Gacha games are always a hit or miss for me. The genre needs to have a lot there for me to enjoy with small tastes of victory, but still have some clear examples of “if you summon 5 more units, you’ll get something epic”. In the case of Brown Dust from developer Neowiz, the Gacha mechanics are not only strong, but they flow well with the game’s features and systems. After diving into the game, I discovered hundreds of missions, PVP and PVE elements, a bunch of cool mercenaries, and a compelling story, which is something I was totally expecting.
The player takes the role of the son of Fabian, “The Master of the Six Devils,” after leading a revolt against Emperor Altair II, which led to the land of Brown Dust’s splitting of its nations. Along the way, you’ll recruit different mercenaries to aid the protagonist’s quest to bring peace to the land and find out why Fabian committed treason, bringing the world to war.
After the opening scenes, I felt like Brown Dust offers perhaps the most compelling story that I’ve ever seen in a gacha game to a point where I actually took the time to read all the dialogue and not mindlessly skip everything as I have done with other gachas. It really helps that all the characters you meet along the way are so likable and fun. Throughout the game, a bit of a harem starts to surround the main character, which didn’t surprise me, but it ended up being quite comical. With that said, some may not like it, and it isn’t necessary to experience the great features of the game, even if I took it for what it was.
Let’s get this out of the way: Mercenary Drops. Like any gacha game, there are many ways you can obtain mercenaries for your army. It just so happens that with Brown Dust, I never felt cheated with any of my drops, even if they were lower tier. Mercenaries can be used to upgrade different aspects of the mercs you want to keep. And if there’s a particular 3-star merc you’ve taken a liking to, the game gives plenty of opportunities to gain materials to upgrade that unit and make them a main part of your roster. Of course, the 5-star mercs are a bit harder to come by, but each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, its also possible to upgrade a 3-star to make it as good as a 4 or 5 star, if not better. In no way did I ever fell cheated when recruiting mercenaries since the game allowed me multiple ways to work towards powering them up.
As you navigate the world of Brown Dust, players face a variety of enemies on a grid. Here’s where the surprising strategic depth comes into play. Armies consist of supports, mages, warriors, and tanks. It’s up to you to decide which mercs to use to set up your composition, which can differ match to match depending on the opponent’s set up. Each battle has a handful of different win conditions on any given level that you really need to plan your attack before you launch it. There are even different combinations of mercs that you can have on a field that will activate special abilities like damage buffs, more powerful versions of regular spells, and others. Once you’re confident in your team’s composition, hit the play button and watch the fight play out.
Now here’s where some of the tricky elements can come in. You could have a cool 5-star mage that you want to put in an upcoming fight. However, this might not be the smartest move since the enemy units have suicide bombers that will easily destroy that mage. You can’t barrel into each fight thinking you’re just going to put your highest level units in there since that doesn’t always work. I think that’s where this game shines as almost every battle requires that you carefully plan against enemy attacks to take them out. It’s definitely rare to find this kind of unique strategical depth in a mobile gacha game.
There’s really no shortage of things to do in Brown Dust. Each level has a normal and hard mode. You can win just to win, but you have to meet certain conditions to get perfect 3-star wins and earn extra rewards. If you want to stray away from the main campaign for a bit, there are plenty of PVP and PVE modes to partake in where you can get even more (and sometimes better) rewards. I won’t cover them all here, but my personal favorites have been the Arena mode where you take on mercs of other players. It really gives me the opportunity to explore more ways I could improve my own army by studying my opponent’s team comps.
Aside from its gacha mechanics, Brown Dust has some high-quality art direction and surprisingly deep gameplay that respects your time as a player. This isn’t a game that blasts you with notifications to come back to the game every hour either. However, it is possible to set it up to receive them here or there letting you know you have some useful rewards waiting for you if and when you want to come back.
Since there’s always something new and fun to do, I never once felt that Brown Dust became a chore to play. If you can get past the gacha mechanics (which have honestly given me fair drops when I haven’t spent a dime), you’ll be greeted with a wonderful story, memorable characters, and deep gameplay that I haven’t seen in a long time. Of course, I would have liked a bit more 4 star units, but I’m happy with what I have so far. Plus, with how often the game plans to be updated in the future, there will always be something new to experience. Making this is the one gacha game I’ll be come back to time and again.
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