Strange Brigade Review: A Charmingly Peculiar Experience

Rebellion Developments, known mostly for action-oriented World War II skill shooters like Sniper Elite and Zombie Army Trilogy has produced a peculiar and yet flawed gem in Strange Brigade. A third person shooter at heart with a deep reliance on cooperative gameplay, the story is a hybrid between being a campy 1940’s serial and arcade redundance. But after investing some time into the varying characters and often complex storyline, one can easily see how the title is easily overlooked. Rebellion studios have crafted an experience that goes beyond the mere point and shoot action genre that has become the trope of many other games within the genre. Strange Brigade does not reinvent action genre nor does it perfect its already common formula. But at its heart, the game has so much going for it that its missteps can easily be overcome by its charm.

A Plot Based On Historical Fiction

In 1930, archaeologist Edgar Harbin uncovers a tomb of the much-maligned Saharan queen Seteki. Unknown to Harbin, the former African ruler has placed a curse on all those who venture into her grave. Thus begins the first act of the plot, as the British secret service puts together a team to combat the monsters Seteki’s curse has unleashed onto pre World War 2 Africa. From this point, the story begins to take a banal turn, as your ragtag team of four heroes combats the forces of the undead in a series of uninspired locations across the North African continent. The game is ensconced in Egyptian mythology, right down the use of cartoon-like mummies and ravens that have come to form the crux of that ancient culture. Raiding each tomb felt like a romp through a run n’ gun than an exposition of a lush landscape. Nothing in the plot really seems to grab the player, even with a thinly veiled premise of an ancient curse ravaging the land. If anything, the exposition of the storyline seems more of an homage to the great serial films of the golden era of Hollywood rather than an original piece of modern science fiction. Everything from the style of clothing to the weaponry resembles the effect the story arc is aiming to achieve. To that end, the plot does make you feel you are in the British military during that era. 

The Characters

This is where the charm of the game comes into great effect. The African protagonist Nalangu Rushida symbolizes Strange Brigade’s unique character plot that renders the title nearly a must play game of 2018.  Rushida’s backstory, as told by the omnipresent narrator, is a well thought out plot point that elevates her from being simply a powerful female lead role into a supernatural warrior. Gracie Braithwaite is another unique female lead in the game that helps drive the story forward with her brand of British humor that adds levity to the already sensitive issue of English colonialism during that time. The rest of the cast is filled out by the highly authoritative Archemedes De Quincey and the prototypical American cowboy stereotype Patrick “Bash” Conaghan. The latter is so painfully underdeveloped as a character that it was almost as if Conaghan had been ripped right off the classical Western screen. Nothing about Conaghan’s shoot from the hip mentality is brimming with depth or intellect. Ironically, this is exactly what the game’s developers wanted. Archemedes is the brainiac of the group, and his intellectual approach to every scenario is at times frustrating. His British accent comes seems to equate his intellect, and out of all the protagonists, Archemedes is the collective approach to combat. With each character’s persona comes a varied and differential engagement during enemy encounters which in turns pushes the gameplay experience into new territories. 

The Gameplay

Besides the characters, another strength inherent in Strange Brigade’s experience is its gameplay. The personality of each of the four playable characters is brought to fruition during the action and exploration segments. As stated previously, Archemedes is the most passive of all the heroes and it is through this passivity and intelligence he is able to unlock treasure chests and bypass secret doors. Not exactly a fighter, his strengths derive from maneuvering around difficult traps that give scale to the gameplay. Conaghan is the epitome of a combat character and is by far the one you would want to use in battle. His .45 revolver and cowboy hat is a throwback to the iconic Western heroes of the silver screen. While not at all that interesting in his backstory, Conaghan makes up for it in bravado and grit. Rushida is the wise and spiritual member of the group and her speed and healing abilities definitely add an alchemic feel to the gameplay. Out of everyone, Gracie is the blandest in her skill set and her inclusion in the plot is at times unnecessary. A hybrid between a fighter and long distance soldier, Gracie is the one that most players will overlook in light of the other playable characters strengths. But regardless of who the player chooses, the individuality of each protagonist adds depth to a game that has no great plot to rely on. 

The Joy

A cooperative third-person shooter true and true, Strange Brigade incorporates a symbiotic multiplayer style of play with over the top violence. The environments are interactive and destructible, which is joyous when you uncover secret rooms that are scattered around each tomb. While Rebellion studios once again rely on overexaggerated shooting segments to propel its plot, the violence here is highly stylized to resemble an almost cartoonish grandiosity. Nothing is realistic in Strange Brigade and that is exactly the point its developers aimed to achieve. The game plays out like historical fiction among the backdrop of English colonialism. But yet, Rebellion studios does not expand upon the devastation imperialism causes on those it subjugates. The game’s developers merely to the feel of 1930’s colonial Africa without actually venturing into the realities of European dictatorships during that era. This is both disheartening and shortsighted by the title’s developers but it is not all that surprising. Strange Brigade never aspires to factual nor do its creators care to. What you see on the surface is what you get and this sense of superficiality pervades the entirety of the gaming experience. 

The Verdict

Regardless of the lack of depth inherent in the game’s story, the charming array of characters and the way each affects the gameplay experience is what gives Strang Brigade its appeal. Unlike other titles being released on modern platforms, Rebellion Developments does not cater to authenticity and visual truth. Instead, plot gives way to sheer simplisticity. The story is only 10 hours long at best, but the joy of the product springs from the players in the plot and not the journey itself. The complete antithesis of an RPG and other plot-heavy genres surely. But nonetheless, Strange Brigade is definitely worth the investment and its writers seemed to have fun with each of their stereotypical creations imbued in each protagonist. 

About Anthony Frisina 79 Articles
Anthony Frisina is a graduate of the City University of New York-Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Anthony went on to attend Brooklyn College's Film Academy and Writer's workshop program, achieving an interdisciplinary degree in Screenwriting and Film theory in the Fine Arts. Transforming his love for classic American cinema, Anthony went on to adapt a number of his own works into different mediums, including his well-received Western novel The Regulator. Anthony likes to spend his free time writing articles for magazines and periodicals that cover a wide range of topics, from science fiction to popular culture. As a screenwriter, Anthony has had his screenplays featured at numerous spec script writing competitions across the country where he one day hopes to write the next great American film.

1 Comment

  1. Bash Conaghan has probably the finest and most hilarious one-liners in the game. Sometimes the acronym K.I.S.S. applies. Braithwaite and Khan also line up well vis-a-vis one-liner punch. Searching for and “culling” character backstory in a game like this, is like looking for nutritional value in a can of Coke.

Leave a Reply