Together in Battle was nowhere on my radar heading into PAX East. While walking around the convention hall, I was flagged down by an energetic man named Craig. He asked me if I enjoyed strategy RPGs. I do, so I asked him to give me the pitch. The concept was so enticing that I set up a media demo for Together in Battle the next morning.
At face value, the concept for Together in Battle does not seem that groundbreaking. Effectively, you are designated leader of a team who has to become champions of the arena within 30 days. In this time, you have to recruit, feed, and otherwise manage a team of combatants while partaking in tactics-style combat.
The hook is that you have very little control over some things. Characters are procedurally generated, and each has unique skills and personalities. You can manage those characters to the best of your ability, but it might not be enough.
As in most games with team management, you will be in charge of telling your team what to do outside of battle. Together in Battle uses a day/night cycle to accomplish this. You can recruit, shop, or compete in the arena during the day. When night comes, you can force the team to train, hold a meeting, or leave them to their own devices. I may have missed one or two options, but these were the core choices I used in my time with the game.
Right away, Together in Battle felt familiar. The first step was to recruit my team. The game held my hand enough to suggest five characters at first. I tried my best to get a good mix of play styles, from crossbowman to pyromancer. I aimed for variety.
After selecting my team, I continued into the night cycle and held a meeting. I figured this was a good step on day one to boost morale and figure out what everyone was all about. It worked out exactly as planned, and I was on to day two.
Shop ’till you drop
Day two was all about shopping. I did not want to send my team into the arena without assessing things like food and gear. There was a useful marker, or stat, in the UI that showed me how many days of food I had left. That marker made it possible to plan food purchases appropriately. I was also able to easily determine gear choices by quickly switching to a menu that allowed me to peek at character stats. Two excellent additions to the shopping process included the ability to auto-equip gear and a reminder by the shopkeeper before leaving to equip gear.
When we got back to camp, I opted to let my team do whatever they wanted. Some started kicking up relationships, others went hunting, and a surprising number trained their skills on their own. Immediately, I saw the hook of this element. There could be chaos at any moment if characters decided not to train, or if a love triangle formed.
Together in battle…see what I did there?
The next day I selected to go to the arena. Immediately, the game explained to me that before I could start climbing the ranks, I would have to play three tutorial matches. This requirement to play a few initial matches made sense to me from a learning standpoint. Each match would teach me new game mechanics; however, the matches would be set over three separate days.
The game played precisely how any tactics-inspired game should play. If you have played XCOM, Final Fantasy Tactics, or even Fire Emblem, you know what you are getting into. I don’t want this paragraph to seem indifferent; the fact that the game plays how it should play is a compliment. To have your gameplay mentioned alongside some of the best strategy games ever made is nothing to discount.
Craig let me play the pre-alpha build instead of the demo, and I am very grateful for that kind of access. During my playtime, I was able to get through 16 of the 30 days. I would have continued to completion, but I had other meetings to attend.
I genuinely enjoyed the gameplay loop. The battles are what I want in a strategy RPG, and the management of the team is an additional component that makes the gears turn. The real hero of this game, though, is the unique personalities and attributes procedurally generated in the characters you recruit.
What is even more perfect about Together in Battle is the charm. The real magic happens when you leave your team to themselves. Leaving your team to their own devices is when their unique personalities and the humorous writing shine through. It’s also when your team can cause you some severe headaches. My favorite moment was when a particular teammate couldn’t sleep because they kept thinking about a time when they may have offended someone years ago. Too real.
The last thing I will say is that one person is making this entire game. The gameplay is tight, the writing is funny, and the procedurally generated characters are refreshing.
Together in Battle is slated to release in 2021 for PC.
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