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We missed Bravada when it initially released in May, which is a shame; it's one of those games which is hard to pin a genre on because it isn't quite like anything else. Bravada is turn based. It requires strategic thinking. And since it follows the story of a dwarf on a quest to finally grow a beard, it's also an adventure game. But these descriptors, while accurate, don't fully illustrate what makes Ukrainian developer Interbellum's first game so unique.

The player begins the game with just the hero, whose death means game over. He travels forward, away from the player, down levels that are basically straight tunnels. More units join the party as the game goes along, and the player can modify the party's formation on the fly. The whole party moves as one (be it forward, backward, left, right, or diagonally). Every grid-based move or formation change is a turn, allowing any enemies visible on the screen to move. Once all units have moved, everyone, friend and foe, attacks automatically and intelligently. Things move at a pretty quick pace if the player wants them to, but the player is also free to spend as much time deliberating as they wish.

Units gain experience points from battle. When the hero levels up, the player is given three stat upgrade options, though other units must choose from established class upgrade options which affects their range and attack patterns, or even gives them the ability to do other things like healing and buffing other characters. Along the journey, the player will also acquire items that can be equipped to the hero to modify his offensive and defensive stats as well as give him different kinds of attacks.

Although gameplay proceeds forward down a tunnel for the most part, each of the game's environments has not just aesthetic but also gameplay differences. Being chased by a roaring fire through a forest forces the player to keep moving forward rather than dallying, whereas traveling across a beach during a storm forces the player to stick to one side or lose units that get swept out to sea. It keeps the game fresh without making it overly complicated, and all of the boss fights have special mechanics, too.

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Humor is not neglected in Bravada. The story itself is funny, the first level has the player fighting off slimes that are hypnotizing chickens, and the equipment and items were all designed with humor in mind.

Multiple difficulty levels, chosen at the beginning of each stage, allow players to take it easy and just enjoy the game, challenge themselves, or prove that they truly have great tactical skills. Checkpoints are frequent enough that a loss isn't a terrible thing.

All of these things come together to make an entertaining turn-based tactical gaming experience with a dash of traditional roguelike combat, but without procedural generation or permadeath. I haven't seen anything like Bravada before, and when I started playing it to review it I ended up playing it for three hours straight.

Bravada was chosen for Best RPG/Adventure in Intel's annual Level-Up competition and will be showing at Intel's booth at PAX Prime. It's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam for $9.99 or direct from Interbellum with DRM-free and soundtrack-included options.

[Interbellum]