Bad North Review

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Title: Bad North
Developer: Plausible Concept
Publisher: Bad North
Website: https://www.badnorth.com/
Genre: Strategy, Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: Teen – Blood and Violence
Release Date: Out Now – 20/08/18
Price: £13.49 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

What the Developers say

Your home is under attack. The king is dead at the hands of Viking invaders. Hope is a distant glimmer in the fog, fading fast with every passing moment. As you rise to take your father’s place as ruler, it will fall to you to stage your defenses. But make no mistake – this is no fight for victory, but a desperate grasp for survival.

Bad North is a charming but brutal real-time tactics roguelike. Defend your idyllic island kingdom against a horde of Viking invaders, as you lead the desperate exodus of your people. Command your loyal subjects to take full tactical advantage of the unique shape of each island. Everything is at stake: fail, and watch the blood of your subjects stain the ground red.

It’s charmingly brutal, with beautiful procedurally-generated islands and adorable soldiers juxtaposed against the blood-stained realities of war. You control the broad strokes of the battle, giving high level commands to your soldiers who try their best to carry them out in the heat of the moment. It’s accessibly deep, with simple player inputs masking a dynamic combat simulation that make it inviting to new players
while challenging veterans. Keep fighting, warriors. Not for power or riches or glory, but for hope of peace to come once again in the harsh lands of the Bad North.

Key Features

REAL-TIME TACTICS ROGUELITE: Position and relocate your troops to fend off the Vikings, who each have their own counters to the threats you pose. Pick your battles and plan your evacuations carefully! Lose a commander and they’re gone forever; lose everything, and it’s game over!

INTELLIGENT UNIT CONTROLS: You command the broad strokes of your defenses and monitor positioning — your soldiers do the rest, navigating and engaging intuitively in response to the situation at hand.

PROCEDURALLY-GENERATED ISLANDS: Each island is both stylistically charming and unique in its layout. Plan your strategies around every nook and cranny, for you only get one chance to save them from the enemy invasion.

UNLOCKABLE UPGRADES: A stronger, smarter defense leads to greater rewards. Use these to develop your subjects from a ragtag militia into seasoned warriors.

https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/bad-north-switch/

Introduction

Not to be confused with a phrase Kanye West might use when addressing his eldest daughter, Bad North is a real-time tactical roguelike game designed and developed by Plausible Concept. Now, while Kanye references may be less and less appropriate as I divulge my experiences with this title, some excellent links can be made in the opening.

For starters, like it or not, Kanye West is an extremely creative, thought-provoking and successful man who has demonstrated over his illustrious career that he has skills and expertise in several fields. Although early in their game development careers, Plausible Concept has showcased their creative and thought-provoking side with Bad North. Not only that, but Plausible Concept have produced a game with a clear vision, and executed it perfectly. Kanye West is very much a visionary of his time and is often found looking outside of the box.

To that end, I think it is fair to say that outside of a political outburst or an offensive tweet, or seven, Plausible Concept is going to see many more successes in the future.

Gameplay & Replayability

Bad North is a game with a little story or character development, yet drew me in immediately with its pick-up-and-play nature and intuitive gameplay. The goal is simple: defend the structures on the island by defeating the waves of enemy armies that appear via boat. Each wave can present a different challenge, with some boats carrying a small number of combatants and others a large selection. They may be armed with sword and shield or bow and arrow, and you must position your troops in the best possible place to fend them off.

With the waves of enemies coming as soon as you deploy your troops, Bad North is kind enough to let you survey the landscape before starting. Done by using the right and left triggers to zoom in and out respectively, and using the right stick to move around, you can gain a better understanding of the island. Identifying entry and exit points to your buildings and possible obstacles is vital, and you can then start to deploy your units. This is done via a simple method of hitting the right and left bumpers to navigate between units, then selecting a location on the island and tapping A.

In the early stages, it seems obvious to place your units at the location you predict the enemy to land ashore. After a few successful missions, it becomes apparent that this is no longer enough and the tactical element of Bad North comes into play. For example, placing units too early can mean that a set of archers aboard the boat begin picking off your army like sitting ducks. Equally, a boat-full could appear and be too much for one unit to take, so you flank from behind with another unit of troops. I found it particularly enjoyable to move troops partway through battle as it slows everything down, giving just a brief moment to watch arrows pierce the sky in the direction of your units.

The groups of combatants that you have in your party can, if still alive after a mission, have points (coin) distributed to them for spending. Initially, money must be spent on determining the class of each group. The choices are:

Archers: A ranged unit that deals death from afar but struggles with close encounters;

Infantry: A versatile melee unit carrying shields to block blows and projectiles;

Pikes: A defensive melee unit carrying long likes. Great at holding one position but cannot fight while moving. 

After assigning a unit a particular class, they can then be assigned items found on the journey and skills. These directly affect the combat, and as a real-time strategy game, they can make all the difference between success and failure. While you may be successful in a particular mission, inability to plan for alternative scenarios may hinder your progress in future ones.

The houses mentioned above found on each island are not only the target for the enemy but also serve as a way to replenish our armies. By holding down the right bumper and then using the directional buttons to select ‘replenish’, you can then manoeuvre them to a house to do just that. Naturally, this takes time and therefore has to be done at the right moment to be successful.

With such a focus on management and deployment of your troops, you are at the mercy of the games AI at all times. Although it was often excellent, I found on occasion that my troops would stop fighting mid-battle or the enemies would move away from my group and they wouldn’t give chase. I understand that the management of combat is down to the gamer, but it would have made everything a little more realistic – especially as the artistry didn’t extend as far as facial expressions or human communication.

After each island, the world map is updated with new islands to go and defend. It is here where the harsh realities of this seemingly calm and simplistic tactical title become apparent. Choose the wrong island with too challenging a difficulty spike, and all your hard work is undone. With no way of seeing what the island entails in this roguelike until you have selected it, it can become frustrating that you chose the wrong island for your squad at that particular time.

Audio & Visual

There is a peaceful serenity about the game before the impending waves of enemies landing ashore, and that is in part due to the hand-crafted aesthetics and the soft, soothing sounds of the sea. Once the ships begin to appear through the fog, the crux of the game is on display in all its bloodshed glory. While the combat is accurate and tastefully done, I found the sounds that accompany the swordplay left a little to be desired. Serviceable and convincing, they felt like stock sounds used regardless of what was happening on screen.

I also feel the same can be said for the music. It was used infrequently, as the squeaks of your units and the squawks of the birds took centre stage. When it was used, however, it was good without ever being outstanding. It set the tone for battle and ensured I was always reminded that danger was only ever a moment away.

Conclusion

Bad North has been a game on my wishlist ever since its release, with ample reason why. The understated beauty of the games’ design and the simplicity of its tactical nature is a perfect match. I thoroughly enjoyed my time navigating the islands with my troops, and it was satisfying to defeat wave after wave of enemy. The short missions and easy-to-use control scheme means I will continue to revisit Bad North for the foreseeable future – I recommend you do the same.

Rapid Reviews UK Rating

You can purchase Bad North on the Nintendo eShop at the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Bad-North-1423739.html

You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.

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