GAME NAME: Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena
DEVELOPER(S): Hearty Robin
PLATFORM(S): Playstation, PSN
GENRE(S): Tactical role playing
RELEASE DATE(S): October 31st, 1998
The PlayStation is a haven for RPG gamers; we all know that. There are classics like Final Fantasty VII and Chrono Cross, as well as cult favorites like Valkyrie Profile and Xenogears. The issue arises when great games get buried under the surplus of those better-known titles. This happened to a tactical RPG known as Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, which skillfully blends micromanagement with a tactical RPG.
The game takes place on a continent known as Forsena. Imagine that. Here, 6 countries are at war with the simple goal of unification of the continent under their respective flag. To achieve this, the player must battle to overtake each of your opponents’ castles. Think of the board game “Risk” with castles.
At your fingertips are a number of “Rune Knights”, each of whom follow a job tree and gain skills and improved stats with each level they gain. One such stat is “Rune power,” which the Knight uses to command monsters. Different monsters cost a different amount of rune, with a powerful dragon costing more than a small goblin, etc. Like knights, monsters can level-up to gain stats, and they can also evolve into more powerful forms. However, unlike Knights, if a monster is killed in battle, they do not revive. Thankfully, they can be summoned at any castle, although they will always be at level 1, so you want to put some focus on protecting your powerful monsters from death. The sheer range of classes of knights is impressive; you will be commanding everything from Paladins, Monks, and Samurai to Necromancers, Archers, and Clerics. The same variety is found in monsters, which include everything from Hydras, Golems, and Vampires to Archangels, Griffons, and Phoenix.
The game is actually divided into two “phases”: Organize and Attack. In the organization phase, the player has a number of tactical decisions to make. These include grouping and moving knights between castles, summoning and assigning monsters to knights, and sending knights on quests where they can gain stats, find items and gear, or possibly recruit more knights. Monsters have a wide range of skills and abilities, so it is critical that the player assigns them to knights wisely. Also, because enemy attack on boarder castles is a constant threat, it is typically best to leave 3 knights at each castle, as this is the maximum you can send into battle. Hence, optimal strategy would be to have strong groups of 3 knights at each boarder city. Because of this, it is critical to be wise in the grouping of knights, in addition to assigning of monsters to them. In the organization phase, the player can also equip weapons or armor to their knights, use various stats-boosting items, and change a knights job is so desired.
During the Attack phase, a player submits any attacks on an enemy castle they wish to make, and battle will commence at the end of the phase. Battle will also be triggered if a castle has been attacked by an enemy. The battle system plays as a classic tactical RPG; moving and attacking with monsters and knights sequentially on a hexagonal grid. It is important to note that monsters are under the control of the knight they are assigned to, and if that knight is ‘wounded’ (health reaches 0), the monsters are removed from the field as well. Also, if your countries King / leader is wounded, the battle is automatically lost. Because of this, even though knights, and even more so the leaders, tend to be very powerful, it is essential to attempt and protect them as best possible. I also would suggest turning off the battle animations in the options menu, as it makes the battles progress at a much more reasonable pace.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Brigandine comes in the form of the new abilities and stats growth one finds progressing through the game. It is easy to get obsessed in the micromanagement, always searching for the ultimate legion of knights and monsters. Training your knights is very rewarding, as the skills they learn as the climb the tech tree are significant and powerful. Evolving monsters to their next form is equally rewarding, as they can wreak more and more havoc on the battlefield.
The story of the game is told through pre-battle dialogue and occasional cut scenes prior to the organization phase. To be honest however, much of the dialogue is insignificant to laughable. The same can be said for the quests that a knight is sent on. The player is really only concerned with the result of the quest, so the text can become quite cumbersome. One cut scene that sticks out is a particularly lengthy dialogue that concludes with one of your knights becoming “a better a cook.” Great. Why do we care? Is this a hidden stat that the game tracks that has some influence somewhere? I doubt it. It just slows the player down from the meat of the game: the tactical gameplay.
At its core, Brigandine is an excellent game for players who enjoy micromanagement and strong strategic gameplay. If one puts aside the occasionally lengthy text, the organizational depth and tactical battle system combine nicely for a truly deep experience. The original release on the PlayStation can be fairly expensive, selling for around $80-$100 on eBay, but I would still recommend it to both collectors and fans of tactical RPGs.