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Menace keeps the Battle Brothers DNA, but levels up scope and complexity

A deep dive into the upcoming turn-based tactical RPG
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Long have Battle Brothers fans waited for any news around a potential sequel from Overhype Studios and gamescom 2023 did not disappoint in that regard with the reveal of Menace. It’s obviously not a direct sequel, a Battle Brothers 2, but the developers assured fans that there is plenty of Battle Brothers DNA in Menace, which definitely is a spiritual successor to the title.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet the devs at gamescom and chat extensively with them about their upcoming game, slated for release in 2024 on PC

The biggest difference between Menace and its predecessor is the setting – sci-fi instead of medieval fantasy. “For us it was very important to get a change of setting, because we worked on Battle Brothers since 2012,” Jan and Paul Taaks from Overhype tell me. “We really needed a little bit of a creative reset and wanted to do something different.”

Menace key art of marines below a dropship.

Overhype may have traded medieval fantasy for sci-fi, but Menace is just as dark as Battle Brothers.

They continue: “What made Battle Brothers so special is the procedural nature of it: Everybody playing it has their own experience and the ability to find their own tactics, their own war bands, their own equipment combinations that work for them. That’s what we want to keep, the ability for people to play in their own way.”

Battle Brothers is not just a game about turn-based combat, but also a “story and experience generator,” as they put it.

In Menace’s setting, humanity expanded across the stars and connected its possessions with a web of gates that enable faster-than-light travel. As it always does, this network broke down at a point in the past, disconnecting the outer systems from the core. Menace takes place in one of these solar systems, called Wayback. You can still travel to Wayback, but the gate leading out is not functioning anymore. Players will control a strike cruiser from the Republic Marines, which is traveling to Wayback to find out what happened and reconnect it to the gate network – a mission that might as well be suicide for all everyone knows.

Like in Battle Brothers, players will have to navigate relationships with pre-existing factions that have their own goals, allies, and enemies. Uniting the system is going to take diplomacy as well as force.

Unlike Battle Brothers, all characters you can recruit in Menace are going to have handwritten background stories and unique artwork – your starting troops all have a reason for going on this suicide mission and all the people you may be able to get to join you at your destination will have their own motivations as well. Not everyone will like each other or agree with your decisions. Recruiting one character and allying with their faction may well irreparably break your bonds with another faction, locking you out from getting one of its characters. While the star system itself as well as the mix of factions and their missions are unique to every playthrough, the characters – if they show up in this particular run – remain consistent throughout. “We took a little bit of inspiration from Jagged Alliance and the original Wing Commander,” they explain. There are full dialogs for all possible character interactions, but just like in Battle Brothers your characters are very much mortal – no plot armor.

Menace character art on black background.

These are some of characters from the Republic Marines you can start your game with.

“In Battle Brothers, it was impossible to have any sort of character development, and that was something we really wanted to enhance the setting,“ they say. “Casey’s [the writer responsible for all the texts in Battle Brothers as well] writing can be very dark and it really fits this setting to have these very desperate, very complex, and multi-layered characters.”

Characters come in two general varieties: Pilots, who can step into your mechs, tanks, or vehicles, and squad leaders, who’ll command a force of infantry on the battlefield with five to nine troopers in their units. The scope of Menace is a lot bigger than that of Battle Brothers – you’ll command and confront more units on much larger battlefields.

Your characters won’t all share the same skill tree this time around, though there’ll still be some overlap, and while some lean into a certain role with their perks, it was important to the team to leave players the freedom of playing every character in a way they want to. “Being pigeonholed into one build is really bad. We hate classes,” the Taaks explain.

Currently 26 characters are planned to be included in the Early Access release, giving players access to lots of combos.

In Battle Brothers, a mercenary contract would often be fulfilled after winning a single battle. But in Menace, an operation consists of three to five consecutive missions, during which you’ll have some diverging options on how to proceed – they are essentially little paths you can take, which have different goals and rewards. Adapting your army to the mission types will be key. You’ll need to preserve your troops as well, because there’s no healing in-between missions in an operation. You need to make it to the end in spite of attrition.

Menace artwork showing a military briefing.

Each battle is preceeded by a briefing, which allows you to collect vital information.

Before a battle begins, you’ll have a chance to look at the battlefield and figure out where your enemies will be positioned before equipping and deploying your own troops. “We are still working on a system to make this more engaging, where you have actual intelligence points that you can spend on maybe increasing the resolution [of the map] or getting more information on where the enemy is exactly,” the brothers tell me. “We wanted there to be a phase in the game where you actually think about how you're going to approach a mission, to formulate a plan: ‘I put my tank here with one squad and then they flank and the other guys are supporting them with fire from here, right?’ So that's something that we really wanted the players to think about. Not just go on the mission and shoot at everybody.”

Terrain is destructible in Menace, so buildings can be dismantled to create ruins infantry can use for cover. Players and the enemy take alternating turns, so both can very quickly react to what is happening: “It feels very dynamic. A complex part of the game is to figure out what to use first and what last and so on. It’s really intricate and choosing the right unit at the right time makes the difference between a bad and a good player.”

