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Game Info:

Bad North
Developed By: Plausible Concept
Published By: Raw Fury
Released: November 16, 2018
Available On: Windows, Switch, macOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action, Simulation, RTS
ESRB Rating: T for Violence and Blood
Number of Players: 1
Price: $14.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Raw Fury for the review code!

Bad North is a rogue-lite strategy game where you fight on a grid with groups of soldiers in units that you can move around during battle. Bad North is specifically a real-time strategy game, which means the only pause you'll get from it is the pause menu. You change where your soldiers are on the fly, in order to win. You start on a randomly generated island, with only 2 units of soldiers being given to you. Every island has a certain amount of houses that you must protect. Each unit only has 9 soldiers, with one being the commander. If all 9 die you lose the unit for the rest of the game.

The starting units are the most basic you can get; they have nothing to shield themselves and only have some weak swords. You have to protect your houses as waves of vikings in boats wash ashore to go to battle with your units. The goal of the game is to survive the onslaught of vikings who come aground without the houses getting destroyed or your units dying. If you do manage to do so, you get a reward in the form of coins. How many coins you get depends on how many houses you protect and how big they were. The biggest houses give 3, while the medium and small give 2 and 1 respectively.

You use these coins to upgrade your units through a couple of ways. The first way is by selecting a class. There are three classes that you can upgrade default units to. Archers, Pikes, and Infantry: Archers have bows that can shoot at vikings before they reach the shore and from far away on ground, but they can't defend themselves in close quarters at all. Pikes excel at defending the shore, stopping them from going beyond it, but they can't attack vikings while they move. If they go beyond where you are, you probably won't be killing them. Infantry have shields which also makes them good for defending the shores, although they can't kill as easily as Pikes can. The advantage they have over all other classes is the fact that their shields can protect them from hits close up and far away from archers. They can also attack vikings while moving, which makes them great for chasing people who run away. Speaking of running away, if you're about to lose a battle you can choose to flee by hopping in a viking's boat. If you have multiple units but one is low on people, you can also replenish them. They run into a house that's not being attacked or hasn't been destroyed, and after a decent bit of time come out with a full unit.

Bad North
Highlights:

Strong Points: Great art style; Good gameplay
Weak Points: Can get stale quick; Defending can be slow
Moral Warnings: Some comedic violence and blood that can be disabled

Each class has two upgrades which makes them stronger. All units when upgraded seem harder to kill, but each have their own special benefits as well. For Archers, they do more damage, shoot faster and are more accurate. For Pikes, they kill easier and hold their ground better. For Infantry, they deal more damage and have upgraded shields. Each class upgrade makes a unit better and more reliable, but each one gets more expensive. The first upgrade to choose a class costs 6 coins, while the first class upgrade costs 12 coins and the second 20. Pikes and Infantry are usually very strong from level 1, but Archers need to be level 2 or 3 before they can really shine.

The second way to use coins is to buy skills for your units. Archers have Volley, where they bombard a tile with arrows. Pikes have Charge, where they run at a tile spikes forward. Infantry have Plunge, where they jump down from a cliff onto enemies. Each skill can be used without losing it, but they have a cooldown. You also have to be somewhat close to your enemy, usually within 3 tiles. Skills cost 7 coins for the first level, but like classes, have upgrades that cost 10 and 14 coins respectively, each making them stronger and more powerful.

Another important mechanic is that of the map and storm. You jump between islands to defend them, but it's a linear process. You can't just jump to another island unless you beat one before it. It's a progression system, and if you've ever played FTL then you know how this progression system works. You start on the left side of the map and slowly work your way to the right. Just like FTL, a storm comes from the left side of the map, forcing you to continue moving forward and take islands. If you don't take islands that allow you to keep moving forward and get stuck in the storm, you'll lose. When deploying on an island you can only select four units. Sometimes you'll find an island that has a "Local Commander," a unit that's on the island. Local Commanders take up a slot, so you can only deploy 3 of your units. If you defend the island and he doesn't die, the Commander joins you and becomes a unit you can deploy.

The vikings who attack your island also come in different classes. They can only come in the default sword, Infantry or Archer class. They also come in different strengths, with some being like cannon-fodder and others tanks. As you get further, matches get harder and the stronger vikings start to appear. The number in which they come starts to grow as well, sometimes with over 10 vikings on one boat. They also start appearing more frequently, with several boats coming at once, sometimes from different sides of the island. It starts to get hectic when you're moving your units from one side of the island to the other, while also deciding which units should go where. Should the stronger units fight the incoming force, or help back up the weak units?

Bad North
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 13/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 94%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Bad North has a cartoony low-poly 3D art style. It contrasts quite well with the gameplay, which would be very different and violent if it was in a realistic style. Everything in the world looks like it's been made out of clay, which gives a rounded look on models. The animations are smooth and expressive, and you can tell the artists put a lot of work into them. Everything looks colorful and sharp, allowing you to tell what's happening at all times. Of all the things in this game the graphics are the most polished, and really help make the game feel more approachable. The sound design is also good. Hearing the clanks of metal as they hit shields and the rattling of weapons as your units move is fun. Music wise nothing really strikes me as impressive, but it is good. Its empty dark atmosphere provides a sinister feel while you clash with the vikings.

I do have some issues with Bad North, however. The game is fun, but I feel it gets boring quick. At around 10 hours I've seen everything there is in this game. I've seen all the enemies, all the classes, items, upgrades, etc. The only variation you'll see is that which is "procedurally generated" which is a fancy way of saying that the only things that will change are the islands and enemies. As such, if you like random variation or trying to get the perfect run, then this game might be fun for 20 hours or even more beyond that. But if you're someone who gets bored by these types of games, you probably won't like it.

My last issue is that waves can be painfully slow. There's no speed-up function and sometimes you can destroy a wave in less than a second and have to wait almost 15 seconds for the next one. This doesn't sound like much, but rounds usually consist of 10 or more waves. And considering this is only on one island and you'll be doing at least a dozen in a playthrough... it can get slow. Now morality wise there's almost nothing bad with this game, there's only blood and violence, however the blood can be disabled and the violence is more cartoony since the soldiers aren't human.

If you enjoy rogue-lite strategy games like Into the Breach, you'll probably like Bad North. But if you're looking for a deep game with loads of content, I'd suggest something else.

- Remington

About the Author

Remington

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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