Battle Isle: The Andosia War Review

The game's incomplete interface, uneven pacing, and typical units all serve to make it less interesting than it might have been.

Battle Isle: The Andosia War could have just as easily been called Battle Isle 4, as it's the fourth game in the Battle Isle series - or the fifth if you count the squad-level game Incubation, which was based on the same universe. It's very similar to its predecessors in terms of its concept, its style, and its mechanics. Like the others, Battle Isle: The Andosia War is a turn-based strategy game with an economic component. The game spends a lot of time trying to be innovative, but besides its impressive graphics, it doesn't really include anything you haven't seen in turn-based games before.

The Andosia War takes place in an archipelago, hence the name Battle Isle. The islands are divided into battle islands (where the forces clash) and economic islands (where you build your economy). Units are built in factories on your economic isle, and they have to be transported to the battlefield. Play proceeds in turns, and the different combat units (futuristic tanks, infantry, hovercraft, and other similar vehicles) have varying attack and defense strengths, as well as movement ratings. Supply takes the form of "energy relay posts," which must be connected to your military headquarters via an unbroken chain. Repair units can effect battlefield repairs, provided they are done within range of a functional energy post. Aside from the energy posts, the concepts in this Battle Isle installment are pretty straightforward.

The game's publisher, Blue Byte, claims that Battle Isle: The Andosia War defines an entirely new genre that combines turn-based elements with real-time mechanics - but this is an overstatement. The combination of real-time and turn-based elements was most effectively done by a game called M.A.X. almost four years ago, and there's actually very little that's real time about Battle Isle in the first place. What gives the game a sense of real-time urgency is that turns are timed. You have a fixed amount of time to move units, after which the opposition takes its turn. During the opposing turn, you can't move any of your units, but you can build structures, research units, and generally develop your economy. You can use a hotkey to switch your view between your battle isles and economic isles, and the game will warn you about events that are out of your current view, such as combat losses or a shortage of resources. There are quite a few resources to account for, including energy, water, iron ore, an element called aldinium, and steel. This can make the economic side of The Andosia War seem a little complicated, but the variety of resources doesn't manage to add that much depth to the game.

The Andosia War borrows a lot of concepts from real-time strategy games, but, unfortunately, one thing it doesn't adopt is a sophisticated interface. Some aspects of the interface - such as the ability to easily display the current limits of a unit's movement and fire ranges directly on the map - are quite good. Other aspects are frustrating, like the fidgety control system that you use to decide a unit's facing. Still other elements are simply absent - for instance, you can't queue up orders. If you want to give units orders for more than one turn, you have to use the game's imprecise waypoint system. Also, while the camera perspective can be moved quite freely throughout the game's 3D environments, it tends to jump wildly for no reason when you zoom in or move.

The game's impressive 3D graphics are used to good effect - they not only make the game look very good, but they also make it more involving. Since there are plenty of obstacles and changes in terrain elevation in each territory, line of sight becomes a critical element, and it's possible to set effective ambushes. Elevation changes also hinder movement. The game even cycles between day and night - and through a variety of weather conditions, all of which are noticeable. The game's explosions and other special effects are outstanding, and an effective soundtrack rounds the superb presentation.

The Andosia War comes with a campaign that's playable from two sides, although the units on each side are essentially identical, which makes a second run-through far less interesting than the first. Up to eight players, divided up into two teams, can play the game over a LAN or the Internet. You'll likely end up getting the most out of the game's multiplayer mode - not only because there isn't a single-player skirmish mode, but also because the computer artificial intelligence during the game's campaign is very poor, and won't pose much of a challenge.

Battle Isle: The Andosia War seems like a game concept in search of a game. The 3D graphics actually serve a purpose besides just looking good, but the game's central assumption - that a restricting time limit applied to a turn-based game will make it more intense - doesn't quite work. For one thing, the computer gets as much time to move as you do; so you'll find that once you have your economy going, you'll just sit around a lot waiting. The game's incomplete interface, uneven pacing, and typical units all serve to make it less interesting than it might have been. On the other hand, turn-based games that look this good don't come around very often - so if you like turn-based games but are tired of their typically substandard graphics, you might want to try Battle Isle: The Andosia War. But those graphics are the best thing going for it.

The Good

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The Bad

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