I am sick of good Android strategy games.
From the moment touch screen mobile gaming became viable, it is the strategy genre that has been the biggest beneficiary. The feeling of commanding an army with dancing fingertips is a purely visceral joy that has only been enhanced over the years with the steady mechanical perfection of the concept by all manners of developers.
This may sound like a great thing, and for a time it was, but we’ve now reached a point where the genre has become stagnant. A good strategy game, even a great strategy game, on the mobile platform is as safe a prospect as a new Call of Duty game, and about as exciting.
What a modern mobile strategy game needs then is something that sets it apart. For Battlelore: Command, that would be its pedigree.
Based on a strategy board game of the same name, Battlelore: Command is a well-honed experience that initially feels somewhat different from your average mobile strategy fare.
It’s a much slower, more limited experience that doesn’t even allow you to command all of your units in the same turn. Instead you maneuver selected groups of them in phases. After selecting which lanes you will be moving units into (for example, one group of units on the left lane, one on the right, and two up the middle), you will then put them into position on your next turn, via a familiar hex based navigation system.
Once they’re into position, it’s time for the attack phase. Again there isn’t much here you haven’t encountered before, as adjacent close combat units will be able to attack each other, and ranged units are granted a bit more reach. Factor in some elements like cover and unit strength, and you probably get the picture how the basic combat plays out.
Where Battlelore’s combat system really shines, though, is in its lore system. Essentially a proprietary term for mana, lore points are gained on every turn (with the chance to gain additional points through a good roll) and allow for the use of special abilities during combat. The way lore is acquired adds an element of resource management to the game, which actually feeds directly into the combat instead of hindering it as happens in some RTS games.
That, combined with the limitations of movement, make this a thinking man’s strategy game through and through. You really have to learn to maximize what’s available to you, and you will often find that even the slightest missteps, or even just a whiff of bad luck, will make it impossible to wipe out the opposing army, or meet the win condition. It creates a “chasing it” sensation not unlike the thrill of gambling for some. You’re constantly convinced you’ll be able to get the big win, even when previous results suggest otherwise.
It’s a finely-tuned, and often incredibly challenging, system that will see the most play from gamers looking for more than the quick fix strategy experience that titles like Kingdom Rush offer. It’s a much more full-bodied strategy game that warrants as much play at home as it does on the go.
Unfortunately, it still isn’t enough to put Battlelore: Command over that “Same old, same old” hump.
Yes Battlelore is technically a very well made game, but it’s also an uninspired one. The visuals and music, while certainly above average, harken back to a million other medieval fantasy titles that came before, and will fail to really captivate you beyond perhaps your first few sessions A few well-done pieces of art spread throughout and the occasional sounds stab at the right moment may bring you back to attention here and there, but the presentation is overall far from a highlight.
The gameplay falls into a similar trap. Again, it’s good in its own right, but even though it unfolds at its own pace, ultimately those hoping for a strategy experience beyond that was has come before, may find themselves ultimately playing yet another grid-based strategy game.
So here we have yet another good strategy game in a market flooded with them. Why choose Battlelore: Command over the rest then? Well, if you’re a fan of the original board game, I’d imagine you’ll want to get in on this, as it does a pretty admirable job of converting the spirit and pace of the original game to a new format. If you somehow haven’t jumped into the infinity pool of Android strategy titles yet and are looking for something that will extol the virtues of the deeper end of that genre, it’s also a safe pick up.
Finally, there is what is likely the largest market for this type of game, strategy fans burned out on their current game of choice and looking for a new fix. To any of those groups, you will find a generally well-made experience worthy of your play time. However, those genre fans out there looking for a breath of fresh air on the Android battlefields, will sadly be left with a whiff of the old familiar smell of napalm in the morning.
Is it Hardcore?
If nothing else.
Technically solid, yet sadly uninspired, Battlelore: Command is a good game with few aspirations of being a great one.ultimately a well-made game.