Bravada is the first game from developer Interbellum, telling the story of a dwarf who wants a beard just like the rest of his kin. The game is part RTS and part tactical RPG, a hybrid that in this case meshes rather well, where you control a group of dwarves and move the unit as one through various stages while at the same time upgrading the individual dwarves in your formation to take on different roles.
The journey begins with the young dwarf and his bat being awoken to sort out a disturbance, one that involves chickens and hypnotising slime creatures. It’s a good tutorial level that introduces the gameplay well, as you move the dwarf and the companions he finds around, fiddling with how they are set up and the types of attacks they do, with the options being either melee or ranged. Playing with the set up is its own challenge because you have to create a single unit that can work together to take out all types of foes, from chickens and slimes right up to high level bosses.
You will go through different set ups for your dwarves as individuals will die, but there is a neat element where you can summon a replacement, and that replacement can be any character bar the hero and the boss creatures. You can acquire Soul Amulets that allow you to select a character that is on screen, friend or foe, and then duplicate them to add to your squad. This means you can choose to copy another dwarf, a beetle, a chicken or an orc. On top of this you can evolve the team members.
While your hero’s attributes get better other characters can evolve into improved versions of their chosen path. For example I managed to duplicate a beetle and as it got stronger I could evolve it into different types of tortoise (though I don’t think that works in real life), choosing either a high powered but weak version or another with a hard shell but slow attacks. As for the dwarves you can have ones that change from a chef to a bartender to heal the group, or a soldier armed with a slingshot eventually able to change into version that tosses sticks of dynamite.
It’s an addition that makes you think about your style of play which will no doubt change as you encounter new scenarios. Early on I had a fast yet weak team but eventually grew my hero’s companions into a mix of slower, high defence characters on the outside of the group with my range attack characters in the middle. It’s a good idea to mix and match.
The level designs use a similar grid system with the occasional added twist to keep you one your toes. These include mortars being fired at the group or rockfalls inside a cave. This helps keep the game feel fresh, but there are periods in which you just move forward casually dispatching the weaker enemies that come your way. There are also a few errors in the subtitles, but English isn’t Interbellum’s first language and the majority is well done.