Stick it to Em’
Developed by Vietnamese studio SENSPARK, Stickman Battle 2: Empires War is almost self-explanatory. It’s a side-scrolling strategy game about stickmen who fight battles. Not precisely a complicated premise. It’s not an unenjoyable game either, but the fun only lasts so long before Empires War starts to feel like a chore.
Gameplay is about as simple as it gets while still technically qualifying as a strategy game. Players begin each level with a Statue to defend, two Miner units, and an enemy barricade on the opposing side of a horizontal field. The objective varies from level to level, but if the enemy destroys your statue, it’s game over. Most levels in Stickman Battle 2 task players with destroying the enemy’s statue. Although others require them to defeat a boss or repel multiple waves of attack, those missions are a minority.
Players buy units with gold, which Miners collect from deposits near their statue. In addition to said Miners, the player can deploy Swords, Archers, Spears, Wizards and Giants. The latter also serves as boss enemies when needed. Swords are fast, cheap and can knock enemies down, while Spears are the heavier but more expensive frontline fighters. Archers, obviously, fire from the back ranks, while Wizards summon disposable minions to do the fighting for them. Giants, meanwhile, are big lads who can smash multiple enemies at once.
Those are only the standard types used by the generic Base faction though. Each of the five unlockable Empires replaces two of them with unique variants. Romans, for example, trade Spears for (Greek) Hoplites and Giants for a long-range Catapult. Japan exchanges Swords with more powerful Samurai and Wizards and their Minions with stickman Ninjas. Vikings Trade Swords and Bows for Axmen and Axe Throwers while strangely lacking any magic-users. Lastly, Egypt replaces Giants with Anubis who raises the dead as Mummies. Each Empire also has unique perks, usually tied to one or both of their special units.
Most of the player’s role is deciding which units to summon. Beyond that, the player’s primary strategic input is selecting one of the three stances. Defensive stance is the default, which has the player’s army form up in front of the statue. They’ll automatically defend the statue, though they don’t seem particularly interested in keeping your Miners alive. Players can also order them to Attack or Retreat. Retreated units withdraw from the map, with some taking position as elite Tower Archers to defend the statue. However, they’re usually not enough to turn back the tide without reinforcements.
All of that sounds fine, and Stickman Battle 2 is a fun, simple game. However, the problem comes from how SENSPARK chose to monetize it. Stickman Battle 2 has an advertisement before and after every mission. That is one ad at the begging of a level, another at the end, and a third when starting the next. While I could have lived with that, starting or restarting a mission also costs Gold. Confusingly, it’s a different kind of Gold from what’s mined during levels. The cost starts at 200 for each attempt and increases by 100 every ten levels or so. Players also need Gold to unlock and upgrade units. And you’ll need to do that constantly to keep pace with the steep difficulty curve.
The Gold players get from completing levels absolutely does not keep pace with their needs. That means they need to rely on login rewards, which players unlock by watching ads, and the bonus rewards for watching extra ads. If you fall behind, don’t worry, you can get help mid-battle by watching more ads. I could usually manage about 90 minutes before the endless commercials finally broke me, and I needed to stop for the night. It’s not so much pay-to-win as watch-to-win, although play-to-win is an option too.
If you only want to play for 10-20 minutes a day, you might not have this problem. But when I’m enjoying a game, I want to keep playing. And I did enjoy Stickman Battle 2 during the times I could make progress. So, if you’re going to kill ten minutes killing stick figures, you can do a lot worse than downloading Stickman Battle 2: Empires War from Google Play. Otherwise, feel free to give it a pass.
Is It Hardcore?
Up to a point.
Stickman Battle 2: Empires War is a fun, simple strategy game in small doses but is a grind to play for any length of time.