Tactical turn based strategy games are not typically my genre but Phantom Brigade is something worth checking out. New to Steam Early Access, it takes a classic mech style game and adds a unique time mechanic to change the gameplay up. This project, while still in development, comes fully featured with a massive amount of content in its campaign and design with still more to come. There’s a lot to be excited about.
Phantom Brigade is a classic strategy game. On the battlefield, each movement and action are displayed on an active timeline. This allows for you to plot out each action and movement visually as well as manage multiple units at a glance. The unique take is that your characters have a device that allows them to see the future of the enemies’ turn. This lets you take your timeline and customize it to meet the enemy’s movements and actions. If you move your unit out of cover, you can see exactly when the enemy will fire on you. Then the game becomes about strategizing and adjusting to the enemy’s plans.
This timeline planning gives the gameplay an elegance. Planning every second of the following 3-5 second turn, then watching it play out like choreography is quite satisfying. While games like XCOM focus on duck and cover, Phantom Brigade focuses on movement, favoring run and gun tactics in the encounters. Flanking enemies and covering a partner for a sneak attack are all variable strategies here and work like you’d expect. Watching carefully laid out plans feels good and watching them fail is just as entertaining. The mission structures also add variety with environmental hazards and building destruction ensuring no one encounter is ever the same.
As far as the story is concerned, your country has been taken over and it’s your job to take it back, outpost by outpost with a giant world map promising hours and hours of missions. Traversing the world map is via slow moving free roaming train housing your team. Customization brings different mech parts, weapons–including swords and shields– and pilots themselves. Each pilot has a level of fatigue and other stats, so it’s worth rotating them out, or fitting them to different mechs for better stat combinations. Repairing your mech is a timer in real time so you may need to wait before jumping into that next battle. Preparation is key.
Phantom Brigade is a new and exciting twist to the turn based strategy genre and watching the game play out each turn in real time provides a cinematic quality to the action. Graphics are simple, with clean looking mechs that are reminiscent of Gundams, and the soundtrack is scored like any great action movie. One minor complaint I have about Phantom Brigade is that it does the “you have to lose” intro mission to tutorialize. That’s more of a personal gripe though, and it’s a move that does well to set up the story for what’s to come. And from the looks of this early access, Phantom Brigade is something worth watching out for.
Phantom Brigade is available to purchase in Early Access on the Epic Game Store.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites at twitch.tv/bokor