Highlands is a hand-drawn turn-based strategy game with unique characters, resource management and RPG elements where the focus is directed toward decision-making.
User reviews:
Overall:
Very Positive (147 reviews) - 84% of the 147 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Apr 21, 2015

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About This Game

Highlands is a unique turn-based strategic experience where players choices and decision-making will determine whether they return to exile or march victoriously to crush their enemies.

Exiled from their homeland and faced against overwhelming odds of defeat, players in Highlands are tasked to build an army and retake what is rightfully theirs from a group of mysterious overlords and their mechanical army. These noble leaders will manage key aspects of their army and population including food, weapons, recruits and other resources to get stronger and advance in the game.

As they march on, they will unlock new territories and production areas where individual characters will be able to use their skills to strengthen their position. Choose wisely on which sectors to conquer and relinquish to the enemy in order to push new frontlines and find your way back to power.

Features
• Breathtaking setting composed of hand-drawn environments instead of hex grids
• Turn-based strategy game with battles and resource management focused on decision-making
• Asymmetric gameplay
• Units are individual heroes with special traits, abilities and stories
• 4 Distinct character classes:
• Combatants: protect and attack sectors
• Mechanics: fortify (defend) sectors and craft items
• Leaders: organize the population to gather resources and recruit new heroes
• Academics: heal troops and help on various tasks
• Item crafting system
• Story-driven
• Easy to learn, hard to master!

System Requirements

    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows 7 or later
    • Processor: 1.7 GHz Dual-Core
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: DirectX 9.0c compatible graphics card
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 3 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
Customer reviews
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Overall:
Very Positive (147 reviews)
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117 reviews match the filters above ( Very Positive)
Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
3.4 hrs on record
Posted: August 28
Mechanics are shallow. AI is meh. Only strategy is...lets keep loading more units!

Artistically, it's nice. But that's where the fun ends.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
56 of 59 people (95%) found this review helpful
Recommended
7.5 hrs on record
Posted: June 14, 2015
Let me start off by saying that the artwork for this game is simply extraordinary. I was skeptical at first reading about the whole "castles in the sky" theme, but after seeing the hand-drawn backgrounds and maps I was instantly transported to the Highlands. Pairing that with the superb background music made for a very good first impression.

In terms of game-play, let me split it into two parts:
- pre-update 1.1
-post-update 1.1

In pre-update 1.1, there were many instances where the combat felt slightly unrealistic. For example, a 22 HP character could be out-damaged by a 4 HP swarm bot (pretty much a low-level grunt). Combat itself lacked variety, as it was simply a game of numbers with a lot of luck involved. Think a D&D and Risk hybrid. There were a few areas that needed improvement in hindsight, but didn't affect the game TOO much. The storyline itself is your typical strategy game type of story; just enough to motivate you to complete a level, but not deep enough to be praised. Overall, it was a game that may have been ready to exit Early-Access, but definitely needed some more work.

In post-update 1.1, nearly all of the problems I mentioned above were addressed, with most of them fixed completely. Combat has been diversified, with smarter AI, combat abilities such as double strike, as well as strategic abilities outside of combat. The field kit is a nice addition, providing that extra health boost in tight situations. The narrower damage range means that the minimum damage output of all units is more reliable, and more realistic. What may have been slightly too ridiculous (like the swarm bot mentioned above; D&D + Risk) is now a fun twist on the classic territory strategy game. With added tooltips, something that I didn't necessarily feel was lacking, the game has moved to a point where I personally feel is definitely ready for all strategy-loving Steam users to enjoy.

In closing, I'd like to note that Burrito Studios added another update on June 10th, with even more bug fixes and tooltips. This kind of dedication speaks to the work ethic of not only the studio but the developers as well.

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43 of 53 people (81%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
12.2 hrs on record
Posted: May 24, 2015
Alluring & difficult to put down // Recommended for critical thinkers and casual gamers alike

~Full Disclosure: This game was reviewed with a key given by the developers~

+ Each 'tile' feels uniquiely designed, and sets it aside from other titles of the genre that often settle for uniform tiles and grids
+ Absolutely incredible musical score; very melodic, and really pulls you into your chair
+ Random events keep one on one's toes, often doling out punishment instead of reward
+ One of the most important strategic elements involved is that of resource management; the game pulls this off successfully, despite there only being three essential resources to balance
+ Tutorial is well-woven into the early plot, and does an excellent job of introducing the game's mechanics
+ Hand-illustrated artwork is superb, particularly the storyboard pages that are use to advance the plot
+ Permanent death of one's characters is in effect; this does much to lend gravity to one's decisions, and it elicits a nervous reluctance to sacrifice your units (which will often be absolutely necessary)
+ There is actually a commendable amount of character development afoot; this is certainly refreshing for a strategy game
+ Forces must be properly utilized, not only in terms of proper dispersion and front line management, but also in using them to reorganize territories, post-liberation
+ The challenge builds substantially after the initial stage, getting the hook into newer players relatively early on
+ Disney-esque art style contrasts wonderfully with the dark tone pervading throughout
+ Class system is basic enough that one will pick it up quickly; the impact of its utilization is the critical component in your success on the battlefield, and is overall solid in its implementation
+ Equipment management, character stats, and the experience system are all par-for-the-course; nothing revolutionary, but it certainly adds to the depth of gameplay without feeling out of place

