Pit People Preview & Impressions

Pit People is a wonderful exercise in real-time strategy and absurdism. Here are our thoughts...

This Pit People preview contains minor spoilers.

Even as the number of indie games has exploded in recent years, The Behemoth has stood out as one of the very best indie developers out there, thanks to its off-beat titles with clever twists on well-established genres. 

The Behemoth has already given gamers their take on run-and-gun games, beat ‘em ups, and platformers to critical acclaim. The developer’s latest title, Pit People is another fine example of the developer’s off-the-wall humor, this time mixed with classic strategy RPG gameplay. 

I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with the game during the closed beta earlier this month. While there are still a few kinks to be worked out, I’m happy to report that Pit People is another fantastic Behemoth title.

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Giant Bears and Cupcake People

Pit People begins where The Behemoth’s last game, Battlebock Theater, ended, with a giant space bear smashing into the planet. No, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s always been part of the charm of Behemoth titles. The point is that the bear changed everything.

Several months after being hit by the bear, the survivors are trying to move on with their lives despite the daily rains of green space bear blood. It’s here that you take control of Horatio, a blueberry farmer, after his son is killed amidst a battle with bandits. Horatio sets out to avenge his son, joining with characters such as a princess, cyclops, and giant talking cupcake – who heals you with his magical frosting.

Right from the get-go, Pit People is laugh-out-loud funny, as the narrator insists on killing off Horatio’s son and vainly attempts to kill off Horatio too. Characters themselves aren’t voiced, but instead speak in gibberish that sounds a bit like Simlish mixed with the intonations of South Park characters. This sounds annoying on paper, but it actually kept me consistently entertained. Then again, I’m a sucker for absurd and sophomoric humor, which is why I’ve also enjoyed past Behemoth games.

Keep in mind that if you’ve been turned off by anything in those games, like the humor,or the hand-drawn art that looks like something out of the notebook of the weirdest kid in your high school, Pit People isn’t going to do much to change your mind.This is unapologetically a Behemoth game through and through.

Simplified Strategy

So Pit People is funny, but how does it play? Pretty darn well, actually.

From what I’ve played of Pit People, the world map is pretty sizable, with different regions, including farmland, coasts, and even glaciers and volcanos. It’s laid out in hexagons, yet you can move freely in any direction. Depending on the final number of story missions, I could see it taking many hours to experience everything.

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Enemies roam the world map, and you’re free to battle them for treasure or to recruit them to your team. Some characters you’ll meet as part of the story, while others you recruit in battle. Recruiting characters is as simple as choosing the last person on the field that you want to defeat, and then letting a specific character throw a net around the enemy. Though you start out with just Horatio, you quickly grow your team to six members, with completely customizable weapons, armor, and gear. These range from the traditional weapons, like swords and shields, to the baffling yet useful, like a s’more on a stick and a fence post.

The hexagonal maps come into play when combat begins, as each character is restricted in how far they can move each turn and what sort of actions they’re capable of. Unlike a lot of strategy games, where you choose whether to attack, defend, or use a special move, combat is mostly automatic in Pit People.

First, you have to move your character within range of an enemy. Warrior-type characters like Horatio need to be right next to enemies to do damage, while ranged characters like the axe-wielding cyclops Yosef need to be a space away from enemies for ranged attacks.Once you have your characters in place, you just have to press the Y button for the turn to play out automatically.

While the simplified combat should appeal to almost anyone, it does have its downsides.First, if you’re within range of two enemies that you can attack, you have no say in determining which enemy your character attacks that turn. The game randomly picks who you attack for you. This can make battles last several turns more than they need to. Second, The Behemoth is clearly going for a faster-paced strategy title here, yet a lot of the time the battles I encountered were neither fast nor terribly strategic.

I’d get my characters in the right spots to use their abilities, and they’d be doing solid damage, but it would still take 3-4 turns for all the enemies to go down as they just kinda stood in place hitting each other. I wouldn’t be doing anything else during these turns, just hitting the Y button.

Maybe the combat gets more developed in the later parts of the game, but at least in the early hours, it seems like it would really help the pace of the game if The Behemoth would reduce the hit points of enemies, or increase weapon damage.

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Still, when the battles in Pit People did require more strategy, I found a fun and rewarding game. Between recruiting new characters and finding new weapons, party customization looks to be nearly limitless.

There’s also a fun multiplayer component. Once you’ve built up your perfect party, you can take it online to battle against other players. Online strategy games may not be for everyone, but I could definitely see Pit People building up a dedicated player base, and if the online portion really takes off, that could make up for any issues with the single-player campaign.

So far, Pit People has only been announced for Xbox One and PC. The game doesn’t have a firm release date yet.

Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor.