Brigand: Oaxaca by Brian Lancaster
The world of Brigand: Oaxaca by Brian Lancaster, is a unique one. It’s a post-apocalyptic world filled with ghouls, demons, ninjas and diseased animals. And on top of that, there are rival human factions skirmishing over control of the land.
It’s a bizarre but highly engaging world I easily found myself compelled to explore. I couldn’t wait to see what environments and situations I would find myself in next.
A World Well-Worn and Lived In
What makes the world feel even stronger is the immersive sim aspect of the game. Similar to games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a roughly 20-hour RPG with guns, it features a solid, intrigue-filled narrative involving the various factions.
The game opts for a world complete with plenty of NPC interaction, day/night cycle, side quests, and various paths to complete a number of quests. Doors, for example, can either be broken with a melee weapon and enough strength or blown open via explosives.
You can increase or decrease your standing with factions depending on whether you take hostile actions towards them or not. Killing NPCs, stealing and quest-related decisions affect faction standing. This affects your ability to trade with or talk to certain NPCs. If you eventually became hostile toward a faction, they’ll shoot you on site.
There are a number of complex systems at work here, and what Brian Lancaster has been able to create on his own is quite impressive.
Brigand: Oaxaca also let you have choice when it comes to other things. Like an RPG, you can upgrade stats and unlock abilities ranging from survival skills to voodoo spells. You can learn how to repair weapons or effectively heal yourself with scavenged rags. There is plenty of choice here in terms of how you shape your play-through style.
Like Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight
I made a point to not mention the core shooting mechanics first because I found it to be the least compelling part of the game’s core gameplay. Shooting feels serviceable but not great. Weapons don’t feel fun or satisfying to use. Melee combat is sluggish and stilted.
On top of the lackluster shooting mechanics, the game features aggressive, fast-attacking enemies that killed me in a matter of seconds if I wasn’t careful.
It wouldn’t be so bad if there were more options to curve the underwhelming shooting, but shooting is what the game had me doing most of the time.
This brings me to the game’s difficulty. I for one don’t mind a difficult game, but Brigand: Oaxaca is tough. During certain sequences, it almost felt like a survival horror game when you’re down to your last healing item or last couple of bullets.
You can buy items from NPCs but can’t sell to them. Recruited companions can die permanently. Weapons break, and inventory space is very limited.
And you’re only given one save slot per character without a quick-save option, which meant I was constantly running to a bed to save the game.
It’s difficult but not impossible; the trying difficulty is part of its charm. Once I’d played it for a number of hours and gotten more experience to increase my stats, I did a more comfortable grasp on things.
A glaring flaw I ran into with this game is its bugs and performance issues. This is a complex game, and there is so much under the hood that I’m surprised that it all doesn’t just combust from complexity. But there were a number of times when the game felt unpolished.
I had instances where enemies would shoot me through objects. Ground textures would sometimes show up as a solid black color. I even ran into the game’s NPC and HUD text being unreadable, an issue that required me to play the game exclusively in the lowest resolution to fix it.
Brigand: Oaxaca has a fair number of small issues like these, but nothing that I ran into was game-breaking. Still, keep in mind that this game is rough around the edges.
Complex Ingredients, Simple Presentation
Visuals remind me of early 3D PC games and even some PS1-era games. Textures are flat with a decent amount of detail. Characters are mostly polygonal and block-shaped but distinct and stylized. Overall, it has a nice cohesive look to it that feels very much like its own beast.
I don’t mind these visuals because they are not trying to be realistic or cutting edge. They have just enough style and heart put into them to make them feel charming. If I had to choose, I’d prefer more games that focus on complex and engaging mechanics over visual fidelity any day of the week.
Sound effects and music are a mixed bag. The music is a nice varied mix of electronic MIDI tracks that help set a unique vibe. Weapon sounds for the most part feel generic but get the job done.
There are plenty of moments where the game’s sound design did add a lot to the game’s unsettling atmosphere: hearing odd, otherworldly howls while venturing through caves; the cacophony of distant chatter in the shabby city of Pochutla; or the tapping of rain hitting the roof of a structure while inside. It’s a number of small details like these that make up for some of other, more lacking sound effects.
Brigand: Oaxaca is a game that I ended up really enjoying. It’s a tough, ambitious game that’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s got plenty of engaging systems at play that kept me hooked.
It’s a game that I’d recommend to those looking for a different immersive sim/RPG experience. Just keep in mind that it may not be for everyone; if you’re curious, you can also try out the game’s free playable demo first.
Brigand: Oaxaca is available via Steam and Itch.io.
Check out the official trailer for Brigand: Oaxaca below: