By Josh Speer / February 28th, 2017
I’ve been a fan of Pit People since before it had an official title. I knew The Behemoth was capable of greatness in many diverse genres, but I still couldn’t believe they were making a tactical game. After playing it a few times at PAX, I knew it was interesting and fun, but I wasn’t convinced the mechanics were quite up to snuff. After all, the tactical genre is one that requires tight mechanics and clear class strengths and weaknesses. Though I enjoyed the PAX version, some of the early mechanics were hard to understand at times. Fast forward a few months later and I got an opportunity to try out the Early Access version.
First, some basic details that you should know. This is made by The Behemoth, so regardless of the genre, they find a way to bring lots of insane slapstick humor to the table, and I love them for that. It appears Pit People occurs in some strange post-apocalyptic world whose onset was caused by the destruction of The Bear. I remember that character from Battleblock Theater, and it was painfully clear in that game that The Bear was far from a threat (besides a threat to fashion). Things are certainly different in Pit People, as it rapidly becomes evident that The Bear is now a godlike monster, who loves to capriciously ruin lives and gets off on mayhem and destruction. That is plain when he destroys the home of Horatio, the main character, and mocks him for his misery. Better yet, the Bear is the narrator of the Pit People, and never has there been a more unreliable narrator. While he speaks in perfect English, every other character speaks in a mish mash of gibberish, though you can tell what they’re saying from their faces and handy subtitles.
Once you get started, the game runs you through the basic mechanics and gameplay options. You can select missions from the gate, both story and side, as well as participate in gladiatorial battles in the titular pit. For the most part I stuck with story missions, since those were both more entertaining (like helping Mayor Rumptrumpet fend off angry constituents) and also because I wanted to get the gist of where the game was thus far. After picking a mission, you explore the world map and follow the handy arrows to your destination. It’s not all rainbows and chickens, however, as enemies litter the world map and, if you run into one, battle commences. If you’re in a hurry, you can launch missiles from your wagon to temporarily stun foes and sneak past them.
Thus far, I’m really pleasantly surprised by the revisions and clarifications that have been made with regard to battle. It’s really clear now which character is acting, where they end up and who they will be attacking (though it’s still hard to figure out how to completely block arrows). While it took some getting used to how your characters select their targets, it works well, and forces you to be strategic while placing your team. Speaking of which, though you’ll have Horatio, Pipistrella, the Cyclops and Sofia as mainstays, you can also recruit more friends with helpful cages! All it requires is that you have a cage in your inventory. Then the last surviving foe in any battle can be recruited. I used this technique to get two long-range fighters, since my Cyclops was more of a mid-range and none of my other units could attack from a distance. I got a particularly creepy Wraith who could bomb whole groups of enemies as well as lowering their stats, which is very handy. You also recruit a delicious little cupcake who heals nearby team members, which is useful in some of the tougher missions.
Though I didn’t encounter any real boss battles, other than against Helmitor for the final available story mission, Pit People is always a fair challenge. Things are balanced by the handy “level up and regain your health” feature and, if you lose any units, they always join your party again once you return to your home base. The whole experience feels very tight and enjoyable thus far. Two hours in I am captivated by the insane story, enjoy the mechanics, and want to see much more of this wide and zany world. Pit People has come a long way from the early PAX builds, and I cannot wait to play the final version. And I especially can’t wait to get past that jaw-dropping cliffhanger…
Early AccessImpressionsPit PeopleThe Behemoth