When previewing/reviewing a game, the most important thing for me is the game play. But when I play a game from ‘The Behemoth’ I also like to measure its greatness by counting the number of occasions that I nearly wet my self from a little too much laughter. These games appeal to my sense of humour, and as such I’ve been really looking forward to this game.
So, Pit People is a turn based strategy game that see’s you battle a plethora of fantasy creatures for gold, loot and ultimately glory. The bulk of the game play is entirely focused around managing your party and the battles that they fight in, with a little bit of story and an over world to tie the whole experience together. It’s worth mentioning at this point that the preview version of the game only contains a small slice of the main story, but what is included lays some strong foundations for what is to come.
Lets start first with your party, which can be made up of a maximum of 6 characters. There is a range of character types to choose from, ranging from Cyclops’ and Electro Bots right through to healing cup-cakes that literally sacrifice themselves in small delicious pieces to heal adjacent team members. Each has their own strengths, abilities and weaknesses and I’ve not had a chance to test them all myself but with 20 plus available there is plenty of variety to play with.
Each member of the group can be customised with equipment and items. What you equip each member with effects their stats such as weight, damage, defence and dodge and hence the art here is to maximise your damage and defence whilst keeping your weight in check. Equip too much weight, and you’ll be penalised in both movement and damage. Some character types can carry more weight, such as the Cyclops, but others less and some are unable to equip anything at all. Primary and secondary slots can be used to equip melee weapons, ranged weapons or shields. Lighter weapons do less damage but are fast so effective against un-armoured opponents, where as heavier bludgeoning style weapons are weighted more towards tougher armoured opponents. Shields increase defence and protect against ranged attacks, and ranged weapons can be as little as an 8 ball all the way through to a shoulder mounted Bazooka. There is a ridiculous wardrobe of props and items to choose from. Items seldom carry any individual bonuses, hence you can equip what you want based on appearance rather than anything else. It’s unique to see that a Lolly Pop is just as effect as bashing your opponents skull in as a spiked club, or a Mortar Cannon as effective as a set of Bagpipes. It allows you to embrace the comical aspect in a way that compliments rather than interferes. Roman legion helmet or magical flower hat, its your choice and it doesn’t matter which you pick.
So, the trick is obviously striking the balance that suits your play style and there is a lot of scope to play around with, more than I could really cover in this article. What I think is important to convey though is that although it feels simple, there is a good amount of depth here that should suit players from all strategical schools of thought. You can work your way through the game without tweaking too much, or you can meticulously customise each team member to create the ultimate squad. The game doesn’t force you down either route, and the challenge can be scaled depending on how much time you want to invest in learning the intricacies. For those seeking the ultimate challenge, there is the ‘Insane’ difficulty that can be toggled at anytime which will push you to choose the perfect team and equipment, for those looking for an easier time there is the ‘Auto Battler’ mode which allows you to sit back and let the computer do the hard work for you.
Battles play out on a hexagonal ‘grid’ consisting of tiles of varying terrain types where each player takes their turn manoeuvring and attacking. Unlike your typical turn based strategy though, all you actually really do is move with attacks happening completely automatically influenced only by you position relative to your opponents. It’s refreshingly simple really, you move your characters to where you want and they’ll hit anything that they can in range. Who they attack though isn’t entirely predictable, where a unit adjacent to 2 enemy units will attack only 1 at random, as such placement can be very important when trying to concentrate your attacking force on a single foe. This also applies for ranged attacks, which become a little more difficult depending on the kind of ranged weapon equipped and the number on enemies in range. The randomness although likely frustrating for the strategist, introduces a sprinkling of chaos to the battles which helps to keep you on your toes a bit more.
Tying the whole thing together is the over world, that sees you travelling around in your caravan following objectives, looking for new quests or just battling some bad guys in a random encounter. It’s a busy place, with many themed areas to travel to and just as you think you know where to go suddenly you’ll be picked up and plopped down in another large random world to explore. Getting lost is all too easy, so make sure to lay a nice Hansel and Gretel style ‘poop trail’ so that you can find your way back. There is plenty to do, with many side quests and off piste activities to occupy you which with the expanded story should add up to a decent sized game. I’ve probably put in around 7 hours so far and I’ve probably covered around 25% of the available missions, although more will be available in the full game.
I’ve enjoyed what I have played so far, where the only issue that I can field at this stage being that after a while the battles themselves can feel a little repetitive. The presentation of the art and audio is great, the story has all the nonsensical absurdist humour that I’ve come to expect from ‘The Behemoth’, and the gameplay’s shaping up nicely to.
Pit People was covered via a download code of the Xbox One edition, provided by Xbox and The Behemoth.