The team wants to create a lot of back and forth on the battlefield and avoid static situations, with the Taaks remarking: “We tried to avoid Overwatch, because we hate it and it really just freezes the game.”

That’s also why they’re going back and forth on enabling players to enter buildings with infantry – it bogs battles down and it’s “just icons floating over buildings shooting each other and you are not seeing the units at all.” Hence you can only enter the rubble of destroyed buildings right now. Things are still up in the air, though. “There is still a lot of time and we will change things around.”

In terms of equipment, Battle Brothers veterans won’t be disappointed either: Each squad can be geared up with all sorts of weapons and armor, allowing you to specialize them in certain roles. Alongside regular weapons, each squad can carry one special piece of gear like a sniper rifle, a flamethrower, a machine gun, smoke grenades, or a rocket launcher – and that’s just the standard fare. It's not a sci-fi setting for nothing, so expect some unique stuff as well.

Weapons work very differently throughout the board thanks to their unique stats and things like maximum and minimum ranges, decreased accuracy and penetration based on range, and so forth. The developers want to assure their fans that the game’s improved graphics by no means impact the depth it can provide – there is a lot going on under the hood. On the surface, each piece of equipment is still represented on the models, just like in Battle Brothers.

However, players can’t just take everything to each battle. Inspired by tabletop wargames like Warhammer 40,000, Menace contains a supply point system that limits the amount of troops and equipment you can field – again, you’ll need to make the right decisions here. “This really helps to balance the game and allow players to make interesting choices,” the devs say.

Menace weapon artwork on a grey background.

Menace features plenty of hand drawn equipment art to connect it with Battle Brothers.

Despite a change in visual style, all equipment pieces and characters will still be featured as hand drawn artworks created by Paul, retaining some of Battle Brothers’ charm and identity – it’s a part of that shared DNA between the titles.

The game, of course, is called Menace. And that titular threat, naturally for a sci-fi setting, is an unknown alien race that’s also made it to the Wayback system. Unlike Battle Brothers, a run in Menace has a very clear goal: Unite the system and reconnect it to the core worlds before the Menace takes over.

These aliens come with a unique play style you’ll have to adapt to when fighting them, adding to the different combat styles of the other factions to keep things fresh – the game’s AI, the brothers tell me, will behave very differently based on the faction it currently fields against you, adding flavor to each faction’s unique capabilities. You can change things up, too, by adding characters and equipment from other factions to your roster, which helps you stay flexible enough to deal with new challenges.

“If you have like 2,000 points for your army let's say and you fail in a mission, then there's no shame in reloading and spending those 2,000 points completely differently on the things that you’ve acquired and just trying something new,” they explain.

Another big part of Menace is the strike cruiser players travel around the system on. It houses your troops and equipment and can be upgraded with a limited amount of modules you get from different factions – again, space is limited, so you really need to think hard about what you want to get. More repair facilities to get your vehicles up and running quickly after an operation? A medivac to rescue downed squad leaders and keep them from dying? Or perhaps orbital strike weapons to call in a bombardment during battle? You’ll have plenty of choice, because there’ll be about four times as many options as there are available slots. You can even get the same improvement several times, if that fits your style better. “It’s very different from XCOM, where you eventually have everything,” the developers comment.

Menace armor artwork.

Just like weapons, different armor types are represented as artwork in menus as well as 3D models on the battlefield.

“In the end, I think, it ended up way more complex than Battle Brothers. There are so many moving parts. In Battle Brothers, once the lines are locked, the combat gets very static, and with this – with ranged combat – it’s all about movement,” they explain. “For example, tanks can transport small infantry units and drive around the flank, pop a smoke grenade, and then unload the troops, so you have some really cool maneuvers.”

Cover is currently very strong in the game, so shooting hunkered-down troops from the front won’t yield great results – that makes flanking all the more important. Suppression is another mechanic that comes into play and adds to the factical layer: When you shoot at a unit (even if you miss), it will gradually take more cover by kneeling and then laying down, making it harder to hit. However, this unit in return will lose mobility and, eventually, even its entire turn if it can’t get out of the suppressive fire. Weapons like machine guns specialize in laying this fire down, but it’s also a great option for vehicles to gain some space to maneuver. More elite troops will be harder to suppress than some ragtag pirates.

Melee combat is not a huge feature – though some alien units will try to get close and personal. Vehicles can also ram into infantry, sending squads flying. “We toyed a lot with it,” the Taaks say regarding melee, “because Warhammer 40,000 is a big inspiration, but it pushed the setting too far into Warhammer.” Visualizing this type of fight proved quite difficult as well. There’ll still be some great weapon categories for close combat, though, like submachine guns.

“It was a big gamble for us, because we thought: ‘Does the Battle Brothers crowd dig this? Would they hate this?’,” the brothers share. “We had a lot of discussions about the written characters. It was a very big jump for us, but as we are big fans of Jagged Alliance 2, we think it will work. It's really different, but we are positive that it will work.”

Menace, developed by Overhype Studios and published by Hooded Horse, will come to PC via Steam Early Access in 2024. Check out for more in-depth gamescom coverage.