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War of the Human Tanks - ALTeR (PC) artwork

War of the Human Tanks - ALTeR (PC) review

"Adorable war..... Adorable war never changes...."

None of you idiots ever listen to me, so itís unlikely that, around this time last year, you took my advice and picked up bizarre visual novel/strategy War of the Human Tanks. It was this odd hybrid blend of visual novel slapped on top of a fast-paced simplified RTS, drowning in cuteness and text with sobering undertones exploring the ills of war. But, of course, you donít know that so Iíll have to go other it again when talking about War of the Human Tanks: ALTeR. So, yeah, thanks for that.

Hereís a recap, then: half of the game plays out as a visual novels featuring an adorable chibi cast that like to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. Thereís a skip dialogue option which will be a godsend for some, but it means missing out on a surprisingly emotional evils of war tale. The other half is a weird real time/turn based battle that takes place on a hex grid covered in a fog of war that you have to carefully explore to root out the enemy forces and eliminate them before they get to you first. Itís an odd hybrid because, while it all plays out in real time, you have to wait for each unit to receive a signal before they can move. Itís often quite tense seeing if you can explore a patch of fog before a suicide tank strolls out of it and explodes a chunk of your front line, or trying to work your way up to the long rang artillery before it blows up your command tank and ushers in a game over.

It could have been so simple because, at first glance, ALTeR is a straight copy that switches the side you fight as in the war but steadfastly hangs on to the previous gameís entire engine. In fact, if anything, it should be considered a smaller title; the previous game offered 13 chapters with hidden battles and four endings depending on which route you took throughout the game. ALTeR offers eight chapters and a much more linear tale -- so all Iíd have to do if you lot bothered to play the first game (which you still should -- go get it, Iíll wait here) is grumble and wax disappointment for a bit then stick an arbitrary X/10 score at the end before retiring to tea and crumpets.

Except, no. ALTeR makes up for it briefer campaign in several ways. Thereís several new types of tank to roll of the production line, including Sniper tanks that finally provide a more definite answer to Knight/Samurai tanks. These pesky little buggers were obtained quite late in the previous game, but had the unique ability to have a decent chance of dodging incoming fire. As such with some careful planning and a bit of luck, you could wade these into the enemy frontline and cause havoc while they casually danced around bullets and missiles. Having a sniper unit or two puts an end to their rampage; theyíre incapable of missing so having a couple chilling on your vanguard soon becomes a sound strategy.

But, still, even with a few new options on your tanks here and there -- like the new ability to build units from both sides of the war rather than just the side you fight for -- eight battles is hardly enough room to explore them. BUT! Fruitbat have packaged the ALTeR release with two DLC packs that skyrocket the content. Thereís a 100-floor cavern you can explore in between missions that will eventually lead to even more new tank designs. The Control tank, for instance, is a handy little bugger that instantly wipes out any additional buffs the enemy have attached to their tanks. Work your way down to floor 5, and youíll gain the ability to manufacture these for yourself.

Itís obviously a game thatís been made in Japan, from the chibi anime artwork to the musical intro and outros that bookend each side of a chapter making like itís a concentrated anime or sorts. (You can turn this option off. You should turn this option off.) War of the Human Tanks works -- but I really canít explain how. Itís a mash-up of ideas and ideals that a sane person wouldnít dream of combining that still swirl together to make something unique and complete. The rapid-fire battles shouldnít work when paired with droning exposition about the bonds formed during war -- but it does. The sickly sweet animation has adorable chibi solders that can barely hold the guns they use to mow each other down utter adorable death cries before exploding. Then theyíre off to an obligatory adventure at the hot springs or a shopping mall before the next chapter has them willingly throwing their life away to save their friends. Nothing makes sense. But Iím still late turning this review in because I wanted to delve a little deeper into the caverns first, or fight a few more free missions to save up enough money for the really grand artillery upgrade. What a weird, weird game I've found myself reviewing. Iím going to go play it some more.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 04, 2015)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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