Ever since I made a video about the upcoming releases for March 14-20, I’ve had my eye on Battle Bands. I mean how can you not? The trailer is well-made, not to mention I’m a sucker for card games, and, of course, I love roguelites (duh!).
As soon as I was able to buy the game, I did and played a good 15-20 minutes before being forced to stop as I’m going to work. Through that initial run, everything seemed foreign to me, not because the game’s main mechanics is perplexing, but because there were a lot of terminologies that, through a decade or two of playing card games, I haven’t heard before. Terms like “Muck”, “Retain”, “Purge”, etc. are new to my ears, but I just told myself I’ll get it eventually when I actually had enough time playing. Boy, was I right!
Simple, yet complex
After work, I was able to delve into the game deeper. The more runs I have with the game, the better I understand the mechanics. The goal is simple: Your band will battle another band face to face, and whoever has a higher score when someone reaches the target point or Goal Hype wins.
The turns also are simple. Similar to Hearthstone, each band takes their turns uninterrupted. It starts with anyone from the band dropping a “Section” card which has a limit of how many performance cards can be cast before you get its bonus. Both section and performance cards cost energy to play, but one of the surprisingly good mechanics Battle Bands has is the ability for bandmates to share energy. If you’re out of cards but still have energy left, it’s better to give that to a bandmate who may have use for it.
Music, the game’s heart and soul
It would be really laughable if a game named “Battle Bands” came up short on what people expect to be their selling point, but fortunately for Aerie Digital, that is not the case.
The music is excellent in this game! I have yet to hear a tune that I didn’t like. I’ve listened to slow tracks, to normal ones, to fast ones, and they sounded great! I’m probably still a long ways to go before I get to listen to all of them, and there are likely a lot more tracks on the way, so that’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.
Enemies with personalities
Admittedly, I have yet to try multiplayer, but the runs I’ve had in solo mode are just as fun. Throughout those runs, you get to face enemy bands, of course, but I love how not only do the enemy bands have variety, they also have personality!
The enemy bands in Battle Bands consist of rats, robbers, goos, arcade guys, and a mech operated by another rat just to name a few. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the art style of this game, and I must say, I love the animation and drawing of the characters, both hero and enemy alike.
The drawing of these enemy bands is just half the reason why their personalities shine through. Half of it is the decks they use. The skidmarks mainly use cards that lower your hype, the robbers have cards that focus on gaining cash, and the rats focus on exhaustion and discarding. It reminds me of the good ol’ days when I used to play Monster Rancher Battle Card: Episode II on the Playstation and how each enemy has a different themed deck.
Your AI Bandmates are helpful… until they’re not
When you play Tour Mode, there will be a point in time where you’ll be playing with bot bandmates. In my case, it’s all the time. One of the questions I had coming in is if I play solo, which I usually do, how will I be able to control an entire band? The answer is I don’t, I get to play with bots instead.
The good news is that the “Chat” feature implemented in this game absolutely works! You just click on one of the built-in messages, and your AI teammates will help you out! Want to cast all your performance cards? Ask the bots to give you energy, and they will! It also works vice versa when you still have energy. You just ask who needs it, and someone from your team will tell you.
The bad news is that while chat works, I have an impression that your teammates just use whatever card is available to them without thinking of synergy with the entire band’s cards. I collected a lot of discard cards on my AI bassist, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him actually discard something. Instead, I see a lot of quick riffs.
Balance is probably a work in progress
As I play the game more, I start to understand which cards synergize with which is the fun part of every rogue deckbuilder game. Unfortunately, during my runs, there are times that enemy bands can’t even hurt a fly, then the next band will just completely eat your soul.
It was a bit frustrating that you try to come up with a good deck, but it will be all for naught against an enemy that has double the energy and cards in hand and hits like a truck. Either I need better cards or strategy, or the enemy balance is not tuned properly, which can easily be fixed if the latter is indeed the case.
I’m going to go straight to the point: I love Battle Bands! It’s easy and hard at the same time, and while there’s room for improvement, particularly in the balance aspect and the AI, I really believe that it has the potential to be a player in the roguelite deckbuilder subgenre.
Battle Bands (Early Access)
It’s a rockin’ good time!
+ Simple, yet complex
+ Amazing music
+ Enemies have personality and theme
+ AI Chat works flawlessly
– AI Teammates are hit or miss
– Balance needs some tweaks