all the more brighter with more variety, and this DLC adds to that quite a bit. Previously you mostly had standard medieval style cloths and armor, but now your guys can be decked out with furs and helmets with antlers and the like.

While the barbarians make up probably the single biggest feature of the DLC, there's a lot of other good stuff here too. Previously, each time you started the game, the beginning was always the same. You were part of a mercenary company that is ambushed and the leader killed. You then take control of the company and get three mediocre members to get you started. Now, when you fire up a new company, you'll have a choice of ten different origin stories. These aren't just slightly different variations that ultimately don't matter, no, these starts all have long term advantages and disadvantages. 

I'll highlight the two I was most drawn to for this review. The first I tried was, naturally, the one rated most difficult: the lone wolf start. In this scenario you begin with exactly one merc, a veteran hedge knight equipped with upper end gear and a decent amount of money. This guy can take on two or three early game bandits without breaking a sweat. Where's the challenge? Oh, this hedge knight is actually you, so if he dies then the game ends. In a normal campaign, "you" are never represented in the field. Any given mercenary can die and it doesn't matter. Not so with this scenario.  Pair it up with Ironman mode and you've got yourself a whole new level of tension. Also, you can't hire more than a dozen men at a time, so that means your avatar will have to continue fighting, even as the enemies you face get nastier.

The other scenario I tried is pretty much the opposite. In the peasant militia start you begin the game with 12 peasants looking to take their local militia show on the road and win themselves some glory and coin. While you start out with 12 men, they all have bottom-tier equipment, if they have anything at all! It takes a lot of money to keep all of these men fed and paid, and buy them all some decent stuff. Once you have the funds to supply and pay them all, you can even take 16 men into battle instead of the usual dozen. The downside to all of this is that your group is prejudiced against anyone of higher birth, and so you can only recruit fellow peasants and lower class individuals. This means that any mid and late game losses will have to be replaced with level one nobodies that will need a lot of experience to catch up. 

The other start I'm interested in trying is the Davkul cultists. Yes, you can play the game as a roving group of cultists, recruiting those of like mind and maybe sacrificing them to Davkul at some point...

Another new addition to the game are the Champions. These are especially strong enemies among each faction who carry unique named items for you to take for yourself. While a straight forward addition, it's a welcome one that gives you some emergent gameplay as you follow tavern rumors to track down these mini-bosses. Along that line, there are two new legendary locations and bosses to take on, and a smattering of new quests and events to discover, and of course new weapons and armor to equip. In Battle Brothers, weapons define the abilities of your men in combat, and so adding new ones isn't just a visual effect, it opens up entirely new options in strategy. 

Since I never did a review on it, I'll briefly mention here the other major DLC for Battle Brothers called Beasts and Exploration. This one came out last year and really fleshed out the game beyond the solid, but limited main game content. It adds lots of monsters, bosses, and legendary locations to the game. It also allowed you to loot trophies from all of those new monsters and craft them into new stuff. In addition, it added the ability to customize your gear, upgrade your armor, and even repaint shields. Before that, they put out the Lindwurm add-on for free. This was likely a test run for the bosses and such that came later. It only adds one special enemy and some related items to the game, but hey, it was free! Since release, they've also patched and balanced the game several times, turning what was already a great game into an even better one.

With a reasonable price tag of just $8.99, I find it very easy to recommend Warriors of the North to anyone who enjoyed Battle Brothers. The new faction, items, and bosses add ever more variety to the game world, and the new origins will ensure that you can play several campaigns with quite a different experience than the default start. As I said in my original review, this is a game that has tons of room for quality DLC. The two so far have been exactly what I was looking for, and I hope there are more to come. This game is a wonderful sandbox, and the more toys the better.

- Joe Beard

Battle Brothers is available directly from the developers and can also be found on Steam and GoG.

Battle Brothers, from Overhype Studios, is a game which took me by surprise in the best way. The first time I sat down with it and sta...

Battle Brothers Battle Brothers

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Battle Brothers

Battle Brothers, from Overhype Studios, is a game which took me by surprise in the best way. The first time I sat down with it and started playing, my only thought was "How has no one made a game like this before?!"  This is one of those occasional titles which reminds you why you started playing video games in the first place. In case you haven't guessed yet, I really enjoyed the game. Read on to find out all the details, or just go buy the game now.

In Battle Brothers, the player takes on the leadership of a small company of mercenaries making their way in a low-fantasy world. The world, and everything in it, is randomly generated each time you start a campaign. Towns, each of different size and containing different amenities, are scattered across a world divided between a few noble houses. There is also a massive area of the world map which is completely shrouded in mystery at the beginning of your campaign. One will immediately be reminded of Mount & Blade when beginning their wanderings through the world, and if you played that classic, you will feel right at home here. Between these towns runs a network of roads cutting through forests, grasslands, deserts, swamps, and mountains. Trade caravans, squads of soldiers, and even other mercenary bands travel the roads. Lurking in the shadows on every side are groups of baddies, waiting to strike the defenseless peasants. This is where your mercenary company steps in to make some coin.

