Highborn is a hysterical turn-based strategy brought to you by Jet Set Games. It’s a medieval strategy game with bright sprite-like graphics and one of the most humorous dialogues I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a video game. It’s also a fast-paced, lighthearted game I could play for thirty minutes or three hours. For me, this one was a clear winner.
The game thrusts you into the shoes of one of my favorite stereotypes, the classic pretty-boy idiot paladin. His image alone was enough to get a smirk out of me as there he is, Archie, resplendent in all his holy glory, cleft chin upturned, blond hair artfully Jheri curled, and of course those blinding pearly whites. You control Archie and his band of type cast adventurers and other varied troops and units. Board by board, you engage the enemy armies, capture buildings to give you additional units, and explore idols and rune stones to give your troops bonuses and to accumulate spells.
As far as I can tell there is nothing groundbreaking as far as gameplay is concerned, it is typical and very easy to just pick up and play. This game avoids the monotony of more traditional TBS’s by eliminating the need to build structures and mine for gold or resources, you simply start with a small army and take over structures that continue to pump out troops as long as they remain in your control. For some, the lack of depth may be a bit of a turnoff, but for others, especially casual gamers, this gameplay is a perfect fit. The simplicity is based on the game’s mobile roots, and the charm of the game is only emphasized by the fact that it does not try to be more than it is.
This brings me to the absolute best part of this game: the writing. It’s so clever, so witty, I restarted missions just so I could re-read the dialogue between the heroes and the antagonists. The game pays homage to all the fantasy and sci-fi classics, the second board takes place in a bog and Archie is continually referencing the movie “The Princess Bride” (a timeless classic). What are three dangers of the fire swamp? Well, instead of the R.O.U.S’s (rodents of unusual size), they face off against W.O.R.M’s (worms of remarkable mass), I literally laughed out loud during my entire playthrough of the second level. Tongue-in-cheek humor permeates every aspect of this game is so well written and clever that I will play through again after I finally vanquish the Arch lich Floyd (Yea the main villain is a lich named Floyd).
To sum up, Highborn is a must-buy for $9.99 on Steam. The writing alone is worth the time and money, the game looks great, and the simple controls and gameplay give the more challenging aspects of the game the greater emphasis they deserve (I want a game that’s hard because my opponent is difficult, not because I can’t figure out how to control my character). And it’s funny—not video game funny, but truly LOL funny—from the cheese-ball lines Archie drops at every opportunity to the “Helpful Tips” on the load screen (play with catapults in real life to earn our respect, is one that comes to mind), this game is sure to put a smile on your face.