Fairly hot off the heels of a relatively successful Kickstarter campaign, King Art Games‘ Battle Worlds: Kronos saw only about six months between funding and completion. I’d been keeping up to date on demos and the like a little bit, but — being a lazy Kickstarter with an aversion to reading those status emails — I wasn’t aware the game was actually close to completion until the day a sweet package of goodies showed up. Yes, you’re interpreting that right: I backed a game for a rather significant amount of money, then completely ignored any and all news about it until it literally got delivered to my doorstep. You’d be surprised how often I do this, actually.
I was obviously going to review it sooner or later. And let me just assure you that despite the fact that King Art Games sent me some high-quality swag to accompany my game order, my judgment will as always be fair and impartial and wow, I hadn’t really looked at how sweet that card game looks until now. And who even makes paper manuals anymore? Let alone two.
Anyway, fair and impartial.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, Low. Mechanical, Medium-to-high.)
Battle Worlds: Kronos kicks off into high gear pretty much immediately, with a fancy intro/credits cutscene featuring vases, books and a painting of what I assume is Napoleon Bonaparte kicking ass. The associated voice-over ensures me in a grim tone of voice that “We live in a culture of war… war defines us, it gives us might.” And so on, and so forth. There’s also some old guy with a lot of TVs.
Finally, after some business with a burning world and a fleet of spaceships (don’t ask), I reach the menu. The spaceships actually also reach the menu, so consider me talking about them my explanation to you as to where all these spaceships came from.
The actual menu is rather… disjointed, I guess? My attention is quickly drawn to the login function in the ‘top left’, which is less actually the top left and more in the middle. I use my Battle Worlds: Kronos account to log in, find out I’ve forgotten the password, recover said password, and use my Battle Worlds: Kronos account to log in.
Logging in doesn’t seem to do much of anything? The login prompt has been replaced with some weird profile header, but I don’t see any other changes.
My interest piqued, I immediately move to edit the profile. It’s fairly standard fare, though: craft a portrait, select the languages you speak — alright, that’s neat — and provide your real name and location, if so desired.
Let’s see, what else is there for me to look at here? Achievements that I can’t parse yet and of which I have none… there’s a timeline of sorts, aimed at displaying ‘messages and certain game functions’. It’s mostly empty right now, except for the two starting messages and the option to ‘send a message to another player’.
Now, you’d think I don’t know any other players yet, what with that I just started this game five minutes ago, but you’d be wrong. Because the actual lower left portion of the screen has suddenly and inexplicably started playing host to an MMO-style global chat service. If I wanted to, I could pick a name from that chat and send that person a personal message.
There’s some options. Graphics, sound, hotkeys. Standard fare, really. Here, have one:
And, of course, the actual game. Ignoring the multiplayer function for now, I could either play the first mission of the first (of two) campaigns, or one of three available single-player scenarios. And be real: when, in the long history of tactical strategy games, has anyone ever started with a scenario over a campaign? Multiplayer over campaign I can almost sort-of get, but a scenario? No, I choose here and now to… let’s see… become a promising Commander of the ‘House of Telit’, whatever that is. Apparently someone who serves under a scowling captain who reminds me of Keith David, despite not looking anything like Keith David. I blame Saints Row 4, and also my brain’s poor pattern recognition skills.
Battle Worlds: Kronos’ intro painted a chilling picture of a culture of war, an endless cycle of succession wars ending in bloody nuclear Armageddon, and a fleet of spacecraft fleeing a burning world. It is therefore not entirely unsurprising that the actual campaign opening cutscene seems to display some sort of reality TV show about electing a new Galactic Emperor through the medium of colourful, carefully orchestrated battle games.
The cutscene continues onto a starship bridge, where Not-Keith David — Neith Kavid? — gives me some speech about how he trusts my Commanding skills because I’m street, like him, or something like that. Something else happens, some ship crashes somewhere, and I’m just going to save all of you the extended recap and jump right into the action.
This is the action.
As I actually already knew from the Kickstarter and the demo, and as you might have deduced from that screenshot, Battle Worlds: Kronos is a tactical turn-based strategy game. Here, let me helpfully illustrate this:
Let’s see, what do we have? The screen on the right provides a lot of buttons I don’t fully understand yet, a minimap, and some unit information. Apparently the little car under my cursor is called a ‘Hunter’, it holds the rank of Rookie, and it has 85 hit points. Oh, and I’m allowed to command it to move into the darkness beyond.
