Brigador was a somewhat famous failure at launch — despite being a damn good game. Its tone, music, and top-down, real-time mech action soared. Those that played it enjoyed it, but not many people did play it at first. A relaunch in the form of its “Up-Armored Edition” helped a bit, and now developer Stellar Jockeys is going one step further. It’s showing off Brigador Killers: a full sequel to the brutal action game about betraying your homeland for cash. Except this time you play as the betrayed, not the betrayers.
That difference is key to Brigador Killers. The game seeks to address the most serious issues the devs believe kept the first game from more success. The first game had a story, but it was mostly tucked away in text logs and subtle hints. The developer I spoke to likened it to item descriptions in Dark Souls. Whereas Brigador Killers — which lets you play as surviving antagonists from the first game — has a more blatant narrative. Missions will be book ended with comic book panels that explain your drive for revenge.
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The dev I spoke to was tight-lipped about plot specifics. But they did explain the game takes place very shortly after its predecessor. The titular killers are directly responding to your actions in the first game. You did play the bad guys back then, after all, a detail Stellar Jockeys said was lost on some players thanks to the obscured narrative.
You’re not exactly heroes this time, though. It’s still up to you to avoid rolling over civilians or goosh them under your titanium heels. They were actually kind of flip about that fact.
The Brigador universe features a hegemonic corporation buying out foreign soldiers to betray their (perhaps not perfect) homeland. But the studio wasn’t willing to commit, at least in an interview, to a particular ideology driving the specifics of the plot. We’ll have to see for ourselves what ideas are present in the final game. And more people should be able to do just that. The campaign won’t be as punishing as before, meaning most players will be able to see it through to the end.
Flesh and Bones and Balls
Those looking for a challenge should still find it. The demo I played had access to three different playable characters: not all of which were mechs. One was a single soldier fighting on-foot. In fact, the original idea was for Brigador Killers to put you entirely on the ground against much heartier, more powerful foes. Stellar Jockeys went back to the original model (that of choosing and unlocking different mechs, tanks, and pilots with unique skills) to keep the variety from the first game. Recapturing and enhancing the experience of the original Brigador, while making it accessible to a wider group of people, seems like the entire point.
But rolling around as a flesh and blood human being is dangerous. It sucks in the game, too. You have much less health than a big, sexy mech (we’ll get back to that). And the flow of the game changes considerably. Instead of stomping through buildings at will, you need to manage alarms and rising threat levels. Blowing up a factory will draw a lot of attention, for instance — allowing you to activate stealth camouflage and slip away from massing enemy forces. Doing so during my demo gave me breathing room to run and kill a VIP on the other side of the map.
Then there’s the big ball. I got to play as this floating death machine last, after the suit-less soldier and a more traditional, humanoid mech. It was a big, roly poly nightmare that careened through apartment complexes and handled like a fishing boat on whip-its. None of that mattered, though. The thing had too many hit points for even a battalion of mercenaries to put a dent in. This, according to the developer, is a mech meant for when you just want to chill out and destroy something.
Please No Steppy
The third, more standard robot suit — a sexy purple number with thick thighs and a howitzer for a head — does what robots do in Brigador games. That is to say, they step on people (and cars, and hedges, and office buildings).
This version of Brigador Killers feels like… Brigador. You manage slightly limited ammunition and shields. You stomp with the space bar, destroying anyone and anything nearby, and opening holes in structures that you can use as cover. Instead of invisibility, the Evangelion-looking killer had a sonic scream that could annihilate anything in a short arc in front of it. Fans of the first game, and getting stepped on by giant, feminine figures, will find plenty to enjoy.
Sadly, I didn’t get see Brigador Killers‘ version of a Freelance Mode. The original Brigador offered this as a more systemic, more brutal experience that let you play indefinitely and unlock new mechs over time. But the developer I spoke to did mention something similar. They also said Brigador Killers will have between five and 10 playable pilots at launch — giving them a decent pool of warriors to work with.
I’ve still got a lot of questions about Brigador Killers. I’d like to see its story in action, to answer some of my questions about how it feels about capitalist imperialism. I want to know about the Freelance Mode (or its equivalent) and what the upgrade system will look like this time. But at least I understand what Stellar Jockeys is going for: more Brigador for more people. That’s far from a bad thing.