The Legend of Runersia is the sequel to the original The Legend of Forsena – a 1998 PS1 exclusive. There has been a hardcore fanbase around the original game, along with the remastered Japanese version from May 2000. That latter version of the game included new heroes, monsters, story beats and more. The relaunch of the franchise came a few years ago with the PS4 debut of Brigandine The Legend of Runersia. The title had many of the gameplay elements that fans of the original loved, with updated controls, mechanics and more.
And after a Switch release a while back, it’s finally on Steam. And contrasted with this new port, Grand Edition and the original both look pretty dated. Thankfully, the developers have taken the time to update the visuals and design concepts in this new port. The game is a refresh in the best possible way, although it’s not without its issues. So is this new game worth it? Let’s find out.
The story of Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia starts with one of six nations in the continent of Runersia. You pick one of these nations and lead them to war, with the ultimate goal of conquering your enemies. When you first boot up the game, one of the changes becomes apparent. You can actually completely alter the starting locations and power of these six empires. This adds a bit more replayability compared to the original. With the campaign finished, new modes will open up. For example, the Challenge mode, where you choose a set number of heroes and charge into battle; or the Creative mode which gives you free-form army compositions to mess around with. The added modes are nice, but not too transformative. The main draw remains the campaign.
The campaign is built around somewhat randomized storylines told through the experiences of various powerful and magical knights. These same knights are the backbone of each army in the game, leading various armies of monsters into battle. Players spend most of their time managing their army compositions and maximizing their power. The developers have integrated various systems around the idea of preparing to slog through the turn-based battles. You can send knights on quests for rare items and powers, which you will be doing a lot of. There are also random events to deal with during these quests.
But really, the meat of the gameplay is in the army management and turn-based battles. Brigandine‘s gameplay requires a lot of practice to master, and a ton of strange quirks to deal with. The game is all about planning your army to a pretty significant level of detail. Players are supposed to spend a lot of time planning their class upgrades and unit composition.
That aforementioned detail and depth is a huge problem for some people. There’s just a lot to learn, and the game is mostly a trial by fire. Having to break your plans up into the seasonal turn order is a bit of weird thing for some people to get used to. You’re supposed to spend one phase organizing troops and planning attacks, then you respond to the attacks from enemy factions or make your own moves. It works fine, once you get used to the flow.
And it’s the organizational phase where the true depth of this game shines through. Every unit has basic stats that determine their ability in combat, relating to either magic of martial prowess. And with 30 class levels per unit, there’s a lot to gain. The units also have preferred terrain where they don’t take debuffs in combat, which is crucial for positioning your troops on the field. You also have to pay attention to things like Command Range and Growth Rate. Command Range affects the range of their support abilities, and Growth will tell you how quickly they gain stat increases.
One of the many minutiae that will annoy new players is the class and stats system. The class-based system allows you to take your Rune Knights in many different directions. There is a lot of versatility when it comes to Knight builds, and it’s a ton of fun for hardcore players to min-max various builds. The cross-classing potential of combining levels in different classes is huge, but takes a lot of time to get used to.
When you go into the stats screen, you will be inundated with various options for each class that Knight has, as well as the possible progression paths they have. You can also alter the equipment. The game includes a huge amount of customization options for your units, which is a good thing given how important they are in battle. Aside from the battles though, there’s not much else in terms of meat on these bones.
There are many unaffiliated Rune Knights you can recruit to augment your army. This is one of the areas where the gameplay tends to drag a bit if you don’t plan ahead. You could end up with too few Knights to manage a growing army if you don’t quest enough. That itself lends to the core problem of the game, that its prescribed path can be a bit dull and repetitive. And it’s not just the gameplay that feels a bit ho-hum sometimes.
The story that is there is pretty bare, and there’s not much overarching tension beyond typical fantasy genre tropes. There’s a big evil kingdom and lots of interpersonal conflict, but the stakes feel somewhat hollow for most players. This is due to the fact that most genre fans care about min-maxing army comps, so that leads to a clear meta-game developing—one where stats are king and trump story.
Overall, the Steam version runs well. It’s capped at a certain framerate, not that this matters too much. The battles look pretty similar to the classic PS1 look fans are familiar with. There has been some work put into making the sprite work, characters and other visual elements a bit more modern, though, which is nice.
If you’re after an engrossing fantasy story, this isn’t for you. The trappings of a good story are present in Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, but it plays it safe and sticks to the bare minimum of some tropes and character backstories that don’t offer too much depth. This is a turn-based strategy game through and through. The graphics have been updated to have a much more modern 3D feel, and it works well. One would think console ports are prone to performance issues, but there’s seemingly none to be found. I personally didn’t see any slowdowns in the game as I played, even on a mid-tier rig.
Value & Enjoyment
Really, this is a game for nostalgic old-timers from the original PS1 game, and hardcore genre fans that somehow haven’t already played this. The Steam port isn’t too different from the Switch or PS4 versions, so there’s nothing really stopping you from fully enjoying the game in one of those versions over this one.