REAL-TIME STRATEGY DONE RIGHT IN BAD NORTH
Plausible Concepts’ the art of War format: Switch, PC, IOS | Publisher: raw fury | Developer: PLAUSIBLE Concepts | release: Q3 2018 | Players: 1 S
“IT’S FAST AND SURPRISINGLY RELENTLESS. THERE ARE NO RESOURCES TO COLLECT AND NO NUMBERS TO CRUNCH”
ome development outfits spend their entire existence trying to stumble upon the magic formula to concoct a truly great game. By all accounts, it looks as if Plausible Concepts is going to nail it on its first try. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how simple an idea is, so long as the execution is handled with near perfect precision. That’s what we’re dealing with here; Bad North is a tower defence that feels shockingly refreshing in its approach to the genre. We mean that literally by the way, we were genuinely taken aback by how ingenious Bad North is in its approach to every one of its components once we got the opportunity to play it for ourselves.
At its core, Bad North has you trying to survive one Viking invasion, contained to one procedurally-generated island settlement, at a time. It’s gorgeous to look at and to listen to; its systems are laid out clearly and simplistically, though there’s some serious depth hidden there behind the minimalistic presentation. The ‘towers’ that need defending are the hillside homes of the locals; your army a rag-tag group of island folk that are desperately trying to survive one encounter to the next, there are no reinforcements should they fall; the enemies arrive by sea through the fog of war, assaulting the island with 360-degrees of opportunity at their mercy. Simple controls let you shuffle your troops around the grid contained beneath the island’s grassy surfaces in real-time, giving you the freedom to quickly respond to emerging threats as they appear on the horizon. Every soldier, on both sides of the battle, are individually simulated too, ensuring that there’s more to victory than leveraging mere power alone. Skill of the observational variety is vital, particularly as each encounter is effectively a cautious game of rock-paper-scissors. Archers need to be positioned up high to pick off enemies before they get their feet on solid ground; Pikemen need be placed on the beaches to fend off initial waves of the raiding parties, while the sword-and-shield carrying Warriors must be ready to move around the battlefield at will for when all other lines of defence have fallen.
It’s fast and surprisingly relentless. There are no resources to collect and no numbers to crunch. There are no bases to build and there are no unit types or soldiers to recruit into the battle. Defend the houses or die trying. That’s it; that’s the game.
Successfully defending the houses does have its benefits outside of securing a victory and being allowed to push on to the next island. Your soldiers actually persist between battles, and it’s the folks living in these structures that will fork over the coin needed to purchase expensive unit upgrades – active and passive abilities that can imbue individual units with new skills and give your army new tactical opportunities in the fights that follow.
Should a village have a hero of its own, they can become a new unit in your army and tag along to the next fight. Surviving raids and keeping your fingers crossed that a village has a unit to spare after the bloodshed is the only form of recruitment in the game. It only helps to raise the stakes and tension between each island. Should all of your troops die, that’s it, game over. Interestingly, Bad North does give you the option of ditching an island entirely should the situation get too hopeless; in doing so you’ll abandon all of the people and potential spoils that the island had to offer, but you’ll get to live and fight another day – sometimes that’s all you can really ask for.
Bad North works so excellently because it takes a well-worn genre type – the tower defence – and adds in a splash of real-time tactics to the model, and it does so without forcing the player the carry the brunt of those additional systems. There’s clearly more than meets the eye to
Bad North and we’re certain that it has the potential to be one of 2018’s breakthrough hits when it arrives on Switch, PC and mobile platforms later this year.
Above: Don’t let the simplistic style and gorgeous graphics fool you, Bad North is a challenging strategy game with plenty of depth lurking behind the surface. left: should you be capable of surviving an island without too many casualties you’ll be...