Clicking on the Hunter reveals two small black circles, one with a little arrow and one with a little star. Moving it once darkens the arrow, and reveals that I can actually move it again: doing this darkens the star as well. I’m guessing these are Action Points, not in the last place because the tutorial message that just popped up is called ‘Help: Action Points’.
Oh, hey, there’s some actual text at the bottom of the screen too! It explains that the arrow icon represents a ‘move’ action, and the star a ‘joker’ action, which can be used to move or attack. And now that the Hunter has moved twice, its action potential for this round has well and truly been depleted. There’s nothing for me to do now but to end my turn, dejectedly.
Okay, so the basics are clear: two actions per unit, moving, attacking, turn-ending replenishes actions. So far, so pretty much expected. The next turn formally introduces attacking, which pretty much goes exactly how I imaged it would: I drive up to an enemy trike and shoot it with my car-mounted gun.
As is common in this genre, pondering an attack actually shows an indication of the damage I can expect to take. Health is recorded in a series of vertical green bars. When contemplating an attack, bars that turn red indicate guaranteed damage, while bars that turn half red are random in some vaguely explained way.
Oh, and units counterattack on the enemy turn. Of course they do. As often as they’re able to attack on their regular turn, which I think is a neat touch.
The trike shoots me. I counterattack. I shoot the trike. It counterattacks. The trike shoots me. I counterattack. The trike attempts to drive off! I follow the trike and explode it. Victory for the house of Yerla!
I depart the smoking wreck of the enemy trike — sorry, ‘Explorer’ — as the game informs me that due to reducing combat strength with reducing HP and the way armor classes work, my victory was all but assured.
A short while later, I get more cars! This game really likes its cars. One of them is another Hunter, but the other one is called Bandit and is interestingly different. Interesting in that it has two of the Joker actions, meaning it can attack and/or move twice per turn, and that it has an attack range of 2 rather than 1 hex.
With my three cars, I practice the concept of flanking, which involves a bunch of cars ganging up on one solitary enemy and dealing increased damage because of it. Not just because there’s now more of me than there is of them, but also because each unit adjacent to the enemy causes a 15% damage bonus. Strength in numbers, a…ahoy?
Hey, look, there’s health pickups on the ground. They actually look like medpacks, despite my units being cars. I zoom out to get a better view of them, and accidentally discover a delightful abstracted tactical map.
Back in the real world — still pretty, less delightful — I drive across the linear path offered to me and trip over the game’s storyline.
Surprisingly, this tactical warfare game actually takes time out of its busy schedule to get me to navigate a dialogue menu.
Back in the real world once again, I am now in command of a much larger force. There’s a whole mess of Hunters and Bandits, my very own Explorer trike, and a group of Infantry Bot X-100′s. As the name implies, these guys pass for infantry around here, despite the fact that they look like they can crush an Explorer Trike under their goddamn threads. Yes, they have threads. Of course infantry has threads, what were you thinking about?
Infantry bots can move through forests and capture buildings. I immediately make use of this new and exciting opportunity to capture some enemy depots, despite not really knowing why I should risk this.
During the skirmish for the depots, some of my units level up! This gives me access to a small, but confusing level-up menu. I can select some options, but not others, and I’m not entirely sure why? Still, better armor is always nice.
The tutorial goes on for a little while longer, and comes to involve hovercrafts, flanking, mounted turret guns, tanks, deployable artillery, and probably some other elements I’m glossing over right now. But as this section is already running a bit heavy, let’s just say that it ends with me defending the crashed wreckage of a shuttle, capturing a Yerla Inc headquarters — whoever they are — and getting a shitload of medals for my trouble. What do medals do? I don’t even know! But I get one for main objectives, one for bonus objectives, one for number of turns I think, one called ‘Big Boy’, that… no, I honestly have no idea, and I just missed the one for not getting a certain numbers of dudes killed.
No rest for the weary, however, as the second mission starts immediately where the first one leaves off: at the successfully-defended wreckage, with a small army and a convoy of transport trucks ready to take the docks to the north! Apparently.
I think what I should do at this juncture is play some more of the single player campaign, and maybe one of those scenarios, before continuing on with this review. Despite my rather flighty overview, this first scenario actually took quite a while: I count almost 40 minutes between the first and last screenshots. And this level didn’t even look all that big on the minimap. Trying to cram the second level into this first half of the review seems like it’d be overkill, therefore.
Or maybe it’ll be really super short. Who knows? Let’s find out!
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