Every now and then, it’s great to kick back and play a more casual game. I’m talking about the titles that you just sit down and finish because of the way they welcome you into the world with a warm hug, letting you snuggle into the gameplay. The Incredible Baron is one such experience. Successfully Kickstarted in 2015, with an Android and iOS version released later that year, it’s finally available on the PC.
Baron Buffon Hildengard is on a quest to catalogue undiscovered species for fame, fortune, and science. Joining him is wilful benefactor, Lady Nora, and unappreciated brains of the outfit, assistant Smartlee. Our trio aren’t off to the best start, as an invention made for eliminating slugs (that were eating the precious bacon supply) backfires and destroys their ship. It’s soon apparent that nemesis Norab is to blame for tinkering with our robots, and is out to prove his superiority to the Baron. We are dealing with some very familiar character tropes here, as well as a rather inevitable plot twist, but it’s all easily forgiven through the game’s humour, art style, and music.
The silly, albeit endearing, story is matched by the audio at every turn. The Incredible Baron features unique music for the different playable environments, as well as fitting tracks for the story’s dialogue, such as the Baron’s triumphant theme pumping out every time he speaks of how wonderful he is. All of this is accompanied by the 16-bit art style, which complements the light-hearted theme with colourful backgrounds and cute animated character sprites.
After the short preamble, I was introduced to the gameplay. We’re dealing with a tug-of-war strategy here, that can easily be likened to Age of War, Swords and Soldiers HD and The Battle Cats. Essentially, you and your creatures are on one side of the screen with eyes to destroy the enemy camp at the other end. Of course, the bad guys aren’t going to take this lying down, and send out their own waves of monsters. You’ve got to balance when to send out your little troopers with a number of other factors, such as cost and cooldown, using some light strategy to come out victorious.
Most of The Incredible Baron is actually pretty standard, with little being done to change up the ‘get from point A to B’ design. A lot of the interest therefore comes from the additional features, such as having a time limit, a shovel that lowers the cost of your units, and the Baron awarding a 1% speed increase to your money income every time he levels-up. Later levels even add watermelon towers to block your path and damage your friends. It’s a fun extra to the level design, but does lose its charm somewhat after appearing in every subsequent level.
Repetition is the only real negative that I came across. Although, it’s hard to seriously complain when the game does occasionally change up the mission objectives. The diversity was few and far between, but this made me appreciate it even more, enjoying the extra thought that was demanded by my strategies. For example, one level only gives a limited amount of money to deal with the on-coming waves of creatures, encouraging careful organization of your team both before and after combat.
In fact, it’s the diversity of the creatures and their abilities which is where The Incredible Baron puts its own stamp on the genre. The system reminded me of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, as I started the adventure with only one creature, but built up data on new species for defeating them in battle. Once the research was complete, I was given access to use my new friend during combat. The mechanic works in such a way that I naturally grabbed a number of companions by just whizzing through the story levels. Although, certain creatures did take a number of replays to obtain, or could only be found after unlocking the silver and gold difficulties.
To encourage a more personalised strategy, every creature is one of 5 colours (white, black, blue, red or green) with the remaining 4 making up its strengths and weaknesses, so a blue creature is strong against red and black, but weak versus green and white. Not only this, but everyone has a unique health, damage, speed, cost and reload stat as well as a unique ability. These skills include exploding upon death and damaging all nearby enemies, boosting the attack of friendly units, and generating extra gold resources. So not only did I end up with a lot of choice for each fight, but it was worth gaining new friendships as I never knew exactly how they might benefit my team.
It’s possible to get even more personally involved in the fights by making use of the Baron’s particular talents. I really appreciated the chance to attack enemies myself, as I felt less cruel about sending cute critters out to do battle for me. Throughout the story, the Baron increases his arsenal of weaponry, such as healing and poisoning, but it was the trusty flintlock with its ability to knock off chunks of a target’s health that I took with me to every battle.
All in all, The Incredible Baron does a great job of holding your attention and keeping you invested. Yes, a lot of the elements are simple on their own, but they slot together to create a fun experience. I found myself constantly sneaking back for a quick game, determined to grab the achievements for finishing on the silver and gold difficulties. Ultimately, the combination of strategy, creature collecting, and upgrades work to make the game feel fresh, while the cheery graphics, and silly humour ties it all together.
This review is based off a PC copy of the game, which we were provided with.
The Incredible Baron delivers a fun, light-hearted humour that shines through its simplistic tug-of-war strategy foundation. There’s just the right level of challenge for a casual playthrough, while offering enough depth in the different difficulties and species research mechanics to keep you coming back for more.