Braveland Trilogy, with three games at a decent price, attempts to really maximise your bang for the buck. It promises a charming RPG with plenty of old school styled visuals and gameplay – not hugely in-depth but simplistic enough to be a nice use of a few evenings. Can it deliver this or does it offer playtime without the “play”?
Braveland Trilogy, to put it simply, is a hex-grid RPG in the style of old school RPGs (both video games and tabletop affairs like Dungeons and Dragons). You control a small group of armies, all with their own abilities and movement types. These include an archer who is best left just a few steps away and a rogue who does high damage up close and personal. Learning what works best for your playstyle is one of the best features of Braveland.
The battle system and the way your armies work are interesting. In most games of this style, your troops have a set amount of health points, and when these are depleted you are no longer in the battle. Braveland grabs this formula and changes it somewhat. There are things that change this such as magic, but that too shows little depth. Your magic ramps up as you take damage, and you can then use the stored magic for certain moves that can help you in battle.
There are little tactics you can pick up in the first hour of gameplay that offer a sense of reward. For instance, the first time an army is hit physically each turn, they may retaliate with a counter. This then teaches you to try and keep your distance to avoid being punished for an attack, or you can try and bait them into attacking to counter yourself. This applies a tacticality I quite like but it is developed very little throughout all three titles. For the most part, the gameplay system is very similar. They all have set attacks, routes and the same HP system. Each unit has a set of health points but you can purchase more soldiers to add to that base health pool. This moves one onto the upgrade system.
The upgrade system is pretty simple but functions reasonably well. After each battle, you gain a certain amount of gold. That gold is used to replenish your armies, then you may do with it as you wish. You can purchase equipment for your character of choice or you can choose to hire more soldiers for your armies. This is a fascinating twist on what I was expecting. Functionally, it’s the same thing as upgrading HP but it really cements the expendable nature of an army. Furthermore, the upgrades you can buy affect your character but, as the commander, it affects all the troops. These come in stats that change your damage, defence, speed and magic capabilities.
Speaking of characters, each main campaign in Braveland follows one central character, as their names suggest. The first is centred around a warrior, the second a wizard, the third a pirate. As the warrior, you take part in a simple revenge story, following bandits (and an evil lord or two) across the land. The story is very basic and does not make you want to continue on. In my playtime, I did not feel invested in the story. On one hand, it could be argued that this is intentional but the gameplay isn’t strong enough to justify it.
Initially, the gameplay is fine but becomes boring very fast. Most of the enemies are very similar as you progress through, which eliminates the sense of personal growth RPGs are famous for. Fortunately, the story and gameplay gets better as the games progress. Braveland’s wizard and pirate strands improve in some aspects, particularly the story and gameplay structure. The gameplay offer more nuances to the armies and level up structure whilst the stories feel more fleshed out. Whilst they won’t blow you away, they certainly offer more than the warrior.
The visuals and audio, on the other hand, are very off-putting. From the promotional material, it is clear the developers have gone for an 80’s tabletop game/Saturday morning cartoon styled vibe. The actual game itself, on the other hand, feels far more like a 2000s flash game. At its best, it’s passable. At its worst, it’s downright ugly.
Further, the music is very basic and the way it loops is so obvious it becomes jarring. Most music in games of this caliber just fit softly in the background while you get on with it. The music of Braveland Trilogy has an almost dissonant loop that, unfortunately, makes things rather annoying after a while.
Overall, Braveland Trilogy on Xbox One attempts a great deal of things but many of them fall flat. Whilst the gameplay is tolerable, the art style, music, lack of originality and absence of variation make all three games a slog to make your way through. There is a decent amount of content in Braveland Trilogy, but not much is worth playing after the first hour or so. Despite this, the wizard and pirate experiences are noticeably better than their predecessor and there is a clear improvement from title to title, and due to this I have hope for what the team at Ellada Games could do in the future if they continue to grow.