Tactical-based RPGs are definitely nothing new. Games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea have been around for years and are very entertaining to play once you understand how they work and what kinds of strategies you need to put together to win. The Behemoth, creators of Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers, and Battleblock Theater, have entered the realm of tactical RPGs with their latest game Pit People. The question now is if this outing is as entertaining as their previous games. Let’s find out.
You begin the game with Horatio, a blueberry farmer who’s on a mission to rescue his son from a giant space bear. Yes that’s kind of a weird premise for a game, but these are the same people who did Battleblock Theater so it’s not that far of a stretch. You start out with just Horatio but you pick up more teammates rather quickly in the early part of the game as it’s basically a tutorial section. Battles are done on a hexagonal grid and each character can move a certain number of spaces as determined by their range. Once everyone is in position you end your turn (hold Y on an Xbox controller by default) and your characters will move where you told them to and, if within range of an enemy, attack. This basically repeats until either the opposition or yourself are wiped off the map (which would make the narrator happy believe it or not). That’s just the basics though as there is a bit more too it, such as if you’re within range of more than one enemy when it’s time to attack, the CPU determines who you attack. Leveling characters is pretty simple. Just about anything they do in combat will give that character experience, from hitting an enemy to downright defeating them which earns that character more experience. Once a character gains enough experience they’ll level up, refill their health (which can turn the tide in a tight battle and someone is about to die), and their stats will go up a small bit.
You don’t have a lot of things you can do in the early going. The game gives you the basics on how combat works including how to capture new party members…yes, you read that correctly. One the members of your party early on will introduce the net as a weapon. While the net can be okay as an actual weapon, its real purpose is for adding new team members. When you’re down to just one enemy left in combat, you can get within a certain range and throw the net at the last enemy to capture them and add them to your party. If you have an open slot they’ll be added at that moment. Otherwise if you bought a cage from the colosseum (the main hub), they’ll be contained until you get them back to the colosseum. When there you can go to your home and rearrange your party, choose a leader (who’ll gain a few extra benefits such as increased attack or defense), and their gear. Certain weapons are strong against various enemies or types of armor, or are stronger depending on who wields it.
There are a couple of caveats to your party and their items. Characters can basically wield any available weapon and wear any armor. What’s important to note is that you can pick up various versions of each weapon type, so it’s not like only one character can use axes, only one can use swords, and so on. Some of the weapons are just down-right silly. Don’t want to use a regular sword? Just bash the enemy with a yard stick. Throwing axes too cliché? Toss a few ping pong paddles in their direction. Armor is the same way, so between the weapons and armor you could have multiple characters literally using the same classes of armor and weapons, but look completely different. The other caveat to all of this is weight. When changing gear you can see the amount of damage, block, and a few other stats that the item affects. One of those is weight. If someone’s weight goes over 100%, you can still use them in combat, but their speed and attack might be reduced a bit as a result.
Once the tutorial is basically done, a few more areas will open up in the colosseum. At that point you’ll have already opened up the pit which allows you to take on waves of enemies or another player entirely. You’ll also open up a shop where you can buy items such as cages, restoration potions, campfires to restore health, and more. Very useful things to have on hand since any spoils you get while traveling around you have to return to the colosseum to add them to your stashes so to speak. The main point of note though is the quest board where you can choose from the main story quest or tackle a few side quests to earn some extra money. You can also just choose not to take on any quest and wonder around the world gathering experience and helping various characters you find along the way. However, returning to the colosseum will fail any quest you’re currently on, though you can retake is as long as it’s still on the quest board (ie. it hasn’t been replaced with another quest yet). There are also daily goals you can do to earn more rewards such as killing a certain number of enemies. One thing to note is that occasionally upon returning to the colosseum, the space bear will just pick it up and move it elsewhere, meaning your surroundings will change now and then and give you more to explore.
If you’re like me and aren’t the greatest at tactical RPGs, there are a couple of things to help you out and the first I noticed early on by accident…I think. Once I learned how to capture enemies and turn them into party members (the first one being a cupcake that can heal you…because…), I went into another battle and decided to capture a larger opponent by taking out the smaller ones first. A fair strategy that worked…and then I noticed that his experience level was fifteen. At this point the rest of my characters were no higher than level five or six. Basically I used him as a huge tank, but being huge has a drawback. Remember when I said you can have up to six party members after a while? Unfortunately the larger characters actually take up two slots. That makes sense when you think about it; you don’t want a team of six large characters mowing down everything in their path without any risk. I was just taken aback at the fact that I’m barely half an hour into the game and I already have a huge tank that’s ten levels above everyone else.
Honestly, I was a tad worried going into this because, as previously stated, I’m usually not that good at tactical-based RPGs, but this one was different. Sure, I’m still no tactical wizard, but a lot of what keeps drawing me back to Pit People is the artwork and dialogue. If you liked either of those aspects in The Behemoth’s past games, especially Battleblock Theater, you’ll enjoy them in Pit People. Will Stamper returns as the game’s narrator and while he did a great job in Battleblock Theater, he brings a humorous side to Pit People’s space bear as well as some other voice work. On the female side of the game is Ashley Burch whose work I’ve enjoyed since first hearing her in Borderlands 2 as Tiny Tina. A lot of other awesome people have worked on this game and it shows.
There is one aspect to mention that I felt made the game a bit too easy early on, and yet hampered things at the same time: auto-battling. You can turn on the auto-battler and the game will make decisions in combat for you, from moving to attacking enemies. I decided to see how well this worked so once I got my gear how I wanted it, I headed out and found an enemy to fight, turned on auto-battler, and sat back. Granted I lost a member here or there (they just go back to the colosseum until you return), but for the most part I won the battles no problem. This also means though that the game may put a character in a situation you don’t really want them in. One of my characters was actually under-leveled a bit and died constantly. To level her up I need her to attack, but sometimes the auto-battler would put her either by herself or with only one other teammate, meaning she got attacked quite a bit. Basically, auto-battling is fun to watch and use, but be careful with what the CPU does with your team.
Overall, Pit People is a great game and I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it being kind of terrible at the genre. The graphics and story are what you’d expect from The Behemoth given their past games, and those not that great at tactical RPGs can still ease into the genre here. If things get a little tough, turn on the auto-battler for a bit to lighten things up for a bit. The game also has two-player co-op both local and online, as well as the aforementioned PVP, so you can grab a friend to join in on the action and control a couple of characters (unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to try out co-op as of this writing). Whether you like tactical RPGs, you’ve enjoyed The Behemoth’s other outings, or you just want to experience a fun RPG that involves a blueberry farmer trying to rescue his son from a giant space bear that wants you dead, Pit People is definitely worth checking out.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.