Inside Pulse 12

Review: Metal Brigade Tactics (PC)

Metal Brigade Tactics
Developer: Busking Software
Publisher: Busking Software
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: 09/20/2010

Metal Brigade Tactics is a strategy role playing game involving mechs. Made by independent developer Busking Software, this is a game that could easily fly under the radar of most gamers. Thanks to a late night exploration session and giving the demo a try, I decided to give MBT a full play and a review. My love for small, independent PC developers strikes again.

Story:

You are a VA (Vertical Armor) pilot fighting for the Alliance. The Coalition is your enemy and both sides are fighting for an island. A cease fire is suddenly announced and your unit is told to stand down. The commanding officer scoffs at this and rushes to attack the coalition forces. A secret Special Forces lady in another VA tells you to trust her and stop your CO. Once you slag your CO, the real story begins. You will be hunted, hounded and hoping to find out the truth. Experimental VAs, weird doctor pilot guys, and a crazy Coalition dog will make appearances as you find out why you were branded a traitor.

Sure, this is not great pathos but it works and gets you into the world quickly.

Story Rating: Mediocre

Graphics:

While the rendering of the individual mechs are nice looking (they are done by one Everton Richards, an artist the developers found on via Flickr), the rest of the graphics are there simply to give you some sort of visuals. The game looks good for the level of eye candy they sought to achieve, which is not all that candy-like at all. The lower-fi graphics give MBT a grittier feel. They work well and do what they are supposed to do. That’s all I really ask of graphics anyhow.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

Sound:

There is not a world class soundtrack in this game, but the battle noises really had my blood pumping. The explosion noises made losses hurt and kills satisfying. The sparse music that is used in the opening menu and mid-mission upkeep interface are okay. I tended to use my own music as a soundtrack. Addition by subtraction.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control and Gameplay

The entire being of Metal Brigade Tactics is tactical combat. While you have some shopping options for additional Vertical Armors (the name of mechs in the MBT universe) as well as extra weapons (since once you lose a VA you lose it, its weapons and its add-ons), the game tries to get you through the non-tactical combat segments as quickly as possible.

The game itself is smooth, with nary a load time in sight and an eerie quiet that lends itself to concentrating on the task at hand. The first couple of missions are given to you without any choice. After those though, you get the choice to do missions in any order you want. I found that this could be a dangerous proposition because some missions provide you with new pilots who come with new mechs that can really help you in future spots. The order you do them in really determines how hard or easy the game will unfold for you.

Earlier VAs are weaker than ones that you find as you progress and you can get stuck if you end up having to buy new VAs often. This is not a real problem to me because there are ways to do missions in order to beat the opposition’s better VAs. Your VAs can have upgrades given to them in two slots – either true upgrades that add more to the output, defense or movement to a VA, or through extra ammo or repair kits. The limit of two upgrade/inventory slots per VA makes a choice between extra damage or an in combat heal nothing to sneeze at when approaching a tough fight.

Vertical Armors have two weapon slots, and the weapons have a paper-rock-scissors mechanic: rapid fire weapons (machine guns) are weaker against single shot weapons (rifles/melee) which are weaker against missiles and those in turn are weaker than rapid fire weapons. This makes equipping your mechs and selecting which kind of weapon to select use a bit of thinking. There is artillery, through mortar using VAs, which adds another level of thinking to your basic attack strategy. Since the artillery does not hurt friendly units, luring enemies to attack is a viable tactic.

Thrown into this mix is the role playing part of the game. You have pilots and they level up. As pilots gain experience you can place points in either piloting or weapons. The better the piloting score, the better movement in a VA. Going weapons? Then you do more damage. As pilots level up, they also gain special skills. Some learn how to dodge artillery fire while others get a chance to activate a barrier that voids damage. Picking what you need from a pilot as well as wisely selecting their skills can make a difference in how you approach battles.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

Replayability:

The three difficulty levels gives you a reason to play the game again if you want a challenge. Easy is for tactical game neophytes, with easier to kill baddies. Normal mode is good and can punish you for throwing caution into a busy intersection. Hard? Be prepared for pulling out your hair (I need what little hair I have left!). Skirmish mode lets you take on a pal while sitting at the same computer and you can make new maps with the easy to use map editor to keep the challenges coming. The thirteen playable mechs make strategy and handicapped two player skirmishes easier and more fun.

My Archer prototype welding team can’t be beat (yes they can. Easily).

Replayability Rating: Above Average

Balance:

Metal Brigade Tactics is harder than most games at the normal difficulty level. Easy is exactly that and hard lives up to its name. Sometimes on normal you will curse an enemy for making a dodge roll but you get that sort of luck too. A good challenge never makes you feel like you are being cheated and MBT walks the line for a fair challenge.

Balance Rating: Great

Originality:

Betrayal, political intrigue, secret missions, and doctors who hit on lady spies. It’s not new ground but it is ground that is steady and sturdy. Do not expect a new take on anything but that does not mean MBT is bad. Far from it.

Originality Rating: Poor

Addictiveness:

Even on normal, the game is challenging. Those of us looking for a mecha tactics game fix outside of Front Mission will find it appealing. Though I had trouble playing longer sessions, the pick up and go-go-go aspect helped keep me coming back to finish just one more mission.

Addictiveness Rating: Decent

Appeal Factor:

Metal Brigade Tactics is a game meant for a certain cross-section of gamers. Being a PC game means it is already catering to a smaller audience. Being a strategy RPG with utilitarian graphics and actually having some degree of challenge means it could turn off a more part-time game player. To those who want a bit of tactical thinking and a game that hits the ground running: you’ve found yourself a little gem. A niche game, but a good niche that needed some love. The score reflects overall appeal, but I like you, MBT.

Appeal Factor: Poor

Miscellaneous:

The map editor is easy to use and the game itself is pretty friendly to older systems. Since there are no load times, the game zips and hums along without much waiting which helps impatient folk like me stay invested. Busking Software is a two friends operation and their forum is accessible and they attend to problems brought up personally. They are also friendly, which is a major plus. Color me sold.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Great
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

Metal Brigade Tactics is Busking Software’s first release (their second is an application for the iPhone). Metal Brigade Tactics is easy to leap into, provides a challenge and at a $10.00 price point, it is quite affordable. While the world did not shake on its foundations when Metal Brigade Tactics debuted, you should not ignore this fine little game. MBT provides a throwback to old fashioned SRPGS that is a welcome palate cleanser. If you enjoy SRPGs you should give Metal Brigade Tactics a chance because I doubt you will be disappointed.