Previewing an Early Access title is a slightly odd affair. Discerning between poor execution or incomplete, unpolished mechanics is always going to be a tricky endeavour.
As opposed to a carefully structured demo or selected section of code to test or otherwise enjoy, Early Access titles throw a bunch of, for lack of a better term, “stuff” at you.
The assets of a game that may eventually tie it together are usually missing or incomplete, often leaving me wanting – it’s not an altogether likable experience.
So for as much as I enjoyed playing through Brigador a great deal, I find it difficult ratifying what’s wrong with the game as things that still need work.
That’s not to say Brigador is unlikable, but it does feel a little bland at the moment.
What it does offer is a great looking isometric arcade-like shooter, with a really rather likeable retro aesthetic to it.
It’s a vibrant, superbly detailed and destructible world to be sure, but it’s one I played through a few times only to finish wanting more.
On the plus side, it sounds great, offering a soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place in an ’80s sci-fi film. Heck, I’d listen to it without the game attached to it in a jiffy.
As far as gameplay is concerned, Brigador is an arcade shooter that tasks you with navigating through destructible environments, populated with neon cities, gritty slums, picturesque suburbs, the occasional swamps, forests and, well, enemy installations, and it’s those installations that are key.
Your job is a simple one, outfit your vehicle of choice with your preferred weaponry and tackle a fairly intelligent and resourceful AI in command of randomised infantry, all manner of mech and vehicle and a few other little surprises.
Between you and your foe are various terrain and structure types to take advantage of, or plough through, ammo dumps and a lot of squishing and exploding.
If anything, developer Stellar Jockeys got the arcade part right, especially if you consider that there’s more to come.
Unfortunately, the control scheme allotted to a few of the vehicles, particularly the mechs, is awkward and detracts from the experience. The moment you fight with the controls as much as you do an enemy mech, it becomes more of an effort than an enjoyable experience.
There’s also little in the way of a driving motivator to retry levels as often as the developers expect.
For the moment, there’s no narrative to speak of, nor is there enough variety between levels to offer the drive to keep going.
The solitary mission type doesn’t help either, though I imagine adding more will immediately rectify my biggest issue with the game – you get tired of having to destroy weapon installations on every level.
I suspect the drive to unlock new content will also be fairly appealing, but for the moment it’s pretty lacklustre in that department, even if you start off with a fair variety of vehicle and weapon types.
All-in-all, Brigador’s foundation is a solid one. It plays well, looks fantastic and sounds even better.
Its biggest issues are its controls and driving force to keep me playing, which for me is pretty darn important.
Were this a full release, it’d do okay, but not great, but it’s an Early Access title and I’m more than willing to give it the benefit of the doubt – being able to curb stomp people with a large mech has that effect on me.