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[Review] Active DBG: Brave’s Rage

Posted on February 4, 2023 by in Reviews, Switch

System: Switch
Release Date: February 2, 2023
Developer: ISVR
Publisher: Astrolabe Games

Active DBG: Brave’s Rage is a little misleading. With cute characters and popping colors, what I expected to be a walk in the park pocket RPG is actually a grueling system that takes time and significant effort to master. Fast-paced fights coupled with roguelite mechanics makes for a bit of a steep learning curve, but the tutorial’s combat and defensive basics are drilled early – and there’s a reason you’re forced to play the tutorial when first starting the game: you need to learn these mechanics. You need to know all of the tools in your arsenal to make it through and come out victorious. The “perfect block” is especially useful in aiding survivability, but is that alone enough to get your champion(s) through with their lives?

Combat utilizes an “Active Time Battle” system not uncommon in turn-based RPGs. Brave’s Rage has a laundry list of playable characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, along with the types of cards they can best utilize. While some characters are great for heavy melee attacks, others work best from the back with projectiles or may be able to use special skills like grapples and knockbacks to change the flow of battle. Each character’s unique ability set is tool, and being able to get to know and use those tools becomes critical in this game. Getting too comfortable with your tools is also a bit of a bad thing, as new equipment, new cards, and new Braves unlock, you’ll need to adapt on the fly to make best use of your arsenal.

Active DBG: Brave's Rage review

Starting out with just one character, one of the best first things you can do to get an upper hand in the game is… die. You heard that right. Dying outright will unlock the next playable character, thus allowing you to start fighting with a two-person party. In order to swap between the two characters, you’ll need to highlight which person you’d like to have use a selected card before you play it. This can be a little hard to finagle when new, but as you get into the groove, you’ll have a better time of using each card with the player character that’s best suited for it. While a misplay can be punishing, it’s not necessarily game-ending, so don’t worry too much about a misplay or two while you’re still figuring things out.

As a deck building game, players of titles like Slay the Spire may be already used to some of the events that pop up here and there on your travels. As you traverse each stage, you’ll encounter shops and random events that allow you to change out the cards you’re currently using for new ones. Sometimes these are upgrades, sometimes you’ll get unlucky and get a downgrade. Additionally, you’ll be able to remove unwanted cards during some random events, but don’t always count on this. You will, at times, be forced to play with a deck that is considerably more lackluster, but with effort and time can be cleaned up into something usable. Even runs that end in failure will give character experience for upgrades to your party.

Playing to your party’s strengths can be daunting, but making sure to outfit yourself with cards that work for both party characters is absolutely a must for progression. Party members can have a wonderful synergy that makes combat feel like a breeze and cards that match each hero’s strength can be chained for Combo attacks. Combo moves are extremely powerful and are the best thing to give you the upper hand in a fight. When a Combo is ready, the word “MAX” will appear in a gold box above the corresponding character’s head. Working toward combos is a great tactic to quickly take down enemies and progress.

Active DBG: Brave's Rage review

The map is fairly easy to traverse, but does have a “Fog of War” type effect reminiscent of Fire Emblem titles. As you move, you’ll uncover more enemies and events, thus allowing you to accrue more experience, gold, and cards. While completing a map is not required and you can run straight towards the boss with minimal interactivity, being able to clear the additional events and battles will give you more of an edge in subsequent runs. There are seven different stages in total to explore, nine different playable classes each with unique skills and abilities, over 500 unique cards and 100 equippable items, and close to 100 types of enemies with different designs and skillsets. If the base game is too hard on the default difficulty, don’t despair! Even the default has a total of 20 difficulty settings, which will allow you to tailor your experience to your playstyle a little easier.

Active DBG: Brave’s Rage is deceptively cute. Outside of the cartoony graphics, there’s a brutal and almost unforgiving learning curve. The rewards for sticking to it and grinding out levels for each Brave and completing challenges makes the entire experience worth it though. There was never a time where I felt like things were impossible, but I won’t lie and say that the majority of my runs didn’t end in full-on failure. Each loss makes you adapt, and every adaptation makes you a better player. For fans of roguelite games, definitely give this one a spin. If you’re more of a casual gamer or someone that doesn’t like losing often, then this one may be something to steer clear of.

The Verdict

From the first time I launched an entire man into the air and subsequently dealt massive damage to his prone and airborne form with a follow-up attack from my other party member, I was hooked on the impressively fast-paced combat system in Active DBG: Brave’s Rage. Do not be afraid to use the slow down feature to time your blocks and hits for the best possible moments, and even this challenging experience can be completed. As one of the hardest games I’ve played in a while, I’m still fully enamored with it and will certainly be working towards unlocking all nine characters. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

Active DBG: Brave’s Rage copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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