Battalion Wars Review
If you're a fan of action strategy games, or are just looking for a military-style game that doesn't take itself too seriously, you won't go wrong picking up Battalion Wars.
- Charming art style
- Varied, 20-mission campaign
- Solid action strategy gameplay design.
- No multiplayer
- Interface can get in the way.
War is a subject that people usually don't try to put a cute face on. Yet somehow, like the Advance Wars strategy games that inspired it, Kuju's Battalion Wars for the GameCube manages to do just that. Battalion Wars is a well-made action strategy game that offers a whimsical art style, setting it apart from other games that try to take a more serious approach. But don't let the cartoonish looks fool you--even veteran players will get a satisfying and serious challenge from the campaign.
You'll take the role of a field officer in the Western Frontier army. Both the Western Frontier and the neighboring Tundran Empire begin the game locked in a cold war of sorts, until the Tundran side loses its nerve and begins a preemptive strike. War breaks out and rages between the bitter rivals, until a third faction, the Xylvanians, show up and take advantage of both sides' weakened states. The Western Frontier and Tundrans work out a convenient truce in the face of this threat and unite against the common enemy.
At its core, Battalion Wars is third-person shooter with a good dollop of real-time strategy mixed in. Though you're addressed by superior officers as your own person, you don't actually have a single, physical presence on the battlefield. While it may not make much logical sense, this allows you, as a sort of disembodied intelligence, to jump freely from soldier to vehicle and control them as you please. Once you have control of an infantryman or vehicle, you can simply move them about with the left stick, fire your weapon with the A button, free-look with the R trigger and left stick, or lock onto targets with the L trigger. If you need a different view of the battlefield, you can shift from an over-the-shoulder perspective to a more isometric, zoomed-out view. You can also order fellow troops to follow you around. Once you have a target locked in, you can more easily shoot at the enemy and, more importantly, order your own troops to attack that target.
Concentrating fire on a single target ends up being the most important command you give throughout the game; though your troops are intelligent enough to defend themselves and attack enemies that wander within range, they will fire with more volume if you designate a single target for them, making them more efficient. While it's also important to control and fire at enemies yourself, ultimately it's how well you manage your troops that will determine your level of success in the game. It is also this aspect of Battalion Wars that gives it the micromanagement feel of more conventional real-time strategy games, as you must quickly identify and prioritize threats and assign the appropriate troops to attack them. It's also here that the game's interface lets you down a bit, as it can be unwieldy using the C stick to toggle between troop types and assign targets for them.
You can't be successful in Battalion Wars by just ordering your troops en masse to fire at each enemy that comes up. If you send tanks after rocket soldiers, or antiaircraft batteries at enemy tanks, for example, the enemy AI is smart enough to target your vulnerable unit types, and you'll get cut to pieces. In a conventional real-time strategy game you'd simply separate your various unit types out into control groups based on killing proficiencies. Unfortunately, you can't do that in Battalion Wars. Each time a threat comes up you must lock onto it, then toggle the C stick to the correct unit counter before you can turn it loose. There's no way to link, for example, your bazooka soldiers and your tanks together to form the ultimate antitank team. You must command each group singly or your entire force together. While this is perfectly fine when you're up against just one or two types of units, the game can get quite frantic when you have to manage against a large, mixed force of enemies. The limitation in control is not insurmountable, but it might still be a source of frustration if you're a veteran of PC-based RTS games.