REVIEW: Bad North

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

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Bad North Cover art
Title Bad North
Developer Plausible Concept
Publisher Raw Fury
Release Date August 20th, 2018
Genre RTS (Real Time Strategy)
Platform PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One
Age Rating T
Official Website

Bad North is a curious little creature. Developed by the small Swedish studio Plausible Games comes a small concept RTS of defending your island from intruders and protecting your home. Admittedly, RTS and strategy are not what I would consider to be my forte, but hey, if someone who rarely plays these kinds of games thinks it’s neat, it must mean something, huh?

In terms of story, we’re looking at pretty threadbare stuff. Set in medieval times, though no specific time is given, it’s summed up in a paragraph, and the rest is gameplay and how you decide to create your own advantages in troop placement and resource management between stages. The story’s pretty short and can be completed fairly quickly. There aren’t any NPCs to converse with or any kind of collectible that fleshes out the story more, but at the same time, this isn’t a game where the story is the focus and it’s more about gameplay.

Bad North | Load Screen

You’ll get used to this loading screen. Trust me.

Wave defense is the name of the game and actually, Bad North’s controls are a breeze, especially for someone that doesn’t dip into this realm of expertise much. You select your troops, tell them where to go, and watch the bloody carnage play out as they attack and defeat their enemies. You can use the right stick to turn the camera, which is quite helpful when the ships of the enemy are shrouded in the fog that surrounds each island. A small but effective touch.

However, the game can pile baddies on you and your land very quickly, which makes your reactions to the opposing troops that much sharper and demands more of your immediate attention to be spread out. With a clean UI and responsive controls, it’s one of those “easy to pick up, hard to master” kind of feelings you get throughout.

Each island is procedurally generated, so no matter what map you decide to play you’re going to be traversing ever-changing terrains. Each island is populated with structures and buildings and your score at the end of each successful defense of said structures is dependent on how many you saved during the attack. So to outright lose in the game is somewhat more difficult than in others in the beginning. You’ll soon realize how the difficulty can ramp itself up. This can be alleviated with the help of upgrades you can apply in between each stage, but I couldn’t help but feel like the upgrades weren’t “there” enough. It felt so incremental to me that I didn’t really figure to upgrade anything until later, because whenever I did small upgrades it felt ineffectual. Again though, once you get the hang of it, you’re good to go.

Also, the game utilizes a system of rock-paper-scissors for upgrades. Troops with shields can block archer attacks, archers are weak in comparison to the melee troops, and melee troops have a hard time with pikes. Each selectable upgrade has their own strengths and weaknesses and feel implemented pretty well, with clear to understand definitions of each unit. It adds a little spice to each upgrade, for sure.

Bad North | Gameplay screen 1

You start will smaller islands, but eventually they’ll get much bigger.

Graphically you’re looking at some pretty minimalistic stylings. Much like the story, minimalism remains the focus. The procedurally generated islands look just good enough to be able to pass as the simplistic style demands and remain pleasant to look at. Character portraits and even the in-game models are simplistic as well, as to not get in the way of its great feeling gameplay. While this is always nice to see in smaller indie games, I couldn’t help but feel like they could’ve done a little more with the environments and characters. Not by much, as to not take away from what they’re trying to do, but just a little more to help it stand out from the other potential contenders that have a similar look.

Same with the music, as it does feel appropriate to the time the game takes place in, and it’s also minimalistic. So minimalistic in fact that it got to the point that I forgot music was even involved. While I wouldn’t say that this game would need a swooping orchestral score or anything big budget like that, I would expect some subtle ambiance at least.

Bad North I Select Screen

You traverse many islands throughout the campaign, as they all need defending.

Throughout my 10 or so hours of gameplay, I can definitely say that Bad North has a lot to offer, especially for its price point, though I feel like $10 would be the sweet spot as opposed to the $15 it asks for. With endless amounts of different islands to play with, a simplistically pleasant art style and easy to learn controls, even a RTS stranger like me can find things about Bad North to enjoy. Plus they have an extra edition of the game out right now (The Jotunn edition) that has more stuff added, so if you’re looking for an easy to pick up, hard to master RTS with a medieval flair to it, this would be a good option to consider. Turns out, Bad North isn’t that bad.

Review Score
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