Developer, The Behemoth has brought us another fantastically strange game to join the ranks of their previous bizarre and acclaimed titles. Pit People, released on March 2nd, 2018, is a turn-based strategy game in a similar style to other games such as Fire Emblem and Wargroove. Players control up to six characters on varying layouts of hexagonal grids in an attempt to complete an objective. Most of the time, the objective is as simple as moving your team to strategic vantage points and killing the opposing team. However, sometimes the objective changes to something a little more complex, such as defending points on the map or overtaking large fortresses. While I believe Pit People is a hilarious game that delivers the wacky thrills we have come to expect from The Behemoth, I don’t think it’s a particularly strong turn-based strategy game.
We follow our main character, Horatio, the blueberry farmer, as he travels across a newly lawless land corrupted by green globs of space bear blood that fall from the sky like rain. Horatio is in search of his missing son, Hansel, as he stumbles across many quirky friends and foes. If you have never played a game by The Behemoth before now you might still be processing what you have just read. However, I can assure you, all of this is very normal for the studio. Much like all of The Behemoth’s previous titles, Pit People starts off kind of strange before it spirals out of control into a crazy abyss of rainbow-colored chaos. The almost-absurdist style of comedy is what keeps me coming back to Pit People over the years. Not very many studios attempt to be weird just for the sake of being weird but The Behemoth does it in such a way that keeps the humor timeless. Nearly every cutscene in this game is unpredictable and nonsensical, all of which are expertly narrated by Will Stamper. Unfortunately, the main story is pretty short so we don’t get as many of these fully developed cutscenes as I would have liked. However, while the main story isn’t very lengthy, there are tons of side quests. Each side quest comes with its own little dialogue that extends The Behemoth’s trademark humor past the main missions. That’s not to say all the humor in this game is confined to the story. There are so many laughs to be had in the environmental story-telling. Every region on the map has been lovingly given a silly name such as “Slaughterville - Population 1” which is a peaceful, flowery meadow or “Tinkletown County” which is an area where all the enemies wield toilet-related weaponry. Even each character, not even the just the main story-related characters, are given their own fun names. Here is my favorite half-cyclopes friend, Rich Doubleglaze.
Pit People easily gets an A+ when it comes to humor but sadly it falls a little short when we look at the actual mechanics of the game. One of the mainstays of the Turn-based Strategy genre is being able to meticulously plan out each and every move making sure that you always have the better end of the type match-ups and receive little to no damage on your enemies next turn. Pit People loses quite a bit of this by simply making your characters attack whomever they can at random. For example, if your character that has a disadvantage to armored enemies is positioned next to an armored enemy and an unarmored enemy at the same time they will attack one of those enemies at random. You have no say in which enemy they choose. I understand that this game has an incredibly strong theme of chaos and I certainly enjoy seeing developers trying to shake up genres but this mechanic of randomness often feels like it takes away from any sense of plan I could possibly have. Every story mission simply felt like I was running my army into the enemy army and relying on brute strength to get me through. The truly disheartening part of all this was that the brute strength tactic worked. It made the whole mechanic of attacking at random useless. As long as my numbers were bigger than my opponent’s, unit placement and strategy didn’t really have a place in the fights. Another major theme of the genre that The Behemoth leaves behind is permadeath. The idea that if one of my units that I’ve spent so much time grooming into the perfect killing machine falls on the battlefield then they are gone forever has terrified me ever since I played my first Fire Emblem game. Much like many other players, I would instinctively reset my console whenever a character died, forcing me to restart the battle from the beginning but crucially saving their life. Pit People does not follow the permadeath system and that comes with both pros and cons. On one hand, it reinforces the casual nature of the game. This makes the game widely accessible for newcomers to the genre by not punishing the player for non-optimal plays. On the other hand, the game loses all sense of tension and reward from its battles. Personally, I enjoy the feeling I get after resetting the fight a few times, learning from my mistakes, discovering when enemy reinforcements would show up and ultimately coming away with victory, and more importantly, zero casualties. Without permadeath, I didn’t have to care if Horatio died because his companions would just continue the fight and after achieving victory Horatio would be good as new. You can turn on a peradeath feature but this is not the game’s default setting. I definitely understand this decision by the developers but combined with the lack of any real important planning or decision-making in a strategy game made me feel that the game on its default settings was just too easy and not a great fit for its genre.
Pit People deftly hits the mark on its tremendously funny story by introducing an unpredictable plot that will keep you playing for the next laugh. If you have ever enjoyed Castle Crashers, Battleblock Theater or any other games made by The Behemoth then you will feel right at home in the strange humor this game has to offer. If you are looking for your next hardcore turn-based strategy game to sink your teeth into then you will be sadly disappointed in the gameplay. You may be able to remedy this by changing some settings but if you want the game’s default experience then it may be unfortunately easy for you. However, this easy-going gameplay and ridiculous story makes Pit People perfect as an introductory title into the genre. Despite its short-comings as a strategy game, I believe Pit People is worth playing for comedic value alone.