Bad North: Review
Bad North Review
In previous reviews I spoke of my itch, since getting the console over a year ago, to play a great Real Time Strategy game on my Switch. I assure you my friends, I have found that great RTS in Bad North. Not only is it a superb title, it might be one of Switch’s best pick up and play games.
Now I feel there is one very important detail when we’re talking about Bad North, this is the same developer; Raw Fury, as Kingdom: New Lands, one of my favorite early Switch titles. This game feels like a natural progression, taking the simplified nature of the Kingdom’s economy and upgrade systems and flourishing it into army management . It uses the fun of the unexplained, trying to figure out different systems of the game left unanswered. If you loved Kingdoms, this is simply a must buy for you. Both have the feel and strategy of a tower defense game without being outright tower defense games. Actually, if I had to describe how it plays, I would say it plays like if a tower defense game, Advanced Wars and FTL had a viking baby.
Bad North boils down the RTS formula into a simplified but intentionally restricting system. You go island to island with your commanders, saving houses on each plot of land in exchange for gold to upgrade said commanders. You can only level your commanders up, give them special abilities and if they’re holding an item, you can beef it up to be more powerful. It’s an upgrade tree that provides consequences based on your choices down the road. If you make a single wrong choice, it will usually become apparent why later on when permadeath comes a-calling.
Bad North is a roguelite through and through. But, that’s where it’s going to divide players. Like I said, permadeath comes a-knocking and all your hard work pimping out your troops collapses. When all your commanders kick the bucket, it’s game over. Nothing carries over, the game says “you lose, good day sir”. Then you start another campaign that will have a completely different island order and experiences for each. Most of the campaign is procedurally generated and that helps each campaign feel fresh, but you can learn from your past L’s, so you can get a little bit further in the future.
Personally, I like that nothing carries over and the game is about learning to be better at itself. It makes this a game I kept coming back to, and it’s so easy to drop in and start storming islands that I found Bad North to be fantastic to pick up and play throughout your day. Though I understand how it can be disheartening to keep getting so far, for it all to be for not because of one island having one too many brutes. I think at least something carrying over would be fun in a future patch but as is, it makes everything a singular challenge and Raw Fury did patches and DLC for Kingdoms, so I have a lot of hope they’ll do the same here.
Patches is something we need though. I ran into my fair share of frame rate drops at really intense moments, which weren’t too bad. On my 7th campaign through of the game is when I ran into my first real bug, it was supposed to be like an early morning Sunrise on my island but instead the sun made everything purple and by proxy, my soldiers and islands were too. This went on for three more until I decided to restart the software and that seemed to fix it. So if you guys run into anything like that, a quick reboot will do the trick. Raw Fury was attentive to problems in their previous games, so I am sure all issues will be addressed soon.
Now one of the most effective tools in Bad North’s bag is its sound. The soundtrack puts you right in the mood. The little yells of the soldiers and the thunk of their arrows had me charmed straight away. The rain not only looks good in this little isometric RTS, but adds this great tone to defending each island. Hearing the horn of the incoming vikings at first is a helpful hint at the start, but becomes a beacon of death in later levels. I actually felt my pulse go up when I heard the horn as things heated up on later islands. Feels like Seven Samurai, your small amount of troops, standing off in the pouring rain with an army. It’s pretty epic.
If you have been waiting for an RTS on the Switch, this month has been a great one with Crush Your Enemies, Element and now this. All of them offer a simpler more stripped down RTS experience, all in different ways. Yet, Bad North is my favorite out of all of them, it just gets me. The simplistic units and upgrade system bring back nostalgia of playing Advance Wars when I was younger. I like that you can play to your style, and the game encourages that flexibility but still has strict unsaid rules on how to get to the very end of the game. I have to admit in over ten hours with the game I never beat it. I got real close, 92%. So close, yet so far. I started the game with only getting runs with 50%-60%, and I feel accomplished in that I improved, learning the in and outs.
To you RTS fans out there, you might feel the same way about this game as I did. It just clicks with me and made me excited to learn more. If you are not an RTS fan but love you some vikings, this is still worth the money. I can see why Nintendo showed this game off in two Nindie Showcases and I can’t wait to see what this developer does next.
Rating: 9 Vikings out of 10
TLDR Review: A Tower Defense game, Advance Wars, and FTL had a Viking Baby and it is a Switch must have.