The opening of a battle.

The company begins with just three men, all that remains after the opening events of the campaign. Using your limited budget, you must recruit additional mercenaries and buy them some equipment. This is where some of the wonderful little details of the game start to work their magic. In each village a number of men can be found looking for work. Each one has a background story describing what brought him to take up the mercenary life. Some are appropriately cliche, some are dark, and some are hilarious. Based on their skill level, these men all have different prices to join your company, and will demand a certain wage each day. Early on you will be forced to settle for recruiting a few drunks and beggars, but as the game progresses you can afford the more experienced soldiers and sellswords to replace your losses. 

And trust me, you will have losses, even on the easiest difficulty setting. I highly recommend playing with the Ironman setting turned on. Much like XCOM, the game loses a great deal of its tension without the ever present danger of permadeath for your soldiers. All of these men have unique traits and skill levels that give them character and value. Losing one of your first members, hours into the game, will hit you hard. Seeing a new recruit get cut down by a bandit in his first outing can be equally gut wrenching. Keep your men alive and they will grow ever more powerful, gaining bonuses to a variety of stats and perks. They will also tend to pick up scars and the occasional permanent injury. These kinds of wounds can reduce their stats a great deal, which may force you to send a battle hardened veteran into peaceful retirement.

A world waiting to be explored.

Your men also need equipment. Managing the war gear for your entire company is one of my favorite parts of the game. It takes the appeal of outfitting your characters in an RPG and multiplies it by a dozen or more soldiers. Each man can be equipped with weapons, armor, head gear, and accessories. How you equip your force is entirely up to you, and will be important to your strategy. The type of attacks a soldier can make in battle depend entirely on what you put in his hands. Archers can rain down arrows from behind your lines. Soldiers armed with shields can form a solid shield wall to hold off enemy melee attacks. However, men wielding two handed axes can chop right through those shields. There are a ton of different types of weapons to try out, and you will want to have a good mix. As the game progresses you will be able to buy or scavenge ever more deadly and exotic items.

Some towns are less impressive than others...

The actual fighting in Battle Brothers is done in a turn based format on a hex grid. Combatants on each side go in order based on their initiative, a value which can change over the course of the battle due to fatigue. Each character has a number of action points which are used to move and take actions. Each weapon typically has a couple of distinct attack options, or an attack and some kind of defensive stance. Each time a combatant is hit, his body or head armor will take some damage, and some damage will get through to his hit points. Shields and helms can be destroyed in the midst of the fighting. All sorts of wounds can be inflicted, from broken bones to dismembered ears, and all kinds of bloody unpleasantness in between. These wounds are reflected clearly on the soldiers duking it out. A fresh fighter will look completely different from a bloodied man, barely on his feet towards the end of a battle.

During the combat, the player must keep an eye on more than just hit points. Each man has a resolve score which determines how long his morale will hold up when things aren't going great. Letting a soldier get isolated and surrounded will cause this score to plummet, and usually wind up with him dead. Events like the death, or especially decapitation, of fellow mercenaries will cause a team-wide drop in morale. Taking out an enemy will pump it back up. As the game goes on you will find a few extra ways to help raise morale when things look bleak.  Another number the player must watch is fatigue. Every action builds up some fatigue, another value unique for each mercenary, and in longer battles this number can max out, reducing how many actions a unit can take on his turn. Deeper into the game you will face many longer battles where giving soldiers a chance to breath must factor into your decision making. 

An ugly fight where I lost some good men.

The combat in Battle Brothers keeps me coming back for more, and even hours into a campaign it does not lose its appeal. This is because the game, despite being randomly generated in many ways, offers a satisfying difficulty curve. Early on you will face bandits that are as poorly armed as your own men. After a few successful jobs your force will pick up some better equipment and be able to make mincemeat of any rag tag thieves and bandits of the world. Just as you start to feel invincible, however, the game will throw a nastier enemy force at you that will test your tactical ability. Sometimes you will even be forced to retreat, lest you watch your entire company be wiped out one by one. 

Checking the company gear. Up to 20 mercenaries can be in your company at once.

It's in these tougher fights where the tactical combat really shines.  Deciding when to play conservatively, and when to make a push, can win or lose a battle. The weapons, accessories, and perks of individual fighters must be taken into consideration. Beyond your control, and keeping things tense at all times, is the off chance of a lucky blow. Your best swordsman could be badly wounded by an arrow before he even swings his blade. An inexperienced new recruit, armed with a dagger and not much else, could slip in a killing blow on a tough enemy.  It's a system where good play is rewarded, but the chaos of battle can lash out at any time.

