A great mobile strategy game is one that offers a fresh challenge every time you pick it up without muddying up the experience with too many menus to navigate or pay-to-win microtransactions. And it's precisely those reasons why Bad North: Jotunn Edition is such a great addition to the Google Play Store.
Bad North: Jotunn Editon is a Swedish indie title developed by Plausible Concept and published by Raw Fury, the same folks who brought the wonderful Kingdom: New Lands to Android. They describe the game as a "brutal real-time tactics roguelite" which puts you in control of up to four commanders and their troops as you try and defend procedurally-generated islands from attacks by barbaric Viking invaders.
Bad North's combination of procedurally-generated islands and the threat of perma-death raises forces you to adapt your strategies to survive.
You start out each campaign with just two commanders defending your home island against the first wave of invaders. You will enlist the help of new commanders as you progress and successfully defend more islands. Not only do you need to ensure your troops survive each battle but you are also tasked with defending buildings on each island from the pillaging vikings. The AI is clever enough to sneak past your defenses if you're not diligent and can raze a structure in the blink of an eye. A perfect defense will maximize the amount of gold you are rewarded, which is spent on upgrades to specialize your troops and enhance their abilities.
As the game introduces new types of invaders with fortified armor or long range attacks, you quickly learn the importance of not just upgrading your troops but also ensuring your commander upgrades are balanced well. Rotating your troops throughout battle becomes a key strategy, because as long as your commander — the troop carrying the battle flag — survives the onslaught, you will get a fully replenished squad for the next island.
However, if a whole squad is wiped out they are gone for the remainder of the campaign and you'll lose out on any upgrades you've invested — hence the "roguelite" descriptor that adds an extra layer to the gameplay. Over the course of the campaign, you may collect items along your campaign that can be used to bring back a dead commander but those items are randomly generated, too, just like the islands themselves, so you really need to be strategic for how you mobilize your specialized troops to engage the enemy.
I absolutely love Bad North's stripped down visual style that carries through the entire game. From the campaign map to the way the enemies emerge from the fog around the island, everything feels so polished and smooth. The touch controls are simple and elegant with swipes to pivot the camera around the island, pinches to zoom in and out, and taps to move your troops around to different areas of the island. There's also support for Bluetooth controllers which is great, but frankly feel a bit unnecessary here given how fantastic the touch control scheme works.
Bad North is the exact sort of premium indie title that deserves to be played by as many gamers as possible, and is well worth it for fans of strategy games.
Game of the week
Bad North is a premium real-time strategy game with rogue-like elements that heighten the stakes as you defend your islands against brutal Viking invaders.