It’s worth saying from the start that Battle Chef Brigade is a game that leans on my sweet spots a bit. See when you review games, you tend to see things through the lens of their future criticism. You learn so much about your own tastes and particular mental nooks and crannies.
Simply put Battle Chef Brigade really hits me in the right spot.
In Victusia, monsters reigned supreme, destroying property, attacking citizens and causing widespread famine. In response, the then king and his head chef established the culinary institution the Battle Chef Brigade. They are the chef soldiers, hunters and gatherers that scour the land’s flora and fauna, expertly crafting food for the masses. Each year the best chefs converge on Brigade Town for the tournament, and a chance to join the Brigade.
The premise is just wonderfully simple, and gives off this wonderful are of grandeur to everything. Most of the game is spent in chef battles, held in hulking colosseums, serving to nobles. On top of this I adore the cast of characters put on display. You play as Mina the lovable agile human chef just trying to make a name for herself. A side story casts the player as Thrash, a ball of enthusiasm and family guy, neither of which are common for your standard orc character. Other characters include, Siamese Cyclops (one optimistic, one pessimistic), an undead necromancer fast food chef, and a band of thespians turned thieves. Suffice to say this is a world that feels truly inhabited and alive.
The game really orbits around the chef battles, which are chaotic hectic fun. Firstly, chefs must exit the arena and gather their ingredients. The combat involved in this game, let’s be frank, is fairly simple. You have health and if you lose all of it you “die” and get respawned in the arena minus any ingredients you have collected. You have mana that you use for ranged attacks (throwing chef’s knives, of course) and magic spells. Any beasts killed, plants reaped and chest opened drop ingredients which can be used in cooking your masterpiece. There is a bit of customisation, which we’ll touch on later, but it is pretty basic, which is ok because the cooking is really where I feel this game shines.
Cooking is, at least at the beginning, is communicated through match-three puzzles. Each creature part has a certain distribution of the three elements: earth, wind and fire, and by stirring you can match three and “promote” the flavour. This adds star points to the dish, which serve as the score. Points can be added or taken away based on adhering to certain rules. Serving a dish that suits the judges favoured elements will net you points. Forgetting to include the battle’s “key ingredient” stated at the start will deduct them.
Oh and I should mention this chaotic gameplay, rushing out, killing stuff, cooking it, serving, yeah its all timed. You have to pull all this together in a certain time limit juggling this stuff in 2-10 minute bouts. It’s crazy man.
But what makes this game special is the complexity it takes on throughout the story.
New mechanics are steadily weaved into the gameplay and story, making it a far more technical affair in later stages. Flavour gems can be “bad” gems, and leaving them in a dish can incur deductions, but used correctly can make for game-changing combos. Gems can be broken degrading the overall star power of the dish. All these mechanics are rolled out slowly, so you never feel truly overwhelmed, but its fair to say that the game at the beginning and end of the story are fairly different experiences.
Secondly, there is some customisation to this game. A central pillar to staying on top of these duels is getting a good workflow and being efficient. To that end, you have a loadout, which can be purchased with gold from in-game “job” minigames. It comes with three spaces for three categories: Combat, Cooking and Cookware.
Combat is fairly straightforward. You have standard buffs, such as extra health and mana, or modifications to your existing spells. This can become a truly make or break set in certain battles with difficult prey. After all, the bigger they are the tastier the ingredients.
Cooking has a bit of a range to it, but generally include Ingredients, and, let’s just call them “Utensils”. Ingredients are straightforward, drop some spices for some easy reliable gems, use sauces to change gem colours, pretty simple. “Utensils” are essentially modifiers to the cooking, this will give you extra points for combos, that will let you move fragile gems more. A specific kind of cooking item are books, which give you bonuses for achieving certain criteria for a dish.
Finally, let’s discuss the big game changer, cookware. Remember how I said cooking is match-three puzzles “at the beginning”, cookware is how this gets messed with. Some pans let you match two, but only for one of the elements. Now you can really strategise; Try separating your ingredients to maximise certain elements. Ovens let you set and forget, leaving flavours to stew and improve on their own. Leave your master dish to simmer, while you go grab that last garnish. Use the chopping board to hack out those bad gems, and serve up some penalty-free mains.
To me, more so than my love of cooking and puzzle games is where Battle Chef Brigade shines. There is something so worth treasuring in this kind of game. The battles are a tornado, you the eye of the storm. In such a crazed setting, fine tuning your loadout not only to your playstyle but the battles themselves are essential. Some battles will be simple, others will force you to completely change gears and rethink your strategy. Maybe this is a dorky thing to say, but a game that isn’t about power fantasy, but just being cool is fantastic. From anxious beginnings seeing everything resolve is a fantastic feeling, and nothing will change the feeling of triumph as you emerge victorious.
Battle Chef Brigade is a wonderful matching of combat and puzzle. From a simple beginning, the mechanics and customisation snowball, creating a mind-racing technical challenge. It’s a crazy hectic time standing in the eye of this game’s storm, but it’s exhilarating all the same.
Guest Writer: Sam : https://twitter.com/sammydeedge