Bad North: Jotunn Edition Mobile : The Strategy Roguelite Finds a Comfortable Home on the Touchscreen
When Bad North was first revealed for Nintendo Switch, we were surprised it wasn’t also coming to mobile. It seemed so well suited for the small screen, with its tiny islands and snappy battles. Now that we’ve finally had a chance to try it for ourselves, we’re pleased to learn that we were correct: Bad North fits on mobile as comfortable as an old pair of pyjamas.
That’s not to say it doesn’t also work on controller-focused devices. In fact, the option to use a controller is present here, so if you don’t fancy the touchscreen and you have a controller handy, you can still play Bad North no matter where you are.
For those not familiar with the game, it’s basically a Viking-themed Fire Emblem. You participate in a bunch of small-scale battles on miniature islands under siege from Vikings. Much like in Fire Emblem, you move your units around on a grid-like map, with positioning possibly being the most essential component.
It’s not turn-based, though time does slow to a crawl whenever you select a unit. This gives you a precious few seconds to consider where you’re going to place them – which is useful, given the pace at which new Vikings appear on the scene. These guys ride in on little boats, and you’ll get a bit of a advance notice when they appear out of the fog. This gives you enough time to set up a makeshift defence.
Bad North is Like a Fire Emblem-lite, With Grid-based Combat and Perma Death
As you progress, you can assign each of your units with a class. There’s the ranged archer, the defensive spearman, and the warrior, which is a versatile sword and shield-wielding soldier that can block arrows. Each of them is strong and weak against the various different opponents you’ll face, and bringing the right team into battle becomes a serious consideration the further you get into the experience.
Warriors can block arrows, making them the best soldier to place on the frontline against archers. Spearmen will make short work of any melee units while archers are strong against everything, peppering shots from afar. The game gives you an indication of the type of units you’ll face in the next battle, which helps you to decide which units you’ll need.
In the beginning, that isn’t important as you won’t have many to choose from anyway, but as you progress through the islands you’ll recruit a bunch of new soldiers. This is essential as death is permanent in Bad North. That’s right, the soldiers you’ve raised from petty swordsman to skilled archer can die in a single misjudged battle. They may not have much personality, but it’s devastating nonetheless.
It’s also completely possible that you fail the game entirely, which means you have to start all over again. This isn’t a problem though, as the actual campaign can be beaten in as little as three hours and features randomly-generated islands. It’s designed to be replayed, and we found failure only strengthened our resolve to do better, booting up a new game immediately and cursing the fact that these soldiers, who we hadn’t grown fond of yet, would end up dying an untimely death.
It’s Incredibly Fun to Pick up and Play, Which Helps Given the Fact You’re Encouraged to Replay it
The fact it’s just so darn fun to pick up and play helps a bunch too. You can set up a whole new battle strategy in just a couple of taps, and each level is over in a handful of minutes. It simply never outstays its welcome, and you’ll earn gold from each level you complete that lets you upgrade each of your troops with new classes, skills, and various other improvements.
It’s also beautifully minimal, with gorgeous cel-shaded visuals and lots of nice little flourishes, like warriors sticking up their shields to block arrows, spearman holding their spears forward when an enemy approaches, and blood splattering the island wherever a battle was fought. These visual touches support the gameplay too, as little is taught to you. You’ll learn enemy strengths and weaknesses by just watching them in battle.
We literally haven’t got a bad word to say about Bad North. It’s a delightfully well-paced strategy roguelike that’s as fresh on your first run as it is on your 10th, with new features, enemies, skills, and troops drip-fed to you as you play. You’ll constantly be developing new strategies and trying to make the most of your limited number of troops.
We have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it to everyone. That premium price point won’t look so high when you’re on your 10th run.