Preview : Phantom Brigade

To say I am a fan of mechs is an understatement. I love nothing more than seeing giant robots destroy each other on the battlefield, so it is no surprise that I immensely enjoyed my hands-on demo of Brace Yourself Games’ Phantom Brigade. When I say that this game is unique and features a gameplay concept that I have never experienced before, I really mean it.

Phantom Brigade is what I would consider a “cinematic, tactical” game. While other strategy titles have you acting in turns, Phantom Brigade spins the concept on its head as everything that happens within the game occurs simultaneously. Much like the mechs within the game, there are a ton of moving parts that really makes this game stand out.

First, combat happens in five second intervals and simultaneously, as I said before. How does this work? There is a time tracker at the bottom that you can move your cursor through to see what the enemies intend to do, when they will do it, and what they will do “it” with. I had to figure out a way to progress the action, complete my mission, and counter every attack I could.

I had a suite of actions which include run, attack, block, and more. When I selected my action, I had to place said action on the tracker and as I did so, I was able to see the enemy’s actions. So, if I moved, I could tactically plan exactly where I wanted to stop. Enemies have attack cones with projections of when and where they plan to attack, so I had to move my units in calculated formations to counter their actions.

At one point in the demo, I rushed an enemy with my shield, planning exactly where I was running along with when and where I put my shield up. Indicators told me exactly where our mechs would meet. When I started to immerse myself into these moments of planning multiple actions within my turn, it began to look like an audio editing dock, where actions each have their own track.

Once I had my movements planned, the action occured, and this is my favorite part of the entire game; seeing the fruits of my labor play out in a way that has me on the edge of my seat. This is because no matter how much I planned, there is always a chance that something didn’t quite go the way I hoped. Bullets and other artillery are all rendered and have their own physics, meaning that attacks could fail, hit specific parts of the enemy, and even ricochet. If you are slick enough, you can line-up enemy shots to promote enemy friendly-fire, which helped me take down one of the more powerful mechs within the demo.

There is a literal ton of comments I can make about this game because it is an absolute blast. Slowing down time to see my mechs fight threw me back into my Gundam days (specifically 08th MS Team). I was also shown several menus where I can set loadouts, manage my mechs, and even customize their color scheme.

To be fair, as much as I loved this game, there is a lot to do and sometimes it could be hard to manage, but that is fine. After about 20 or so minutes, I was skating through the demo mission, taking out tanks and experiencing a more natural feel. It takes a bit getting used to, but when I finally hit that stride, it clicked, and I really felt like a battlefield mech master.

I haven’t even touched on the expansive world map that will have you fighting for the Capitol of the area. You can pick up and move your convoy to various locations and it all acts out in real time, so you need to plan your movements carefully.

There are also other tactical elements that you must consider when you take the battlefield. Sometimes destroying the enemy is not the best option as they may surrender, giving your convoy some much needed resources. There is a ton of depth to this game that enables you to take full control and advantage of every situation you are in.

Phantom Brigade is a great game if you really enjoy tactical combat and giant robots fighting. It is one of those games that I just keep on thinking about when my brain gets a bit of downtime. Currently, Phantom Brigade is on Epic Game Store’s Early Access program, so you can easily give it a shot. A release date has yet to be announced, but the team is hard at work adding more to a game that already offers so much.

By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

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