Brigador’s fantasy is simple. It wants you to feel like the coolest rogue and mech pilot that ever existed. Picture that game in your head and you might see a 3D cockpit with cutting-edge graphics or the sleek dashing of humanoid jet-like robots. Brigador has none of those things. It’s an isometric, 2D game with a look that harkens back to the likes of Syndicate and Command & Conquer. Yet it so perfectly captures this fantasy. So if it’s not about simulating the experience, what really matters in selling it?
One thing Brigador does great is contextualisation. While the perspective doesn’t make you feel like you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, it does give an incredible sense of scale. You see your chosen mech in comparison to other mechs, buildings and people. Environments are fully destructible too, so you quickly create a trail of carnage through the world that makes it clear just how powerful and dangerous these mechs are. Firing a shell through a whole block of buildings or stomping through a shed is morbidly gleeful in a way the game fully understands and accepts with its dark tone, the pulsing synth of the soundtrack the sinister heartbeat behind the gloomy world of Solo Nobre. You don’t have to be a hero after all. In that context you’re allowed to play out the mech in its purest form: a high-tech wrecking ball.
But for me it’s character that’s the main ingredient. That starts when picking the pilot, known as Brigadors, for your mech. Each one gets a stylish portrait and an elaborate backstory. The pilot you choose determines your mech in the main story (fine-tuned to suit the personality of said character) but in skirmish you can pair them with any machine. My favourite is Ripley Snell, a former bassist who joined the revolution after her band was killed. She’s got attitude and style, perfect for the anarchic violence that plays out in missions.
Then comes choosing your mech, and here Brigador goes to town. There are big scrappy mechs, industrial powerhouse mechs and sleek shiny mechs. All associated with appropriate factions. Gameplay is a factor here, different weapons offer different strategies and the variety of enemy types ensures you’ll want to experiment. But still, choosing between a sniper like cannon or a grenade launcher is a clear choice of expression in just what kind of mech you want to be. A calculating professional, a ragtag revolutionary or a slick soldier for hire. Some aren’t even mechs, they’re hovercars or more traditional tanks. Brigador knows that maybe pitting yourself against these powerful mechs as an underdog can be the most exciting version of the story.
The point is, Brigador shows delivering a fantasy to players, even one as niche as being a mech pilot, is more about getting into the player’s imagination. You don’t need a huge budget. It’s about the feel, not what’s literally on screen – even if Brigador is also stylish as heck. It doesn’t offer the perfect version of this fantasy for everyone, of course, but there’s enough wiggle room for expression and enough of a concrete world around it to let players roleplay in an explosive sandbox till their cold metal heart is content.