Review: Battle Worlds: Kronos14 Nov 2014 0
Given that the original PC edition of Battle Isle successor, Battle Worlds: Kronos, hit shelves almost exactly a year ago, there's all sorts of wry witticisms to make about the notion of time. Instead of plucking the singular overripe fruit, let us celebrate another decent strategy game hitting tablets, albeit one that throws a tread here and there.
I'm a sucker for the Battle Isle series. Blue Byte's brand of clean and clear warmongering always sat well on the palate, proffering succinct strategy that erred more towards an Intelligent Systems date than a fiery SSI tryst. KING Art Games heeded the call in a post-Andosian War clime by successfully kickstarting Battle Worlds: Kronos in early 2013 and releasing it the following November to decent critical reception. Battle Isle isn't a strategy franchise that sets the planet ablaze, but Nectaris children were pleased to have a tidy little sci-fi hex-based reboot to muck about in. And now, the love has spread.
Battle Worlds: Kronos is parsed as easily as Panzer General or Wesnoth. Tap a unit, have it toddle to a new hex, and either bonk an enemy or keep on moving. Most units have two actions to play with, which usually boils down to a double-movement blitz prior to contact. Swapping out the latter ambulation for a bit of ultra-violence at the cut-line when things get hot is primarily the other option, and you've got the essentials of tactical delegation in Battle Worlds. Given that you're also dealing with completely symmetrical forces, differentiated only on the front by predetermined installations, it might seem like this Battle Isle descendent needs a little something-something to juice its pedestrian wares.
And while the game is relatively conservative, Battle Worlds is by no means stingy. Single player offers a duo of meaty campaigns, bolstered by fairly stern AI and opponent force numbers not often the player's favor. Mission design runs from attrition to against-the-odds fare, though nothing beyond a wholesome standard bearing few surprises. There's also a good and ever-expanding collection of single mission maps, wherein the meager official offerings are swamped by a thankfully hefty archive of player-created encounters. A rating system is in place, which lets a hungry player sort the wheat from the chaff, and it does seem relatively effective.
In the words of Jarvis Cocker, something something party, something something come here? Battle Worlds is really just a cool delivery system for some worthwhile asynchronous fun. While merely offering temporally-disjointed multiplayer doesn't hold the cache it once did, especially given the asynchronous competition, Battle Worlds' compact visual design and strategic cleanliness makes a compelling argument. On PC, I very much got my shekels' worth. Given that the tablet version is almost glaringly the same version – warts and all – jimmied into a touch device, my multiplayer addiction carried over nicely. Of course, this is a cross-platform affair, so much like the recent Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front, you should never be without an opponent.
It is within multiplayer where the vertical difficulty against overwhelming AI is ameliorated and the symmetrical force scrapping can be appreciated. The engagements are relatively brief, remain dynamic due to the two-action mechanic, with flanking bonuses encouraging much of that same blitz-and-jam business we enjoyed in Battle Isle many moons ago.
Given that this is cross-platform and does not use any sort of Game Center integration, setting up a friendly game does require knowing the player's name and physically typing it into a pre-game invitation, as well as saving said name to a friend's list by typing and saving it. It feels a bit archaic, but a small price to pay for a system that otherwise runs hassle-free. There is the odd spot of lag, both in the menu screen and, more prevalently, within games themselves. Number-crunching AI moves is often glacial, but there are times that frames of animation during combat are missed completely due to this lag. Not every round sports this issue, but it happens enough to make you wonder what the problem is.
Given the Pocket Tactics readership, it's a safe bet to suggest Battle Worlds: Kronos would be a pleasant diversion for the strat-heads and finely-bearded. Not enough to replace the golden oldies, nor sophisticated enough to be still in rotation months from now, but there's something reassuring about its chunky units and clipped pace. We've had our fair share of similar fare; Rubicon's Great Little War Game comes readily to mind, but this channels a different era. Battle Worlds: Kronos is a fine, if somewhat unremarkable strategy title that does justice to the lineage. It doesn't rock the boat, but might not do enough to float one, either.
For those wanting to go back to the island, it's a sure thing, Kate.
Battle Worlds: Kronos was played on an iPad 3rd-gen for this review.