Battle Worlds: Kronos taps into the nostalgia of games such as Battle Isle and Advanced War, with its turn-based unit control, vast maps and strategic options, and challenging objectives. And whilst the challenge is truly testing at times, there’s a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had finally conquering the AI.
As a brand new commander, you are tasked with taking command of a wide variety of land, sea and air units in order to complete a selection of military campaigns against other organisations across multiple battlefields on the planet. Narratively this is set up as a form of entertainment for the general populous, with each organisation testing out their military hardware and fighting it out for glory, victory, and TV ratings. It’s a fascinating concept that is often reflexed upon by your soldiers, fellow commanders, and TV anchors, bringing in to question the morality of it all and its purpose.
However, the story fails to go as dark as you might expect or as deep as you might hope; keeping you entertained enough to continue against the harsh AI, but not immersing you enough for you to really care. Fortunately coming up with tactics on the fly to deal with your enemies is more than engaging enough to make up for the narrative.
Missions typically start with a simple objective that cascades into multiple levels of complexity as you try to complete it. It’s a fairly predictable ebb and flow of trying to get to one point on the map or destroy a specific target, new enemy units or bases appear, or new, more challenging terrain is uncovered on the way, and your primary objective takes a back seat as you fight and manoeuvre around the many obstacles thrown in your path. It’s a fun a slow-paced affaire that can feel horrendously frustrating if you make a mistake but excitingly intense and enjoyable when your tactics pay off.
You move units individually one at a time, with each possessing a certain amount of actions they can perform in a single turn. Often these actions will include a single move action – allowing you to move the unit up to a maximum distance within a circle – and an attack action. Depending on the unit and its upgrades, you may have additional actions or entirely different ones, such as the Bandit which has two actions that are nonspecific, allowing that unit to move twice, fire twice, or perform one of each. Understanding and managing your unit’s actions, movement distance, attack distance, and vulnerabilities, is key to victory. Artillery units and ranged attack vehicles are better left behind a strong frontline, heavy tanks should form the frontline, and the smaller faster units can be used to mop up severely damaged opponents with hit and run tactics.
Figuring out how to use your units is an interesting challenge and where a great deal of the strategy comes in. Infantry units, for example, can travel through forests to help flank enemies, meanwhile large artillery units need to be deployed before firing so some forethought is required in where to set them up and how to keep them safe. Meanwhile, the AI is aggressive and savvy enough to come up with tactics of their own, frequently engaging you with the right units for the job and testing your resolve. It can be great fun.
Automatic checkpoints are generated during missions to give you the option to re-load if things go wrong, however, they aren’t the most generously generated checkpoints so manually saving is a much better idea, and getting into the habit of saving often is strongly advised. This is especially important because each mission will play out in a specific way, with the first time you tackle it often being reduced to an expedition just so you can figure out what to expect before a re-load and a proper attempt. Continually failing because you can’t figure out precisely how to beat the AI during a mission can be frustrating, and it’s unfortunate that you’re often challenged with scenarios that appear to only have one way of surviving. Overall the missions allow you to use whatever tactics best suit you, but these skirmishes and events within missions are far less flexible.
With units requiring individual control, the pace is slow and methodical, this suits the actions just fine for the most part, allowing you to plan your attacks and carefully micromanage every engagement, however, when it comes to simply moving around the map it can become tedious. This is especially evident when you gain access to buildings and can build additional troops. Moving them to the front line to join your main force one at a time is a frustrating distraction when you’re more interested in concocting grand strategies to conquer nearby foes.
Beyond the lengthy campaign are a small selection of challenge maps that test your skills as a commander even more. However, there’s no sign of the multiplayer component the PC version has, which is very disappointing.
Battle Worlds: Kronos is hugely challenging but a great deal of fun once you understand your unit’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s wonderful to see strategy games like this finally hit the Xbox One, with the turn-based nature of the title making the controller a perfectly viable option. The slow pace and the micromanaging of units may put some people off if they’re more familiar with C&C rather than Battle Isle, but if you can stomach the odd tactical restriction in-mission then this turn-based beast is certainly for you.
Thanks to Xbox and Nordic Games for supporting TiX