RPG fans rejoice! I’ve stumbled upon a true gem this week. Bastard Bonds is a mature indie game that introduces a very interesting take on the strategic RPG genre. Combining elements from some of my favorite titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Shin Megami Tensei, Bastard Bonds is an enjoyable mix of strategic turn-based combat, NPC recruitment, team management, exploration, and adventure. Be advised, however, that some of the content is intended for a mature audience. If pixellated nudity and lewd language may offend you or cause you trouble, please wait for a more appropriate time to play. Consider yourself warned.
April 29, 2016
In Bastard Bonds you begin your journey as an accused prisoner on an island full of inmates. The type of crime you are accused of and whether you’re innocent or guilty is up to you to decide. Regardless of your choice you will be convicted and forced to live out the remainder of your sentence on a mysterious and extremely dangerous island. Choices made in the courtroom will determine your alignment and initial companion so remember to choose wisely. Aside from choosing the player’s criminal involvement, you are given the opportunity to create a customized character sprite using a wide selection of clothing, skin types, and hairstyles or by choosing from a list of pre-made character templates. If you’re feeling especially creative, there is also an option to import a custom sprite of your own. Wearing nothing but your birthday suit is a completely valid option in this game.
During your travels you will encounter a plethora of enemies and potential allies, some having their own unique history, alignment, and dialogue. The travel map is mostly nonlinear and moving between areas was reminiscent of the original Baldur’s Gate PC games. Clearing one map will usually open up alternate routes for the player to choose from. I didn’t encounter too many quests other than the overall goal of escaping the island but there are a few side quests and companion quests to complete along the way. Traveling with companions long enough will result in them becoming bonded with your character. Forming bonds leads to bonuses and extra items. By endgame I had recruited a full team of demons and evil monsters and it was exactly what I wanted from this game. Finding a good balance of teammates is important to achieve the best results in combat.
Combat in Bastard Bonds is similar to Final Fantasy but quite simplified in comparison. The leveling screen looks like a hashtag or tic-tac-toe board divided into 9 squares. There are no classes in this game and skills are divided into might, dexterity, and magic and their respective defence and utility skills. Leveling up utility skills enables different ways to overcome obstacles like telekinesis or lifting heavy objects. Utility skills can also grant the ability to recruit humanoid enemies and even monsters later on. The magic system was slightly confusing in the beginning of the game. Luckily there were plenty of instructions via in-game hints which also appear on the various loading screens. I really enjoyed the unique “risk system” where the player is able to gamble in attempt to perform additional risky actions such as extra attacks or movement. Crafting in Bastard Bonds is as simple as combining two identical weapons to create an improved version. Despite the somewhat simple combat, Bastard Bonds still proves to be a challenging experience that requires some experience to master.
General gameplay consists of choosing a team of 4, conquering the next map, looting everything, and recruiting followers. After recruitment your comrades will gather at strongholds that the player must establish throughout the game. The majority of the maps you conquer are capable of becoming a stronghold and each location is able to hold a different amount of followers. Strongholds serve as a base of operations, shelter for followers, and as a place to store extra items. Later you will be able to hire additional services for your stronghold such as merchants and healers. I thought strongholds were a very neat feature but there were no real customization options or base building elements involved which was a bit disappointing.
The style and humor of Bastard Bonds is very humorous and mature. You may be surprised the first few times you encounter an orc in leather chaps, a demon with a Prince Albert piercing, or a harpy with a massive exposed rack. It soon becomes so common the shock factor fades pretty quickly. All of the mature content is either in the form of lewd conversations or pixellated nudity. I don’t think it’s too graphic or offensive for most adults, especially by today’s standards. The content is very LBGT friendly and was an interesting change of pace to see the men dressed as scantily clad as the women in this game. There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy and I found myself laughing out loud at some of the character designs and interactions.
Final Grade: 76%
I had a lot of fun with Bastard Bonds. The campaign was surprisingly lengthy and didn’t require much grinding to complete. There are no character animations and the sprites just bounce from place to place, but the pixel art is really well done so that wasn’t a deal breaker for me. Path-finding is also a pretty big pain, sometimes causing you to retrace your steps to find blocked teammates or be cut off from them in battle. Once you’ve gotten used to the minimalist style, you will discover a surprising amount of content, depth, and comedy. I would recommend this game to fans of classic tactical turn-based RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics.
- Simple and fun turn-based combat
- Good Replay value
- Unique character creation
- Hilarious characters and locations
- Tons of locations to explore
- Easy to follow story
- Confusing magic system
- Horrible follower path-finding
- Confusing manpower/alignment system
- Unbalanced leveling system
- Limited sprite animations
- No Autosave feature
Check out the trailer for Bastard Bonds below!