E3 06: Inhabited Island: Battlefield Impressions

From the makers of Massive Assault comes what's intended to be nothing less than a perfect turn-based strategy game, incorporating everything that's great about the genre.

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LOS ANGELES--You'd figure a company with a name like Wargaming.net must know its subject matter, and this company is now working on a fairly ambitious turn-based strategy title we got to see at E3. Recognized for its innovative-but-tough Massive Assault, Belarus-based Wargaming.net has partnered with Akella to produce Inhabited Island: Battlefield, a futuristic turn-based strategy game based on a famous Russian sci-fi novel also known as Prisoner of Power. We got a demo of a work-in-progress version of the game at Akella's E3 booth and got a sense of the scope and variety of gameplay that Inhabited Island: Battlefield is aiming for.

A representative for Wargaming.net explained that the game seeks to offer streamlined turn-based gameplay, by combining the strategy and deliberate pace that fans love about this style of play, but without making the result feel slow and plodding. To that end, we noticed that it's possible to move units as quickly as you can click around with the mouse--you don't need to wait for one unit to complete its move before giving orders to the next one. The interface also isn't cluttered up with tons of numbers or information--apparently all the data you need will be presented in context, such as by mousing over on different units or terrain. True to the spirit of its source material, the game will also offer a deep storyline, featuring four different playable factions loosely analogous to real-world military forces (the factions are the Land of the Fathers, the Khonties, the Barbarians, and the Island Empire). The story should weave through the campaign, and together with the game's detailed 3D graphics and original musical score, it should help give the game a cinematic feel.

While Wargaming.net's previous titles have generally catered to the hardcore, this one is being designed with all fans of turn-based strategy games in mind. To that end, Inhabited Island: Battlefield is not intended to be innovative so much as the goal of the project is simply to make the ultimate refinement of turn-based strategy gameplay. Expect a streamlined interface, but also plenty of depth in the form of dozens of different units and complex nuances like camouflage, terrain effects, day and night cycles, weather effects, and more. The game has been in development for some time already and supposedly has a substantially higher production budget than Wargaming.net's previous offerings, which will hopefully result in a better game overall.

Inhabited Island: Battlefield seems to be drawing influence from everything from Heroes of Might and Magic to Advance Wars in its goal of becoming the perfect turn-based strategy game. The science fiction premise will obviously appeal to fans of the source material but should make for a richly detailed setting for those just looking for some good sci-fi to go with their game. And all the different land, sea, and air units, plus base defenses and other structures, should give those who enjoy turn-based games plenty to dig into. From what we saw and heard of Inhabited Islands: Battlefield at E3, we got the impression that Wargaming.net has learned some valuable lessons from its past games and from other, similar titles and will be mustering its strongest effort to date in this next project. The game is scheduled to ship early next year according to press materials.

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