In Brigador, the stylish mech mayhem sandbox from 2016, you played as mercenaries taking up a corporate contract to overthrow a colony government and allow a sci-fi megacorp to move in and take over the planet. In Brigador Killers, the sequel planned for the first half of 2020, you're going to hunt down and kill your old self.
"You play as a group of survivors from the first game who are now a hit squad," developer Hugh Monahan told me at Bitsummit last weekend. "They've gone off-world and are tracking down and killing the characters you played as in the first game. We're putting together a deadpool among our fans, figuring out who they think is gonna die."
That's the basic plan for Brigador Killers' new campaign, which will have a stronger focus on storytelling than the first game. In addition to the new hit squad out for revenge, you'll also spend some of the campaign controlling those characters, who are now being hunted. Comic book style cutscenes in between missions will help tell the new story.
"Because Brigador was so long in development, the focus was just on the game mechanics, and I think we did a pretty good job of it, but it didn't leave us much room to flesh out a strict narrative," Monahan said. "The most common feedback we got was that's something people really wanted... on the story side we're following a small group of characters. You have a full narrative arc. We'll still have a lot of the freelance and randomization stuff from the first game. That's now secondary to this main story arc."
Brigador is the kind of game you can just jump into and blow shit up without needing a story, and the developers spent years on its 2D art, intricately detailed sprites and buildings that explode on a grand scale. Visually it's still a hell of a spectacle, and Killers is going to offer a substantially different way to wreck shop in its dense isometric cityscapes. In this game you'll be able to control an infantryman instead of a powerful mech, if you choose, making you much weaker.
I played as a bazooka-wielding footman for a mission, and quickly realized I needed to run from more fights than I ever would as a better-armored mech. An active camo ability let me give enemies the slip, but I'd reveal myself as soon as I fired. And that, it turns out, is pretty hard to resist when enemies are bunched up hunting you down, or the fastest way to your next target is through a row of buildings. Destruction is basically your only interaction in Brigador, and that destruction is giddily entertaining as buildings explode into a thousand pieces. Restraint is a new sensation.
Monahan wants missions to feel distinct based on the mech you're using, this time around. "We're actually going to have fewer playable vehicles in this than we did in Brigador, but the variety across them's gonna be way bigger," he said. "Something that's nice for us, reusing the same engine, we already know what Brigador is. What's good gameplay and everything. So in the remaining year-ish that we're spending developing the game we have a lot more room for refining that play experience."
The early demo of Killers I played looked and felt a whole lot like Brigador, and so will the final game, though with lots of new art. Because it's still fairly early in development, most of the art at this point is placeholder, reused from the first game. But controlling the infantryman made it feel almost like a different game. My field of view was dramatically reduced. I couldn't see over buildings or stomp through them. It reminded me of the old Command & Conquer levels where you controlled the Commando or Tanya instead of an omnipotent commander.
"When you're in that context going up against a tank, if you're not properly equipped it's gonna be a near-impossible task so that's gonna recontextualize the game," Monahan said. "It's not just 'can I kill this thing in three seconds versus five seconds,' it's 'what am I even capable of engaging?'"
Then I played as the absurdly destructive Wrecking Ball, a spherical mech that can hurtle through buildings like a bowling ball through papier-mâché. If the mech power fantasy is what you're after, Brigador Killers will surely have it in spades. Outside the campaign, you'll still be able to jump into a sandbox mode and go to town with the destruction.
The story is what I'm most interested in. I love Brigador's aesthetic, but I want a lot more in-mission storytelling as I take down my targets. But it's clear that at this point, with a well-honed engine and expanding lore, the developers really know what Brigador is now. After a poor launch for the first game, they learned that lesson the hard way. It was originally too focused on its complex mech tank controls, which conveyed a very specific experience but not one that resonated with nearly enough people. They've since added more customization options and control styles. For Killers, far more player choice will be there from the beginning.
"We actually had a twin-stick-style movement scheme working in the [first] game but we took it out because in my mind, I wanted people to play the game, quote, the 'right way,' and I kind of forced their hand with that. But that was a false binary. If people don't like tank controls they just don't play the game. So that was part of it. The other thing was, I spent time talking with AbleGamers and that realization of just, the importance of flexibility, purely from that audience's standpoint, started changing my thinking.
"I realized at the end of the day I don't care how people play the game. If they're having fun I'm happy. So there are ways we can recommend or prefer people play but at the end of the day this is an entertainment product, it's here for people to enjoy. However that happens, good on them. That's why now it's like, let's add in as many options as possible."
Brigador Killers should be out next year. If you want more Brigador in the meantime, there's always the novel.