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Brigador is a fun time. 

Stellar Jockeys are building a piece of textbook neostalgia.  This game is a neon rainbow layer cake of elements of 90s beloved classic games.

Here’s the recipe for Brigador:

  • Isometric urban maps from Syndicate.
  • Mechs and tanks from Mechwarrior 3050.
  • Fond memories of Desert, Urban, and Jungle Strike.
  • An obscure game from 1996 called Bedlam that few remember.
  • Night lit by neon lights and explosions, with nifty headlight effects.
  • Make everything on screen able to be stomped, blasted, or charged through like you’re a kaiju Koolaid-man.
  • Really hard.  Like games used to be.
  • Mix the ingredients into a bowl, and pour in a sack full of guns of every type.
  • Bake for 6 more months, in an exploding refinery that destroys half the screen.
  • Ice it with roguelike permadeath and enough randomized elements to keep it cool.

    Serve chilled, with a side of map editor.
    Feeds up to 40 tanks, mechs, and hovercraft.

There’s a story whispered about at some point, but I couldn’t hear it over how awesome the gameplay is.  Pick a war machine, strap two guns and a defensive system on it, and go wreck everything on a quest to unlock the map exits—at which point you enter the next map with the same health and ammo state. 

Yes, you have one health bar to complete the game.  No, you cannot repair yourself.  Mercifully, you can replenish your shields, but armor damage is for life … which I assure you will be short the first 50 times you play.  Brigador is hard, and it doesn’t waste any time reminding you of how games used to be, back when you hooked them up to your television set.  The developers have stated their aim was to make a modern game in the “what if” style of the 90s never abandoning rotoscoped sprites for 3D models.  And that is exactly what they delivered.

The game is currently early access but is progressing at a steady and visible pace.  Seven vehicles are available now, with a promised 40-some when they’re done.  Plus, you’ll be getting a map editor someday.  Vehicles come in bipedal chicken-walker, tank tracks, or hovercraft styles, and each is very much an individual personality.  They have different levels of armor, shields, mobility, and melee damage, plus a special ability that varies by chassis.

Your opponents are a variety of tanks, infantry, mecha, hover-cycles, and hordes of ant-sized people on foot that make a nice squish noise when you stomp on them.  Destroy a few giant cannons, kill three boss enemies, or kill a large percentage of the enemy on the map and the exit doors pop open.  String enough of these victories together and the final map has you escaping in a shuttle at the spaceport.  Trust me, it’ll be a while before you see this, but you’ll get there, because I think the most important thing that Brigador gets right is the sense of progress. 

It’s hard, and it will kill you over and over.  But every time you die, it’s a lesson on what you could have done better, and this leads to “one more try” that can go on for hours.  The game feels fair, because it doesn’t cheaply kill you, and it’s always your fault.  That said, it can be both frustrating and hilarious as you end an absolutely fabulous run by stepping on an explosive pipeline, which ends up in a chain reaction where half the screen erupts in a fireball and takes you from 100% health to atoms instantly.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll hit “New Contract” over and over again.

Whenever a game is in early access, there’s always the question of “should I jump on this now, or wait and see if they follow through?”  Brigador is one of the rare “sure things” out there.  It’s already worth its weight in neon pixels and  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one wraps up. 


James Hunt

Old enough to know better, dumb enough to do it anyway. Playing video games since before they were invented, and writing about them since 1996. Alumni of gamepen.com, gamesdomain.co.uk, Computer Game Strategy Plus magazine, and several other places I've contributed to the downfall of. Taylor Swift wrote a song about me, I'm pretty sure.