Shredding Prepositions In Battle Bands Early Access

Duke it out with other shredders in Battle Bands Early Access - a deck-building rogue-lite for 1-4 players and more customisations than you can shake a stick at.

Welcome to Battle Bands! That’s what the game says at the beginning, and that’s my intro for you. Available on Early Access at the time of you reading/skimming/copying this article, it’s a rogue-like card-based game, and it rawks.

Battle Bands Early Access gives you a band of four to contend with, and you can choose from the guitar, bass, drums and keyboard – levelling up with progress, thus unlocking new cards for your deck along the way. This preview is solely based on my solo effort, though I did try to dabble online to see if it’d fast track my progress.

Embarking on a tour of Riff City, you can opt to check out random events for buffs, extra cards, money, and perhaps some morale. As Battle Bands is a turn-based game, morale represents your moves on the world map. If defeated by a band, it’ll mean losing three points, and if you run out, it’s game over. Morale can quickly be restored with random events, a pizzeria, and beating your rivals.

Battle Bands Early Access Preview - Riff City
Riff City. Source: Steam

Each battle in Battle Bands Early Access is won by hype. The first to reach the target wins, but bear in mind that if the other player still has a turn, they can sneak in a cheeky hand and win. To play a card, you lay down a song selection card first, and these will cost one energy (by default, you have two). The stats for each card will show the hype you’ll get for completing it, how many cards need to complete for the set, and occasionally there will be armour to protect yourself from negative effects.

Starting with the song card ‘Spicy Verse’ gives one hype point, requires two cards on top to complete it, and costs one energy/action point. Later cards offer higher points and chains and subsequently can change the flow of a battle. Once all energy has been dispersed, you end your turn. At the end of a Battle Bands battle, if you win, you’ll get some money and morale, or the opposite if you lose. You can’t repeat a level if you’ve won but can return for a rematch once you’ve got a better hand or morphed into Billy Big Bollocks.

A run will finish once you’re out of morale, or head to the boss and get your arse served on a cheap paper plate. Upon each run, you’ll acquire both season XP and instrument XP. The higher the latter, the better the cards are. As for the season, it’s very much like Fortnite, and with each level, you’ll win a cosmetic item with an associated rarity status, plus some credits that can be used in-game to buy new items (but not cards). Just a heads up: it’s a bit of a slog to level up in the world tour mode, so it might be worth playing against real people to speed up the levelling.

The customisation is super cool and captures a variety of art styles from Scott Pilgrim through to Calvin and Hobbes, but it still feels unique with a good range of assortments. Ironically, the weakest part of the game was the music. Music is subjective, of course, and while technically the tracks were very good, I didn’t enjoy them so much. Considering how long a battle can last, finding the right tune to keep the momentum must be hard. Likewise, there’s no licensed music for obvious reasons. One way around that would be for Aerie Digital to allow players to upload their own, as seen in Double Kick Heroes. The Mars Volta would be perfect when playing against the Final Judgement boss. 

But there’s a cheap working around: mute Battle Bands and play your own music. I’m not sure if the head bobbing and actions are timed to the music, but they’re transferrable and would work just as well to Master of Puppets or Hangar 18. That said, the title music is incredibly catchy, and for all the right reasons. Next? The animation is rad, considering the characters remain on the spot for each battle. The illustrations are excellent, and the potential for customising is superb. 

I really like deck building games these days and find them very addictive. Battle Bands Early Access is no different, and I’d happily place this on repeat as I have been. My only reservations would be the music itself and the slog to unlock accessories. Other than that, this is well worth your time if you like card-based games, customisations, wicked artwork and… err people. That’s right, Battle Bands is bound to be way better with others, but you can be the judge of that experience when you pick up the game on Steam.