I’VE had the opportunity to play a variety of tactical RPGs over the years, but few have left an impression on me quite like Phantom Brigade. Developed by Tetragon Works and published by Brace Yourself Games, this game is a unique approach for fans of turn-based strategy games, RPGs and mechs. Thematically it blends the setting of Titanfall’s mechs with the gameplay of XCOM with some amazing additions and modifications, that I feel is just an incredibly innovative and welcomed approach to the genre, despite its issues.
The game’s premise is simple: you play as the leader of a group of rebels fighting against a powerful military force. In order to gain the upper hand, you must use your wits and tactical acumen to outmanoeuvre and outgun your opponents. The key to your success is your squad of mechs, which you can customize and upgrade over time, in turn-based combat.
I’ll be up-front in saying, there disappointingly isn’t all that much of a story present throughout Phantom Brigade. Apart from some minimal dialogue in the tutorial, there is a complete absence of voice acting, cutscenes, or a proper storyline in the game. The narrative merely grazes the surface of a plot, lacking any substantial background or character development, with only a handful of pilots who are referred to by the names you give them.
As the leader of the Phantom Brigade, a guerrilla unit dedicated to freeing “The Homeland,” which is an ambiguous Nordic country, from “The Invaders” who have taken over, you team up with the an army to reclaim one province at a time. That’s about as deep as it gets, and the remainder of the game shifts its attention towards why it obviously put all of its effort into: the gameplay.
Phantom Brigade is a tactical game centred around leading a small team of four mechanized warriors into battle against larger forces. Combat takes the form of tactical, turn-based rounds, where you are presented with firefights where you are constantly outnumbered by multiple enemies. To account for this, you are given a significant advantage in each five-second turn, as you know exactly what your enemy will be doing. Using a detailed timeline, you carefully plan your squad’s movements and attacks, while visual projections display the enemy’s movements and targets. This system provides a more nuanced approach than that seen in other tactical games like Into The Breach.
As you lead your team of gangdum-inspired heroes, you’ll have the opportunity to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses with precision timing. For instance, you can dodge out of a sniper’s bullet just in the nick of time, or use a melee attack to disrupt an opponent’s charge as you’ll know exactly when they’re coming. This creates a thrilling experience where you feel like you’re commanding a group of fearless warriors against a horde of faceless adversaries.
After each successful skirmish, your squad can salvage valuable mech parts and weapons from the battlefield. You can also dismantle any unwanted gear and use the resources to upgrade your mobile repair base and improve your mechs. As you progress through the game’s strategic map, the battles become increasingly challenging. However, as you defeat enemy forces, you’ll gain access to their technologies, which you can integrate into your arsenal.
The customization in Phantom Brigade was responsible for a lot of time loss, as I took it upon myself to built a fictional narrative for my squad that was lacking. Luckily, this was easy enough to immerse myself in as the intricately designed and well-executed visuals are worth raving home about. The games aesthetics are paired incredibly with a streamlined user interface (alongside the visually stunning mechs), which really allows you to immerse yourself in the whole experience.
Phantom Brigade does have a few additional flaws that need to be addressed . For one thing, the the further you progress throughout the campaign, the more mindless and at times; dull the A.I appears. Although it was exciting to unlock new weapons in my arsenal, some of them just felt out-right broken, and made me question why I’d even consider using another weapon at all.
In addition to this, the game only features a few map variants, which are hills, villages, towns, industrial complexes, and military bases, and despite some minor differences, they’re functionally identical in most regards. This doesn’t negatively impact what makes the game fun too much, but it wouldn’t have hurt to spice up the map layouts a bit more.
Overall, I’m a bit torn on Phantom Brigade, because on paper it’s glaring issues should act as a deterrent, but there’s something deeply fun and addicting about the core gameplay mechanics that I just have to recommend you try out if you love a turn-based strategy games (or just mechs). It’s a unique and engaging experience that’s sure to keep you coming back for more.