Battle for Atluma is a video game based on a collectible card game based on a tabletop game. Hence, there's a discernible disconnection between the PSP title and its original inspiration. As a literal translation of the Warhammer WarCry card game, Atluma is mildly successful. But as a video game, it's frigid and unappealing, thanks to a lack of personality and a dreary campaign.
The mechanics themselves are familiar enough for anyone experienced with trading-card games. You take your deck into battle, muster your troops onto the battlefield, duke it out with your opponent, and then clean up the leftovers before the next battle. The value of each unit is calculated on the basis of strength, tactics, leadership, spell points, and other abilities. Once you select an attack card and a defender, battle commences, and you play action cards to further bolster your troops. Once each player is finished, the die is cast and a winner is chosen based on the final strength of each base unit.
Features like rout checks and blocking add strategic depth, but even if you're new to WarCry, Battle for Atluma is pretty easy to pick up after an hour or two. But there's more to a decent video game than a direct translation of card-game mechanics, yet that's all that it really delivers. A story may have helped matters, but what you get is a flimsy scenario regarding the recovery of the Atluma Crystal. The campaign is simply a bunch of progressively harder battles as you take on champions of the various factions. Warhammer fans may enjoy the presence of the orcs and high elves they love so much, but nothing feels at stake--it's just a group of disconnected encounters.
The rest of the presentation is a collection of missed opportunities. The cards are exact representations of their physical counterparts, featuring plenty of beautiful fantasy artwork. In fact, they look like scanned images and are certainly not tailor-made for the platform. In the midst of the playfield, you can't read the cards, and even if you view a card more closely, you still can't make out many details. You can view a full-screen version, which requires you to flip your PSP horizontally, but it's all a lot of trouble just to see the printed details. And even this version is blurry, not the crisp depiction you'd hope to see.
Gameplay proper takes place over backgrounds of molten lava and icy mountains, and they look alright, if a bit washed out. But it's all so uninspired, relying on the opening cutscene and the pretty but hazy card artwork to remind us that this is a Warhammer game. There is no visual portrayal of battle aside from the flip of a card and a bullet hole or slash through the losing unit--no animated battle, no 3D character illustrations, and no panache. The soundtrack adds a melodramatic twist for a while but gets old fast, and the only other noise is the clicking and clacking of cards and menus.
If you're a trading card game enthusiast you want to get lost in the decks as well as the production--sorting cards, swapping them, and earning new ones. You'll earn gold to spend on new ones as you play through the campaign, but eventually you'll hit another roadblock. While you can sort and filter cards in the full card roster, once they are added to your deck, you can't. Figuring out the makeup of your deck is tedious, and the card library stops from time to time to access the UMD, slowing things down even more.
You can battle another player in ad hoc mode and wirelessly exchange cards, and the modes function just fine. Battle for Atluma works best when you're engaged with another player, but it begs the question of just what you get out of the experience that you wouldn't get with a couple of starter WarCry decks. And it isn't much, due to tedious deck sorting and a detached façade that doesn't do the card game any favors. If you already play Warhammer WarCry, this game won't shed new light on the game or its setting, and if you don't, you're better off grabbing a physical deck and a buddy to play with.