Pit People

Lets start this review by doing something fun. I’ll try to summarize my thoughts on Pit People while following the same general tone of Pit People’s writing.

“Ah, Pit People, like a great big… garbage, yes, hmm, a great big garbage pile of trash and waste, all ready to get picked up by the garbage man, and driven in his garbage truck to the garbage dump, because that’s where all the garbage goes.”

If it’s not obvious, I don’t like the game much.

Pit People Splash Image

Pit People is a turn based strategy game from The Behemoth. I think it’s worth noting that the Behemoth’s better known games, Castle Crashers and Battleblock Theater, were both action games. Castle Crashers was a side-scrolling brawler, and Battleblock Theater was a time attack platformer. They’re pretty good games! Which is why it surprises me that Pit People sucks as much as it does.

Anyway, Pit People. Its major twist on the turn based strategy genre is that instead of moving your units, and choosing who they attack, you only get to move them, and the units randomly decide who to hit. While this sounds annoying, it’s actually not something about the game that frustrated me. Battles take place on a hex grid, and you build a team of up to six units.

I say up to six because some of the more expensive and powerful units take up multiple slots. So instead of having 6 units, you might have 5, or 4, or even just 3. Units can have different equipment, and level up.

Pit People Team Building Screen
All these swords are the same, which is to say: worthless.

Leveling Up: Mostly Pointless!

You probably thought I was going to follow that up with saying something like “And equipment has different stats, and leveling up increases a units stats” but as far as I can tell: No. It actually doesn’t do that. Leveling up changes absolutely nothing about a unit as far as I can tell, except that if you level up in battle, you get full health. How helpful is this? Well, there’s no consumable items or anything, or any way to heal in combat outside of built-in passives, or including the dedicated healer unit. So it’s very helpful. And it would be nice if it wasn’t completely random.

Pit People Battle Screen
I stole this image from the steam page. I’m not playing any more of this game than I have to.

This lack of meaningful power curve or reason to get any equipment means that there’s also no reason to fight random encounters. If they don’t progress the main story quest, and equipment is worthless, why do them? Of course, you can fight them if you want to capture an enemy unit. Pit People has a recruitment mechanic where if any enemy is the last unit left, and you have a cage with you, you can capture them, bring them home, and turn them into a fighter for you.

And while this might seem similar to Pokémon for an instant, it’s only like Pokémon if there were only 17 Pokémon, and every single Pikachu was mechanically identical. Also, if you could only bring 8 Pokeballs with you every time you left town and went out into the overworld.

The Overworld

Pit People’s Overworld is one of the most vestigial things I’ve encountered in a game. There are three things you can encounter in it. Quest start markers, random encounters, and visual gags. There are two types of terrain. Tiles you can walk over, and tiles you can’t. And because you can’t move and have your map open at the same time, and the map doesn’t actually show things in very much detail, it’s frustrating to traverse. Not challenging, just “Oh, I guess that path is a dead end, wish I knew before walking down it.”

Pit People Overworld Map
Hey, would you like to get treasure, or capture units? You can’t do both. Why? Because we said so, that’s why.

Anyway, back to item slots for a moment. You can carry 10 items. This includes the cages you need to capture units, and also any loot you might pick up. Except your inventory gets filled after doing a single quest. So every time you finish everything, you have to go back to the city, crossing the stupid frustrating map, and avoiding random encounters so you can drop off your loot.

Which as we’ve already talk about, doesn’t really have stats. It might have elemental alignments, but you never get “better” equipment. Everything is just a side grade, or has some small other ability, but every sword is just a visual reskin of another sword. Which means everything is effectively a cosmetic.

Pit People could redeem itself here with interesting combat. It doesn’t. The whole “you don’t get to pick which unit you attack” is an interesting idea, but doesn’t lead to interesting decisions. I saw a steam review noting that the game’s strategy never changes. Put tanks in front, put range in the back, and heal your guys. Repeat until you beat the game.

Or get bored, because battles take forever, and units feel incredibly bullet spongy. There’s also not option to speed up the game, so I hope you enjoy the incredibly long walking and attack animations. There is an auto-battler, but it’s got the brains of one of those small yappy dogs that think they can take on a mountain lion. So turning that on will lead to your units getting pulped as the AI prances them into melee range of the entire enemy team, and keeps them sitting under airstrikes.

The Plot: Doing Its Best

There’s one last place the game has to salvage its dismal reputation, and that’s the story. Unfortunately, it flubs it pretty hard here as well, and I have a guess as to why. Pit People was an early access game. I know because I bought in early access seven or so years ago, played like 15 hours, went “This is great, I’ll play more later.”

Then I came back last weekend, played through the whole game’s campaign in 8 hours, and went “This is trash. How did I ever willingly play more than 3 hours of this?” Anyway, the story. I suspect the story was added piecemeal over the game’s time in early access. The story is janky and disconnected. It randomly and unsatisfyingly opens and closes plot threads, and is also only 8 missions long. Some of these missions try to be interesting or have some unique gimmick, but many are just standard battles.

Also, quite a few do that thing I hate where the game goes “Oh, you beat the enemies? Well, now I’m going to spawn in an extra pack!” Tactics games are about use and allocation of resources to deal with a given problem. Going “Surprise, extra problem” after I’ve cleaned out all the enemies, and I’m struggling to catch my breath is aggravating normally, and it’s double frustrating here.

Some final complaints, and a conclusion

Rapid fire mode for complaints. What’s the point of the weapon “triangle” that’s just “helmets vs non-helmets?” Why can’t I see what debuffs are on a unit in game? Why can’t I see armor type or other special info? Why are a non-zero number of the campaign quest maps literally designed in such a way that I cannot use my super unit on it, but I’m still allowed to bring it into the fight? Why are there daily quests?

Pit People isn’t fun. It’s a joyless slog whose best selling point is an occasionally amusing story, albeit one with an incredibly inconsistent tone that concludes with a complete asspull. If you want a better tactics game, play literally any other tactics game on this blog. At least Pedigree Tactics is interesting.