Between fights, the player sends his merry band from town to town looking for new contracts. These contracts start off simple, mostly jobs to go fight brigands harassing the locals. Later on you will get more difficult and lengthy assignments, such as patrolling through a large area for the local duke, or tracking down mysterious artifacts. I especially liked the occasional caravan escort job that went without an enemy daring to attack you. Your men didn't break a sweat, and you still got paid! Payment is always negotiable in Battle Brothers, and you will do well to be a hard bargainer if you want to get rich. You can ask for a portion of payment up front if you need a little cash for food, or ask to get more after the job is done, if you are simply looking for maximum payout. 

You can usually push for a bigger payout, but sometimes the client will walk away.

As you take actions in the world, the world will react. Each town and house has an opinion of you, which will improve as you help them out, and plummet if you take action against them. You also have an overall reputation score as a mercenary company, which you must improve to get the better paying jobs. The deeper into a campaign you go, the more interesting these dynamics become. At some point you will almost certainly make enemies, whether you want to or not.  If you survive long enough, the world will eventually be faced with a variety of calamities, including a war between the noble houses, an invasion of orcs, or the arrival of undead armies.

Browsing for new recruits.

I haven't talked about the mini choose-your-own-adventure moments that pop up during your travels, but I will leave those for you to discover and enjoy yourself. There is also the matter of keeping your company stocked with a variety of food and other supplies, the ambitions you can pursue, and inhuman dangers which reside in the more remote parts of the world. There is just so much this game has to offer that it will keep you busy for a long time. 

Not all of your enemies are human...

Even with all the content in he game, it's clearly a candidate for more of everything, you really couldn't have too much variety here. More quests, character backgrounds, events, enemies, world ending disasters, and weapons are always welcome.  Some areas I would love to see expanded in a patch or DLC down the road would include deeper interactions with towns, more options for running the company itself, a more complex perk system, or even introducing more fantastical elements like magic or taking a step forward in tech (why not both?). 

If you have read this far and are still interested in the game, I strongly urge you to go buy it. This is easily my favorite game of the year so far. Not because it has flashy graphics or an amazing storyline, but because it ticks so many boxes of what I want a game to be. It is fun through and through, and feels polished from the moment the game begins.

Battle Brothers is out now and available on Steam.

- Joe Beard

Battle Brothers, from Overhype Studios, is a game which, upon playing for the first time, my immediate reaction was to wonder how in the...

Early Access Preview: Battle Brothers Early Access Preview: Battle Brothers

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Battle Brothers

Battle Brothers, from Overhype Studios, is a game which, upon playing for the first time, my immediate reaction was to wonder how in the world no one had made a game quite like this before.  It can somewhat be described as a mash-up of concepts from games like Mount and Blade, Darkest Dungeon, X-COM,  and Final Fantasy Tactics. If that gets your attention, by all means go buy the game right now, because you will love it. Come back and read this while it downloads.

The game puts you in command of what's left of a company of mercenaries, immediately following the death of your captain and most of your fellow mercenaries in an ambush. You start off with three decently equipped soldiers and a limited supply of funds. You then set out to make your way in a randomly generated world full of opportunities. Movement on the campaign map is very much like that of Mount and Blade, with your company represented by an icon traveling the world and encountering other groups of people, be they trade caravans, peasants, or bandits. Combat takes place in turn-based battles on a hex-based grid. I'll save a more detailed description of the gameplay for my review when the game is closer to release (there is one last big patch coming before then). Today I simply wish the regale you with the tale of my first campaign. 

Battle Brothers uses the "Busts of soldiers bumping into each other" art style. Which works nicely here.

Following the previously mentioned ambush and near annihilation of the Battle Brothers mercenary company, the survivors resolved to rebuild and hunt down the murderous bandits. Unfortunately, the only volunteers willing to join our force were a couple of bored villagers, the town drunk, and a vagrant or two. Fortunately, these men came cheap, leaving me with enough money to buy them some gear. Even a stone-cold mercenary captain can't send men into battle wearing tattered rags and wielding wooden sticks. He can't have his investments *ahem* loyal soldiers cut down in a single blow.

We had to travel to a larger village down the road to find better weapons for the men. This gave me time to get to know them better. Each man had a story to tell. Some were simply bored with the life of a peasant, feeling they were destined to travel the world and do something greater. Others were down on their luck after repeated misfortunes, and saw joining a company of mercenaries as a chance to climb out of the gutter. I sympathized with their tales, but, honestly, I needed warm bodies to fill the ranks and they were the best I could afford.

What happens when you bump into an orc raiding party before you are ready.

After assembling all the men and equipment I could afford with my starting funds, I returned to our previous employer who sent the company after those bandits in the first place. He would pay good money to have the bandit leader killed once and for all, and knew where the scumbag was hiding.

