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

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“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...

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