Bad North

Games TM - - CONTENTS -

Bad North pulls the re­mark­able trick of snatch­ing ideas from many dif­fer­ent gen­res and con­coct­ing them into some­thing unique, rather than de­riv­a­tive, in the process. As a real-time tac­tics rogue-like, it brings in clas­sic el­e­ments from each of these gen­res, along with bite-sized fixes of ac­tion that feel pur­pose-built for mo­bile gam­ing, plus the kind of head-down, keep-go­ing mo­men­tum that we would ex­pect more from an end­less run­ner. It does all this with a sim­ple, ef­fec­tive art style to boot.

The sum to­tal, how­ever, while im­pres­sive, isn’t flaw­less. The styling of the game is gor­geous and oddly bru­tal de­spite its sim­plic­ity, but that can also make dis­cern­ing unit types and de­tails in to­pog­ra­phy chal­leng­ing in a split sec­ond. The dif­fi­culty level is tough as nails on Hard, which is the game’s de­fault set­ting. It’s only a lit­tle less pun­ish­ing on Nor­mal. But on both of these points, it could be ar­gued that it’s all there to force im­pro­vi­sa­tion. If you’re some­one who is quick to throw your gamepad across a room in frus­tra­tion, this might be one to avoid. Even more so on a Switch, as we doubt that gor­geous screen could take the pun­ish­ment.

But it re­ally is very com­pelling and keeps draw­ing us back in. When you do fig­ure out what en­e­mies are in play, the tac­ti­cal rock, pa­per, scis­sors of which unit will be most ef­fec­tive in any sce­nario – not to men­tion from what po­si­tion – keeps things in­ter­est­ing. As you progress through the is­lands, never able to turn back, tougher and tougher ad­ver­saries emerge to face you down on more com­plex and open is­lands with more vil­lages to de­fend. We quickly re­alised that con­quer­ing ev­ery is­land was nei­ther pos­si­ble nor the point. It’s about pick­ing a path that gets you to the other side and col­lect­ing gold to pay for up­grades to your units, all while col­lect­ing spe­cial items and new com­man­ders along the way. Keep enough of them alive and level them up and you just might be able to es­ca­late your cam­paign to more is­lands per turn, but that’s go­ing to be very hard.

Hav­ing had our eye on this game for some time, we had wor­ried that Bad North would end up be­ing too sim­plis­tic or one di­men­sional, and while the later claim might still be made, the for­mer can­not. It’s such a well-bal­anced and invit­ing ex­e­cu­tion of the form that even when you lose all of your com­man­ders for the fifth time and have to start again, you’ll do so gladly. Its ra­zor sharp fo­cus and sub­tle me­chan­ics com­bine to lift it above its base parts. Bad North is a de­vi­ously smart tac­ti­cal chal­lenge that plays nicely on home con­soles, but may be even bet­ter on the move.

Ev­ery is­land is com­pletely dif­fer­ent and pick­ing your path through the fog of war is im­por­tant, if only be­cause con­quer­ing the right is­lands can un­lock spe­cial items and new units to add to your com­mand.

above: Ar­riv­ing on an is­land, you will need to im­me­di­ately as­sess how open it is to as­sault. Where are the tricky points to de­fend? Are there help­ful choke points? Are there good van­tage points for archers?

to­tal war: warham­mer

r.u.s.e.

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