My rag-tag band tracked the bandits to their camp and moved in for battle. The ensuing chaos was almost too much for my untrained soldiers, but with superior numbers we were able to overwhelm the bandits and take out the leader. Sadly, he was able to cut down one of the original members of the company in the melee. Another man, the beggar from the village, was wounded so badly that he would never be the same with a sword or spear, but I still needed him in my fighting line until I could hire a replacement. Regardless, victory was ours, as well as the loot and payment that came with it. With these new funds I was able to hire and equip a couple of new men. I also treated the company to a round of drinks at the tavern to lift their spirits.

We were still a pitiful looking rabble, but we were able to find work escorting a convoy on a journey that would take a few days. I negotiated with the caravan master for some funds up front, and used that restock our food and medicine supplies. Along the way we were attacked by some roaming highway men, but came out victorious once again, though battered and bloodied by the fighting. After reaching our destination and getting paid, I decided to let the men rest for a couple of days. I also picked up a few more pieces of gear, including some real armor. Well, leather armor. Chainmail and plate was far beyond our current budget. 

The world map of Battle Brothers will be familiar to anyone who has played Mount and Blade.

Once everyone was healed up, we took another contract escorting a caravan back towards where we started out. This time there were no bandits. We were still paid in full, despite only marching for a few days. Now that's my kind of work. This pattern continued for a couple of weeks. Escorting caravans and tracking down thieves. Despite humble beginnings, my company was starting to come together. Most of the soldiers now had real weapons and armor, and some were becoming much more proficient at combat. I had also lost a couple of soldiers here and there, but each town along the road had its share of desperate men looking to join for one reason or another. Overall, things were looking good. My over-confidence would be my downfall.

Having gained a small reputation, we were offered a lucrative contract by a local lord. He wished us to go on a lengthy patrol of the roads to several nearby towns. We would be paid a moderate amount for this, but, more importantly, would also be paid a bonus for each bandit head taken along the way. The men buzzed at the thought of slaying every bandit we could find along the roads. 

The first leg of the patrol was uneventful. Not a bandit in sight. Myself and the men were disappointed. Our payday would hardly cover our travel expenses if the rest of the patrol went like this. Little did we know we were about to walk into the hornet's nest.

Our maps showed most of the surrounding area, but one uncharted region lay between us and our next destination. No matter, we were a company of killers at this point, and no bandit mob would be able to take us. Venturing into the unknown, we finally stumbled across some bandits. It was a small group, no match for the dozen men now under my command. We struck them down and moved on, looking for more victims. Another group appeared, slightly larger than the last. We fought a good fight and wiped them out, suffering only a few injuries. The men were giddy at the thought of the ever growing payment we would receive in a few days.

Yet another group of bandits appeared, just a handful, and we swooped in. To our shock, these bandits were not the usual mangy lot, they were real fighters and carried real weapons. This proved a tough fight, despite our 2:1 advantage in numbers. A couple of my men fell in the fighting, and more were wounded. We survived though, and could carry on. A little further and we would be out of this wild area. Then we saw it. An abandoned fortress turned into a bandit stronghold. That must have been where all the bandits were coming from. The lord who hired us would want to know about this.

Just before we cleared the uncharted area and made it to safety, another bandit party found us. This one was almost as large as our force, and was as well equipped as the last group we fought. We had to run, contract or not. Unfortunately, we could not run fast enough. The group caught us and surrounded my company in a forest. Attacked from all sides and hemmed in by trees, the men were unable to support one another. They fought valiantly, but were cut down one by one. In the end, every man on each side was dead or dying, save two. The last surviving member of my original company was still standing, a crossbowman who had saved the day more than once. With his last crossbow bolt he had cut down an axe-wielding bandit, but his luck ran out as another bandit rushed forward through the mangled corpses. My soldier pulled out his knife, all he had left to fight with, and stabbed uselessly at his well armored foe. Seconds later he was slain. My mercenary company was completely wiped out, just like that.

Battle Brothers promises to be one of the best strategy games coming out this year. It's got a bit of RPG, a bit of team management, and lot of tactical combat. The full game promises to have world shaping events and quests for your mercenary company to participate in, but the game is already a massive success in my eyes simply based on the core mechanics. It very much captures that feeling of freedom and choice that you get in Mount and Blade. Traveling around from village to village, recruiting men, buying equipment and supplies, ultimately creating a deadly fighting force. Except here it's done even better. Every soldier has a back story and individual stats, as well as special traits. Almost everything in the game uses procedural generation, but it doesn't feel like it.

I did not know very much about this game going in, having simply not seen it mentioned anywhere. However, I was completely blown away by my initial experiences. The game is still in early access, but is completely playable and feels very polished. Once it comes out the price will go up, so if you think you would like it at all I seriously recommend picking it up now.

Look for my full review in the next few weeks!

- Joe Beard

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