- Replenishment of enemy forces, while effective in creating a sense of urgency, can be horribly unforgiving on larger maps
- Unit lists expand awkwardly when attempting to select from the stack; feels a bit odd, in that it can be hard to get the right number of characters within the cursor's selection box, as they move outward when passing over them
- New recruits have a small pool of models to draw from
- There is no skirmish or custom-battle mode; in fact, although the main campaign is very well-done, the game would be well-suited to host more in the way of game-modes in the future (until that is implemented, there is limited replayability)

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31 of 34 people (91%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Recommended
2.9 hrs on record
Posted: April 22, 2015
Alright, two hours into this bad boy, and I'm comfortable reviewing.

Highlands is a Risk-esque resource management/strategy game with RPG elements, to lay it out at its core. While the pics provided up there might make you think it's very simple, there's a lot more depth than I thought there would be.

Gameplay: You have armies that you shift around different areas, and the entirety of your army are heroes. There are four classes: combatants, leaders, academics and mechanics. Combatants' sole purpose is to fight, to add greater numbers to your army. Leaders develop the lands they're on, allowing those lands to generate resources for you. Academics heal your people, simply put. Mechanics fortify areas and also craft items that can be equipped by your heroes. As they level up, they get stronger, acquire different skills and increase in health. You can carry a few minor heroes over with you between games, usually the best leveled ones.

For those who've played Risk, the battling is very much like that. Force on force. Now, you need to get used to two things: you're going to lose heroes, and you're going to lose land. I've seen a couple reviews mention this game is hard, and while it is, it becomes easier once you realize both lands and minor heroes are disposable. Heroes become disposable (the non-important ones, anyways), so you usually shift the brunt of damage to them, while trying to win a battle of attrition and keep your strongest units and critical units intact. In fact, the entirety of this game is a battle of attrition. You fortify some places that serve as choke points, while leaving other lands open so you can lure armies in away from the big armies sitting next to them.

Sounds easy so far, right? Well, not so fast. Every...I think it's 9 turns, enemies populate every land the enemy owns on the map. Never enough to truly be of concern, but enough to reinforce the big armies and keep you on your toes with the smaller lands so that you don't lose something you didn't mean to lose. There are also warlords, who are generated every once in a while and move through the map just like you are. It keeps the pace up and ensures that unless you're sitting at the end of the map, you're gonna have to keep moving and keep attacking.

All in all, it turns into a much more complex strategy game than I was expecting, though I still think a little more flexibility needs to be in the actual combat itself.

Aesthetic: As you probably suspect, the aesthetic is very well done. While the music isn't quite Supergiant-esque, it's still adds a pleasant ambience to help keep you frothing at the mouth in frustration. The cartoonish graphics are great, even in the more grim moments I've seen across the game. There's really nothing to nitpick at here, though I do wish there more character designs for each class. I know that there are dozens of designs across the classes, but considering how many heroes you just throw away, I think there needs to be more variety. Especially in combatant.

Story: The story is quite simple, but enjoyable nonetheless. The characters aren't completely one dimensional, but aren't exactly complex either, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The game has its little random events here and there, and there are little scenes at the end of each map that are well written enough. I will say that I have spotted some errors here and there within the script. Nothing laughable, but another look-over by an editor wouldn't have hurt. In case you're curious, there's no voice acting that I've seen so far, outside of the opening.

All in all, I'd say this is a good game if you're looking for something not too complex, but challenging. If you're looking for something very in depth, you might want to watch some LPs to decide if this will be enough to scratch that itch.
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36 of 45 people (80%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Not Recommended
7.8 hrs on record
Posted: May 10, 2015
The 'thumbs down' isn't me saying it's a bad game, but rather that it hasn't impressed me enough to make me recommend it. I'll return to this view if what I see later changes my opinion.

As of this review, I've only completed the first few levels, and played only 3-4 hours. I'm posting this as a brief list of criticisms. But first, the good:

It's got a pleasant aesthetic, and information is generally clear and easy to parse. The basic mechanics of the game are simple, yet hint at a greater depth, and the random nature of the combat does help, even if it makes some choices become
choices between playing safe and slower, or slightly faster and possibly suicidal. I also absolutely love how snappy and quick the main menu is.

