The Strange Brigade are off on their jollies once more in the first two parts of a spiffing new escapade, The Thrice Damned, and as you might expect it involves lots of undead creatures who need shooting in the head. The DLC, which is free as part of the season pass or just £5.79 by itself, gets you a new character in the shape of American Aviatrix Tessie Caldwell, a couple of new weapons, and two new amulets one based on fire and the other on ice.
The first part of the new campaign finds the Brigade heading to a mysterious island where the undead are rising once more. Given the price of the DLC – free in the season pass or £5.59 standalone for each part – I wasn’t expecting anything groundbreaking and indeed The Thrice Damned uses similar locations and identical enemies to those found in the main game. Rebellion have a little fun with this when a certain Pirate Captain appears yet again and the narrator spends a good half a minute questioning how Captain Tiberius is still ‘alive’ and why he’s suddenly turned up on the island for absolutely no reason. It’s modestly amusing, but the parody isn’t nearly sharp enough to excuse the shameless re-use of assets.
The story continues on from the main game, during which some dastardly individuals destroyed Ammit – the part hippo, part lion and part crocodile beastie of Egyptian mythology – who guarded the gates to the afterlife, which means the undead hoards have now been left free to roam unchecked. It’s the Strange Brigade’s task to right this wrong by finding three McGuffins, each one conveniently distributed across three DLC episodes.
There are a couple of new puzzle types but you would have to be thicker than a whale pancake to not spot the solutions, and there’s the usual array of cats to shoot and collectables to find. It takes around thirty minutes to play through but there’s plenty of nooks and crannies to investigate so there’s some replayability, especially if you have some chums to team up with.
Thankfully, the second episode, The Sunken Kingdom, refreshingly offers some small amendments to the standard run and gun gameplay mechanics. First off, there’s the revelation that those pesky bug swarms – so adept at destroying your health bar in the main game – are vulnerable to sunlight. With this episode taking place in an underground cave, it means that an early section has you fighting within a small ring of sunlight, fending off giant scorpions and shooting bug lairs, before dashing to the next spot of sunlight. It proves to be a fun intermission and it’s a shame that it’s over far too soon. It’s an idea that could certainly be explored further in the next episode. The Sunken Kingdom also offers a terrific trap filled maze to navigate, which is cram packed with hazards and offers an enjoyable spike – pun fully intended – in difficulty.
Each DLC is accompanied by a separate new character – American Aviatrix Tessie Caldwell for the first and ship-wrecked Japanese Naval Officer Hachiro Shimuzu for the second. Neither character really offers any discernibly different gameplay experience, but they are both visually interesting and their voice offers are charismatic and filled with fun one-lines – even if Hachiro does veer into sounding a little Scottish on occasion. The real gameplay differences come through the new amulets to use and handful of new guns and special items.
Talking of voice-overs, the MVP of Strange Brigade, the quick quipping RP accented Narrator continues to delight, as his verbose verbiage is once again on top form here.
As part of the DLC schedule, new horde and time attack maps have been added for free. Sadly the horde maps do little to mitigate the problems found with this survival mode; each of them goes on for far too long and the same loop of enemies is repeated ad-infinitum. A quick fix would be to vary up the enemy types and introduce more rewards at regular intervals, but as it stands horde is a limited experience stretched to breaking point.
Time attack continues to be the game mode to choose once the campaign is done and dusted, offering rapid and bite-sized chunks of action. However, it’s enjoyment is severally hampered by the limited player-base at this moment in time. Indeed, this complaint can be levelled across Strange Brigade. If you don’t have your own team of dedicated Strange Brigaders to play with online, than you’ll struggle to find many strangers to share the experience with.
It’s a real shame, as there’s a lot to like with Strange Brigade’s straight-forward co-op shoot-em-up formula, however, Rebellion Games are going to have to do more to freshen up the experience if they want players to return to see the end of The Thrice Damned.