Strange Brigade is a Quest for Ancient Treasure

By Marc Caccamise,
While it's far more common for a studio to announce a new project during the week of E3 itself, whether during a conference or elsewhere, sometimes they instead skip the wait and get the news out ahead of time. One of the most notable examples of this past year was Rebellion's Strange Brigade, a co-op treasure-hunter shooter from the developer most widely known for the Sniper Elite series. Set in the British Empire during the 1930s, a four-person team known appropriately as the Strange Brigade has set off in search of ancient artifacts and other treasures. In these darkest corners of the empire, however, they're sure to find more than just that.

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The 15-minute hands-on demo at the show was representative of just 20% of what a full level in the final game will be. In stark contrast to the wide-open maps of Sniper Elite, the path here is a far more linear one and leads players along their way. The gameplay can best be described as a third-person action shooter, pitting players against hordes of new enemies when arriving at a different section of the level. While the demo itself was more combat heavy, there is another variation, as well, including traversing dangerous areas and a sampling of puzzle solving.

There are four different characters, all of which have different loadouts of weapons and abilities to differentiate them. I chose to play as Professor Archimedes de Quincey, whose primary weapon of choice is the Kingsley Special sub-machine gun. The weapons, as well as everything else you can imagine, have been brushed over with the thematic vibe of the 1930s. The tone is very much that of old adventure TV shows, complete with an Old-Timey narration of the player's actions. The demo itself even ended with a "Tune in next time" segment. It seems very much like other adventure-type inspirations, like that of Indiana Jones, have also fueled the look and feel of the game.

Strange Brigade's entire campaign is playable completely on your own but I was able to experience the game in two-player co-op with one of the game's developers. While split-screen gameplay has already likely been ruled out (sorry to those yearning for more couch co-op), drop-in and out is still a possibility and the difficulty scales accordingly. Each level begins with the Strange Brigade arriving at a new dig site or ruins by means of their zeppelin, which provides transportation across the empire. Within moments of arriving, we were set upon by waves of zombie-like creatures who quickly swarmed the area.

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Primary and secondary weapons are not all the Strange Brigade has to defend themselves. Each character is decked out with a special amulet power that charges up through continually killing enemies. While my co-op partner unleashed a sort of fiery ground-pound, Quincey's special power sent out several orbs of energy that targeted multiple enemies at a time. The amulet power is available quickly after dispatching a few foes, but you can also be patient to unleash it and continue to build up energy for a more powerful attack instead. Be warned, not killing enemies for an elapsed period of time will instead drain the amulet's power, therefore giving incentive to continue to be on the offensive.

While each combat section begins with an onslaught of cannon fodder types of enemies, eventually a much fiercer opponent appears. In the initial section, we were met by a behemoth-sized enemy known as the Champion of Apis, which took everything we had to finally take down after shredding its armor off piece by piece. The next section featured a High Priest Mummy that continually resurrected other weaker mummies until it was defeated.

With this uptick in difficulty, you'll surely need some better firepower than what you start with by default. Luckily, every enemy that you kill drops golden coins that act as the game's currency. These can be used at weapon benches that are littered throughout each level to buy new weapons, upgrades, and eventually different amulets. There are also unlockable special weapons, which include a shotgun called the Krakatoa that shoots fire bullets. When all else fails, the dodging mechanic is especially useful. Aside from your standard roll, players can quickly slide in any direction when aiming down the sights to avoid incoming attacks or breakaway from enemies when caught by surprise. For something so simple, I found it to be one of my favorite aspects of the gameplay and constantly used it throughout the demo.

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Outside of combat, players can search through the area for hidden treasures and secret rooms. Each character possesses the ability to open certain doors that lead either to bonus currency or entire new sections of the map. As of right now there are no plans to allow players to switch between characters if they're playing solo, instead opting to offer the replay value of multiple playthroughs to see what you missed. There are also a number of different puzzles to solve, both for the purpose of proceeding onward in the level and to uncover additional secret areas.

Numerous times there were indications given that while Strange Brigade should be expected to arrive sooner rather than later, it still has quite some time left in development. The team still has decisions to make on what types of features they'd like to include and which will be sent to the chopping block. One aspect of discussion will be how long the game itself will take to play through, which is an answer they were not ready to share at the time. While Strange Brigade doesn't have a launch window of any sort, its initial showing at this year's E3 was an especially strong one.
Marc Caccamise
Written by Marc Caccamise
Writer of news, features, and reviews for TrueAchievements since June 2013. Discovered the incredible world of video games at a young age with Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf, and haven't looked back since. Outside of gaming, I'm usually found reading up on various history topics or rooting for the lowly Buffalo Bills and Sabres.