Battalion Wars (GameCube) review
"Battalion Wars was originally introduced under a different name as a spin-off of the GameBoy Advance's stellar Advance Wars series. It strays from its handheld roots, foregoing the tried-and-true, turn-based gameplay in favor of an action-shooter/real-time strategy hybrid. As a concept, this works pretty well, especially in the context of Advance Wars. In practice, the resulting gameplay is completely wrecked. "
Battalion Wars was originally introduced under a different name as a spin-off of the GameBoy Advance's stellar Advance Wars series. It strays from its handheld roots, foregoing the tried-and-true, turn-based gameplay in favor of an action-shooter/real-time strategy hybrid. As a concept, this works pretty well, especially in the context of Advance Wars. In practice, the resulting gameplay is completely wrecked.
Ordering a platoon of bazooka grunts to demolish enemy tanks should be fun. Backing them up with flame veterans to wipe out any enemy riflemen adds a layer of strategy, which is nice. Finally deploying a squad of missile vets to take down any enemy gunships along the way adds yet another layer of depth, so by now the game should have the makings of a sure-fire hit. But thanks to the absurdly stupid AI and gameplay mechanics, rage replaces pleasure. You sit through the tutorial and learn the basics: rifle troops have an advantage over enemy bazookamen. Check. Bazookamen have the edge over enemy tanks. Got it. Flamethrowing soldiers dominate all other troops in close-range, ground combat. Simple. Anti-air guys beat choppers, choppers beat most land vehicles, and so on, and so forth. As a real-time strategy game, this is all fine. Likewise, as an action game these elements could work and add depth. However, the best thing Kuju Entertainment could have done was go one way or the other with this--either all action, or all real-time strategy.
Problems begin once you take the reins and try to lead your troops to victories outside of the tutorial. The on-screen map does a good enough job of showing you the locations and types of enemies, theoretically allowing you to set up a battle plan. Unfortunately, each nest of enemies is so diverse that it's nearly impossible to employ any real strategy at all. What good is it to send four bazooka grunts to destroy two tanks when those tanks are being protected by flame vets? You could send you own flame vets and a light vehicle along with the bazookamen, but how can you be sure that they'll engage the proper enemies? What about the two enemy choppers patrolling in the sky above? A missile grunt or two, along with an anti-air unit, should do the trick, but who's going to ward off the nearby rifle troops? You could send in some more but it appears the entire platoon has already been deployed.
When it comes right down to it, you're just throwing your arsenal of personnel and weaponry into enemy holding grounds and hoping for the best. This, in turn, throws the rock-paper-scissors mechanic and any resulting strategy out the window. Furthermore, without your specific command, riflemen don't know to stay the hell away from the flame vets. Bazookamen can't figure out that they should be smashing the tanks, not the choppers. Your anti-air units aren't programmed with enough sense to at least aim at the choppers raining down punishment from above. No. Instead, everybody ignores their specialties and attacks whatever nearby enemy they can get their sights on. This is not strategic. This is not fun.
As if the AI isn't bad enough, watch how the controls take the game from 'annoying' to 'broken': Instead of issuing commands from the back this time, lead the bazooka grunts into enemy territory and call in reinforcements as the situation dictates. That tank looks like an easy target, so start there. Just lock on and let her rip. Go, go, go... Wait. Halt! stop locking on to each other. Seriously, stop it. Get ready, the enemy is rolling in. Quick, tap right on the C-stick five times while dodging their fire and call in our tanks. No, five times, not six. Go back one. You just told your flame vets to go after the enemy armor. They're going to get wiped out. Concentrate. Halt those troops. Dodge those bullets. Now get your act together and call in the tanks. For crying out loud, quit targeting the good guys! Oh boy, now the gunships are heading in. All right, don't panic. Select a unit with some HP left, since this one's about to drop. Just push 'right' on the d-pad until you find a fresh one. Now push right on the C-stick, then push up on it three or four (maybe five?) times, then hit Z. Coalition missile specialists should be here any second now to blow the choppers out of the sky. What? They joined the flame vets against the tanks earlier? So they're dead? All of them?
Great. Start over. Again.
The sound effects are also fine. Things blow up, guns fire, vehicles move, and people say talk. You know, because a serviceable sound set is available to let you know. You might as well shrug now, because that's all there is to it. But, not to be outdone by the awful AI and wretched controls, even the dialogue manages to aggravate. Every single time a CO speaks a word, a complementary text-bubble literally fills the top quarter of the screen. So, whether you've heard whatever ridiculous statement of theirs one time or a thousand, you get a text-bubble to go with it. Oh! I'm supposed to be heading towards the shining, floating, gold star on my map? Move my troops with this grey stick thingy located conveniently under my left thumb? Thanks! And thanks for blocking the view of the road with your text-bubble, Commander! Driving off that cliff is as funny and entertaining as it was the last four times.
Thank goodness the developers didn't see any reason to include much replay incentive to this abomination. You can go back and replay missions, which were a chore to begin with, and try to get better scores to unlock... some stuff. One unlockable rewards truly dedicated players with a handful of missions in which they'll get to play as the equally moronic bad guys. Pick your poison.
Advance Wars fans should delight in that this game only has a passing affiliation with its handheld brethren. In no way, shape, or form does it live up to the bar established by the Advance Wars set. If you're looking to have a good time with some strategic military mayhem, don't waste your time, money, or sanity on this. Pick up some plastic army men and play in the dirt instead.
Community review by shenlongbo (August 26, 2006)
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