Now for the bad.
  • The inventory UI is terribly clunky. It shouldn't take a dozen clicks just to take items from two characters, and switch them around.
  • There are no hotkeys for the few menus the game has.
  • The fights seem to be exercises of patience, rather than tactics. With how the early levels are set up, it's not a challenge to win, just really time consuming.
  • I'm more than 3 hours in, and it's like the game doesn't know how to throw a good curveball. I've seen 3 different enemy "types", but each is just a bigger number with a new icon.
  • Selecting character icons on the map is clunky at best. I get that they want a more compact look, but it just makes selecting them more difficult than it needs to be because you need to first hover over the bar of icons, watch it expand, then trace the cursor along the bar to the character you actually want to select. Maybe space them apart a bit more and have them stack vertically as well.
  • The writing's mostly just a bunch of exposition dump. None of the characters show much personality through their dialogue beyond the bare minimum. It's got some nice moments, but not enough to make me look forward to reading it.
  • The 'quit' button is very delayed, taking several seconds to finally close the game while leaving the rest of it completely interactable while it's closing, even letting you resume playing the game before being cut off by the window closing.

*edit*
After playing through most of another level which lasted roughly ~2 hours according to Steam, I don't see any point in continuing. The bit above where I called the fights an exercise in patience could not be more true by this point. Unless there's a major update that overhauls enemy behavior and level design, I don't think I'll be returning to this game for a long while.

For those curious and don't mind minor gameplay spoilers, this is the scenario that made me quit: http://puu.sh/i3qC9/64bcdcdd47.png .
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28 of 32 people (88%) found this review helpful
Recommended
29.2 hrs on record
Posted: April 21, 2015
A great indie turn-based strategy game.

Visually: It reminded me of a mix between "The Banner Saga" and "Bastion", colorful, well drawn... especially the environments, which is definitely an improvement over standard/generic hex-grids.

Storyline: Not necessarily the most original plot line, but it is well written, gets the job done.
{Seeing as I'm the type of person who generally doesn't read anything... my opinion doesn't mean much}

Soundtrack: It's decent, a bit on the light side {ambient} and not too memorable but I kept it on during my whole playthrough.

Gameplay: Having done a full playthrough, {Hard mode} I can safely say that this is where the game shines... as it should.
It starts off rather simple, an ability per class with somewhat straight forward scenarios... making it easy to pick up.
Then as you progress, other abilities are added in. Maps widen, scenarios become tougher, more possibilities/choices to be made. Proper use of game mechanics to: push/pull, control zones, manage ressources, while constantly being on the clock from constant reinforcements... becomes a must. Knowing when to attack, when to withdraw, moving units/crafted items around to be more efficient, which ressources to focus on and what to use them for... as well as purposely sacrificing units when need be, adds to its complexity. PS: When a unit dies, it never comes back.

Negative points: It lacks replayability, which shouldn't come as a surprise, since it is a single player game.
It also could have used a few 'Quality of life' features: discarding crafted items, filters, having more game menu/graphical options, etc... nothing too serious.

Overall, It's a great game, well worth its 15$ price tag.

PS: If you're experienced in these type of games, I would advise playing it on hard difficulty right off the bat, as I found it be well balanced.
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38 of 50 people (76%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
6.5 hrs on record
Posted: April 25, 2015
I really want to like this game, but I am finding it very difficult to. Let me see if I can explain why.

What I Like:
1) Game imagery and setting seems really cool.
2) Game mechanics are fairly straight forward.
3) Game reminds me a lot of The Banner Saga (search on steam if you haven't heard of).
4) Game is tactical and requires strategic placement of units, use of limited resources, and distribution of items.

What I dont like:
1) Difficulty - The game has two modes, hard and normal. I am playing the game on normal and finding that the mechanics are not very well balanced for a fun game. I am only on the second mission, but I am finding myself getting overwhelmingly "zerged" by the AI.
2) AI Mechanics - goes hand in had with my first point. AI continuously spawns new units every X amount of turns, cause them to snowball into ridiculously impossible opponents. You on the other hand have to wait for resources to generate at a set rate by capturing nodes. You can heal your army with food, which seems to be a scarce resource.
3) Crashing - I spent an hour or so on the second mission. After what felt like an hour long grind fest of fighting enemy after enemy, trying to advance on the map, the game simply crashed. I am reluctant to continue playing the game because I am worried about future crashing and aggrevation.
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16 of 17 people (94%) found this review helpful
Recommended
15.3 hrs on record
Posted: June 3, 2015
Highlands is a unique strategy game that does exactly what it says on its store page. But just as importantly the devs at Burrito Studio are VERY responsive to community input. Steam achievements are already in and a new "casual" difficulty is being added (within the next day or so) mainly due to the fact that Highlands' gameplay is so different to what we are used to that extra climatisation may well be needed for the average player despite already having a well made integrated tutorial. There is little doubt that this is a challenge that none should take lightly. In addittion, the guys have added some nice extra features including extra craftable consumables, extra character abilities, and extra enemy abilities. All in all, the 1.1 build will radically alter an already good game for the better making Highlands very close to being a must-buy for anyone interested in a fresh look at the tactical turn based with RPG elements genre. Overall an extremely professional piece of work destined, at the very least, to become a cult classic.

