Brigandine: Legend of Forsena was one of the most user-unfriendly titles on the PlayStation. Learning the ropes took a couple of hours even if you painstakingly read the instruction manual and/or looked up information online. For some, it was a slow burn even when things clicked. For me, it became an addictive strategy RPG where I was pulling all the strings in an epic war. I was in control of just about everything: troops, formations, monster evolutions, item distribution, and more. I was looking forward to doing more of the same in Brigandine: Legend of Runersia. How does this new game in the series compare to its PlayStation predecessor?
The short answer is this: if you liked the original, then you’ll like this one. But, let’s break it down a bit. Brigandine: Legend of Runersia takes place on the continent of Runersia in the year 781. On this continent, a resource called Mana is used to perform miracles and summon monsters from different dimensions. Six superpowers with differing ideals, beliefs, and faiths have answered the call to unify the continent. Five of these nations hold Brigandines: stones of pure Mana capable of amazing power. As the player, you select one of these nations and set out to unite the continent.
For my playthrough, I selected The Republic of Guimoule led by Eliza Uzala. For much of her life, Eliza went by the alias Jill so she could dance on the theater’s stage. However, the nation’s legendary Sword of Ange selects her to protect her home from invaders. She now wears the Brigandine of Glory and plans to unify the continent under it. While I haven’t played as any of the other nations yet, this is the basic premise Legend of Runersia. You’ll select a nation, watch their introduction, and get to work. I thought it was fun getting to learn about Eliza and some of her friends during the journey. (The high wizard Mu’Ah and his granddaughter Sugar were absolute delights.) By the end of the campaign I knew the cast from Eliza’s campaign well. Sadly, not everyone that started with her had any screen time. Also, story events are completely disconnected from the rest of the game. Basically, gameplay in Legend of Runersia is its own thing and the story is something entirely different. There’s a major lack of cohesion. To top it off, a big-bad pops in out of nowhere near the end of the game forcing you to suddenly care about the fate of Runersia instead of its unification.
Fans of Legend of Forsena will have an easy time grasping the gameplay in Legend of Runersia. Time is represented by seasons. One season consist of an Organization Phase and an Attack Phase. After the introduction, players are immediately taken to the Organization Phase. This is where you organize your troops, equip/use items, move troops to other castles, and summon monsters. Another action you can do is to send your troops on quests for one season. These reward you with extra experience, new items, and/or a recruit. Troops consist of a leading Rune Knight and a certain number of monsters. The more powerful monsters cost more Mana not only to summon (this gets restored after one season) but to have a spot in a Rune Knight’s squad. So, more experienced Rune Knights can have more powerful monster companions. As both Rune Knights and monsters grow in experience, they can class change and evolve, respectively. The first Organization Phase can feel overwhelming. Even with the multitude of tutorials, there’s a lot to consider.
After the Organization Phase, it’s time head to battle in the Attack Phase. Here you will invade neighboring castles or fight back invaders as you defend one of your own. Up to three Rune Knights and their monster companions can participate in battle. The hexagonal grid battlefield has returned, as did the turn-based strategic warfare. Your team and the enemy clash until one side is wiped out and/or retreats. Every Rune Knight and monster excels in a specialty: magic, healing, support, tanking, speed, etc. During my time with Eliza’s campaign, Eliza was always the MVP since she exceled in everything. Legend of Runersia is a dream for those that love micromanaging troops and resources. You need to take position, accuracy, elemental affinity, terrain, status ailments and much more into account before thinking about an invasion. Those that wish for something a bit simpler will also be able to jump in: there are multiple difficulty and customization options in case you don’t want to pay attention to every minute detail within your squad. No matter what you do, the one thing to keep in mind is that battles are long. An auto-battle and fast forward option streamline things, but even these quality of life features won’t feel like much when you’re involved in back to back battles. On the other hand, watching your party emerge victorious and seeing you slowly but surely take over the continent is quite satisfying.
After the Attack Phase ends, you’ll witness a story event and be taken to the Organization Phase. This entire process repeats until all nations are under your control. It’s a tried and true formula that worked well in Legend of Forsena and works well here. Outside of a handful of gameplay changes, the two games play similarly. In fact, the most noticeable difference between the two is the presentation. This area is also my least favorite aspect. While the music is great and some of the voice acting (Japanese only) is serviceable, the graphics make the game feel even more disconnected. Character art is a busy mess of colors and shapes. Static portraits with odd poses and varying facial expressions are used during the story events. Monster designs are slick, but the Rune Knights’ designs are all over the place. In battle, they’re represented by generic, blobby 3D models. The only exception is your main character. Monsters look fine but it’s a bummer seeing so many different Rune Knights getting represented by such basic models.
The game’s play time will vary. I finished Eliza’s campaign in about 15 hours, but someone else playing as her could finish it in a shorter or longer amount of time. A variety of gameplay options and your starting country will dictate how long your game lasts. Finishing the game once unlocks Challenge Mode. This mode lets you pick any nation and any Rune Knight you’ve recruited from previous campaigns. The goal is to conquer the continent in a limited amount of time. This is perfect those that love using all their strategy finesse. As for me, it’ll be a while before I unify the continent with a different ruler. Brigandine: Legend of Runersia is a fun game but it requires a very specific mood. Legend of Forsena fans will gobble this right up, but if you haven’t had a chance to play that then consider looking into the more affordable Legend of Runersia. If you enjoy strategy RPGs where you must pay attention to every aspect of your team, then this game is catered to you. Those used to more user-friendly titles will have a slight learning curve to overcome, but it will be worth it in the end. Watching your tiny nation turn into a massive superpower is a time consuming but rewarding endeavor.
Overall, 7.5/10: Brigandine: Legend of Runersia takes the formula from the PlayStation original, gussies it up with some new options, and presents itself in an all new adventure. Be prepared for both your strategic mind and your eyes to adjust to all of it.