I’ve had a long love affair with The Behemoth, starting with games like Alien Hominid on Newgrounds back during the heyday of Flash-based content, to the more recent release of titles such as Battleblock Theater.
Pit People is the latest title to come out of The Behemoth, while also holding the honour of being their first turn-based strategy title and the first game to offer an equally satisfying single player to multiplayer gaming experience (with their previous works being decidedly better with a couple of friends).
Pit People is exclusive to the Xbox One and PC, which means the title has full—and more importantly—thoughtful controller pad support for the Steam release. The game follows the exploits of Horatio, a humble blueberry farmer on a quest to save his beloved son, who has unfortunately been kidnapped by a giant, mutant, space bear (voiced by Internet sensation Stamper), which for a studio like The Behemoth is a perfectly acceptable plot point.
If it isn’t already apparent, Pit People is a ridiculous and over-the-top title, with humour taking a front seat. The game mishmashes elements from pop culture, including references to other Behemoth titles such as Castle Crashers, and Battleblock Theater (with exclusive unlocks for those who own the latter). The eclectic design elements also spill into the story, to the point where the game almost feels a little too crazy, but somehow still manages to come off as a concise and fun end product.
In other words, Pit People feels a little bit like the drawings inside a notebook of a high schooler, animated and come to life. There’s a strange harmony or sense of balance that only a studio like The Behemoth could pull off.
Gameplay consists of the player travelling across a large map, with enemies placed around the world, some random and some deliberately. Battles begin once the player makes contact with an enemy character on the map, akin to games such as Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy.
Battles themselves take place on a grid-based map, upon which players control up to six characters, alone or with a friend. Unlike some other role-playing strategy titles, Pit People doesn’t give direct control over the actions of each character, instead, once the player moves a unit to a specified spot, the computer estimates the best possible course of action, including the target enemy.
At first, this automation and random element to combat made the game feel a little too simple, but Pit People quickly addresses this by the sheer variety of load-outs, character types, and different objectives that changeup encounters.
A good example of this comes early on in the story when the game teaches the player how to recruit additional units. Battles in Pit People allow the player to kidnap and recruit any enemy character, as long as they are left alive by the end of the fight. This element can drastically change the flow of battle and make even routine sorties feeling fresh and exciting.
Games such as Castle Crashers and Battleblock Theater feature great multiplayer and Pit People is no exception to that rule. In fact, the multiplayer in Pit People is not only fun but feature rich, in that it offers co-participants their own save file slot, meaning that a second player can progress through the story and build up their party at their own pace, without missing out on anything offered within the core single-player experience.
My only issue with the multiplayer co-op mode, especially when played locally, is that some of the UI elements—most notably the cursor when in battle—feel a little too large, resulting in a few brief instances of confusion for both me and my friend, due to the overlap. The problem may be addressed by playing on a larger monitor or television, (we were playing on a 17” laptop screen).
Pit People also offers players competitive multiplayer which can be initiated at the appropriately named Pit, a colosseum styled arena that can be found in town, the central hub for the player. The town or home base is also where the player can purchase items, change loadouts and party members, as well as check the daily challenges and quests.
Traversal outside of combat is done via horse and carriage, which comes standard with heat-seeking missiles, (obviously) that can be used as a means to temporarily stun enemies, avoiding unwanted skirmishes.
In terms of sound design, The Behemoth has done an apt job in conveying the same over-the-top and eclectic patchwork aesthetic of Pit People through the music, which consists of quirky electronic and dance tracks featuring the talent of Patric Catani, who has provided music for The Behemoth titles in the past. The music meshes perfectly with the colourful and stylized cartoon-like look of the game.
Titles such as Battleblock Theater illustrated that The Behemoth can tackle new genres and still deliver a great game and Pit People is no exception.