Review

Battle Worlds: Kronos Review (PC)

This was another one of those games that kind of came out of nowhere – and serves as yet another reminder of the constant need for people like me to keep an eye on all the approaches. A child of Steam’s Greenlight program, legend has it that Battle Worlds: Kronos was Greenlit in less than 14 days, which I imagine is pretty impressive? Battle World’s impressiveness doesn’t stop there though – in general, this is a very well thought out and put together piece of entertainment that could of come from any of the mid-range publishers, but these guys managed to do it on their own. It’s a science-fiction themed Turn-Based Strategy game that claims to draw inspiration from Advance Wars, Panzer General and Battle Isles, although it rocks its own unique visual style.

Kronos is a world within an interstellar human dominated Empire. Every time the Emperor dies, all of the major factions and players pile into Kronos and duke it out on the ground to see who’s going to come out on top. It’s like a Space Wembley, except the stakes are a lot higher, and there’s a lot more live ammunition being thrown about. There are two campaigns at the time of writing, of modest length, that took you through a couple of stories dealing with the ‘latest’ of these competitions, only this time everyone is playing for keeps because – apparently – life prolonging technology has reached a point where (barring assassination) the next Emperor will probably be the last, because he’ll live 4EVA.

It can be hard enough just looking after your land forces. Throwing Air AND Sea in there two? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

If I’m being honest, the story telling part of this game seems like it’s trying a little bit too hard. The opening cut scenes to the game and the campaigns are fantastic, but they are an anomaly – the rest of the game uses fairly robust 2.5D technology, but uses it well. Even the in-mission dialogue is just static images of people and text, with no voice overs. These cut scenes then seem almost decadent, unnecessary, and a waste of valuable resources that could have been used elsewhere. But then that would be more of a genuine criticism if it looked like it had a detrimental effect on the game, but it hasn’t, so it’s all good.

Gameplay-wise, it’s wonderfully simple, yet complex. Everything is very much scenario driven, so you rarely feel like you’re doing the same thing all the time. It’s not a base-building game – you either start with facilities, or you don’t, and there are usually plenty of opportunities to capture enemy bases as well. Even when you do have a base to work with, there’s no resource harvesting – only careful resource management and acquisition. Your forces will need ammo and repair, which take specific resources. These resources aren’t harvested, you find them in depots and supply drops dotted about the map, and you have to send out supply trucks to pick them up, as well as fighting off any enemies in the area.

Carnage. Welcome to the Thunderdome

Combat is the main focus – you’ll have a range of units at your disposal, from infantry and scouts, to heavy tanks and artillery, as well as a host of naval and air units that come into play later in the game. There’s some rock,paper,scissors mechanics, especially amongst the weaker units, but generally speaking the more powerful a unit is the more damage it’ll do. Apart from obvious things like ranged units being vulnerable to direct attacks, air units being weak to anti-air and scouts being weak overall, there’s not a complex Pokémon-style system of “this beats that which beats this” or anything.

Turn-based being the name of the game, your choices will matter. Fog-of-war means that exploring can be dangerous, and even when you do know where the enemy are, what they will do is another matter. Do you leave your ranged units exposed in the hope of doing a mad charge? Or do you keep up a wall of Steel and Fire, and blaze your way across the battlefield hex by hex. Even tanks aren’t immortal – leave a Tank without support and it can be surrounded by weaker units, whose damage will increase depending on who else if flanking at the same time. Each unit has a number of actions they can do in a turn, and these actions have symbols associated with them – the symbol denotes what the action is. Typically, a unit will have a move action, and a shoot action. Some units only have move actions; some units have ‘Joker’ actions, which are essentially ‘Do What You Want’ passes. A unit with two joker actions (and there are some) could move twice, shoot twice, move and shoot... whatever is needed really. The more powerful units tend to be locked to the traditional move and shoot allotments though, meaning there will be more than a few instances where you won’t be able to use up all your actions.

Study your units – knowing their capabilities could save your life

Fighting your enemy then requires careful planning, and in a long-term sense keeping a hold of the units you have is paramount. Depending on the scenario, there will be opportunities to acquire more units – capture depots, resources in factories, reinforcements… but once you’re on the back foot, it can be hard to recover. Units gain XP the more they fight, and they can level up and improve their native abilities or gain new ones (for example, gain the ability to attack air units, or something more simply like +25% damage). When you destroy a unit, it leaves wreckage on the battlefield for one turn, which not all units can traverse.

Overall, Battle Worlds: Kronos is a really robust strategy game. The two campaigns will give you plenty of hours of entertainment, and there’s a fully supported multiplayer mode as well to take your mad skillz online. The strategy here is definitely challenging as well, and you’ll probably have to restart or save-scum as things can go really bad, really quickly. There’s kind of an unofficial time-limit to everything as well, considering resources are extremely finite. Maybe it’s a little bit pricey for what it is at the moment, but no one can say this isn’t a well-made or a well put together game. An excellent poster child for Greenlight and a great strategy game all round – nice to see the legacy of Advance Wars et al hasn’t completely died.

Top Game Moment: *Puts Cigar in Mouth* I love it when a place comes together.

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Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 02, 2013
SirRoderick
This intrigues me, coming out of nowhere like this. Thanks for the once-over Joe.
By Voqar (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 02, 2013
Voqar
I thought it looked interesting when it hit steam so it's nice to read about it. The price seems a bit high.
By Hammerjinx (SI Core) on Dec 02, 2013
Hammerjinx
Yeah, the price is an interesting issue. Certainly, that's what's prevented me from picking it up.

Generally you'd expect them to put up a lower price to attract more buyers. Maybe they figure turn-based is niche enough that, if you want it, you'll pay what they ask because there's not really any competition.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Dec 03, 2013
herodotus
Much better than I originally thought it might be. Been disappointed so many times in recent years by futuristic RTS's that it seems TBS's are making a strong resurgence, and making up for it - at last. However, at USD $34.99 (AUD $39) it's a tall asking price.
Thanks for the comprehensive review, Joe - the best as always.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Dec 03, 2013
JustCommunication
The story-telling in this game kind of bugged me. They go into novel-like detail of the characters as they talk, doing stuff like "The Captain seemed nervous, probably because he was a wuss" and stuff like that.

It's really kind of jarring to see in a videogame, and it annoyed me. Not sure why.

Other than that though, this is pretty robust. Definitely worth getting if it goes on sale.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Dec 03, 2013
herodotus
Bit bizarre I agree, but then the same could be said of "Oil Rush" even though it made more sense and had Aussie voice-overs (a plus in any game:D).