*edit* Don't underestimate that word "unique" up there - everyone claims it but few actually achieve it.
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16 of 18 people (89%) found this review helpful
Recommended
19.6 hrs on record
Posted: May 6
This is probably one of the best hidden jewels all over steam...
If you like storytelling games with a strong tactical and role play element...search no more,This is it!
It plays a lot like a board game,but with a type of artistic quality and simple mechanics only possible in a computer game.
My main reason to make this review,is related to the fact of how little attention it was able to get...If you were looking in the first weeks,during and after release,you probably know"HIGHLANDS",if not...it can be noticed just by chance.In fact there is no real excuse for not to play(beautiful game with hy reviews and a very fair price)...if only pepole could actually see it...!?!
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15 of 17 people (88%) found this review helpful
Recommended
8.3 hrs on record
Posted: April 24, 2015
Highlands is a turn-based strategy RPG with a simple but engaging design and beautiful hand drawn art. Its unique style really draws you into the gameworld and its story of warfare among floating islands in the sky.

The game's basic mechanics involve a game of territorial control, where you freely assign various characters from your army among different 'sectors' on the map to capture them from enemies, defend your own territory, or use abilities. Capturing new sectors generally opens you up to further attacks, forcing the player to balance between expansion and defense. The RPG side of the game presents you with a number of different character types who each have different abilities: pure combat strength, healing, fortification, and leaders who convert sectors for you. I only wish the actual combat between armies was a bit more involved; it basically comes down to who has the most/biggest guys and a few dice rolls without much in the way of tactical choice.

This is definitely a game worth playing for RPG or strategy enthusiasts, and my biggest regret is that it isn't longer.

You can also check out a longer review at the DecryptedGaming blog here.
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Recently Posted
Scarface
41.5 hrs
Posted: September 25
Really casual on normal and quite challenging on brutal. Simple mechanics but consistent.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Starner00
8.9 hrs
Posted: September 9
Highlands is a pretty solid Tactical RPG. The art is nice, the difficulty spike is there, the story is solid. It has everything you could want. However, it is a little short. Disappointingly short even. Just when I started to really get into it, the game was over. There is some replay value here, so that helps save it a bit. Overall it's a good game, and any fan of the TRPG would enjoy it.
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Kruz
10.4 hrs
Posted: August 27
Great game and really fun. A little too fun, because it was over before I knew it! Gameplay is fun and the different levels make the player think about different strategies. The characters and storyline are compelling. The price was right--well worth $10. If there were an expansion I'd buy it in a second.
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vinco
7.6 hrs
Posted: August 23
A rather enjoyable strategy game, though a bit short. It took me ~7.5h to beat it on normal. If you can grab this one on sale, it's very much worth the price of admission. I'm glad I played through this one.
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Mr. Blonde
3.0 hrs
Posted: August 21
With just barely over an hour of gameplay I can already say this was worth the 2,99 euros it cost on -70% sale.
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edward_adams
9.9 hrs
Posted: August 19
Cartoons. Chess. Rolling dice. Swords. Strategy.

A little bit like Civ4 for the PS3.

F***in love it.
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mprod
3.5 hrs
Posted: August 14
Fun strategy game. Much improved with latest patches. Devs have made a nice game. Artwork is great. Good blend of being aggressive with timed enemy reinforcements and deciding when to heal and invest in resources.
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ThatOneHusky
8.6 hrs
Posted: August 14
I have only played highlands for about 8 hours or so, but I will say that the game is well made and fun, yet it does have some flaws in my opinion. Some things that I thought they should add:
- Different Factions
- Multiplayer
- Skirmishes/Non-Campaign maps
- More Perks/Skills
- Different Faction Campaigns

Despite saying this I enjoy the game very much.
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laker
0.7 hrs
Posted: August 14
The art style and soundtrack are maybe the only strong aspects of this game. Maybe even story, can't comment that after the time I've invested.

But I won't play it anymore because from the game play point of view, it's extremely shallow, repetitive and boring. The combat is just stupidly simple. You just move from one sector to another, "fighting" the enemy and do some basic "management". That means that you click an icon to conquer a sector so you can get resources from it. Or you can heal your characters. Or you can fortify. So you just click one of the icons and end the turn. Then you fight with the most basic combat system ever created and then you can do it all again and again and again.

Meh
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