Matt Keller
12 Mar, 2006

Battalion Wars Review

GCN Review | Fighting for God and country.
Something of a weakness in Nintendo’s strategy in recent times has been a generally poor relationship with Western developers (though certain exceptions apply), largely due to the fact the Kyoto-based company enjoys having a level of control it experiences over its internal development teams – something that many Western developers do not like. It came as a shock to many when Nintendo announced at E3 2004 that they would be teaming up with Kuju Entertainment to release the then-titled Advance Wars: Under Fire, especially given the UK developer’s less than stellar track record (their most recent titles being an adaptation of the box office flop Reign of Fire, and the underwhelming Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior). Many Nintendo fans had a glimmer of hope, especially given what had happened with the Big N’s last UK based partnership – the now Microsoft-owned Rare Ltd.

Early impressions of the game from E3 2004 were not positive, with many fans disappointed that the game took a real time strategy/action-centric approach, rather than being a traditional turn-based strategy like all previous Wars games. The game vanished from sight for a year, with some believing that Nintendo decided to send a few EAD staff over to assist in development, or shelved the project entirely. E3 2005 saw the return of the game with a new title; Battalion Wars (whether it was Nintendo’s intention to distance the title from the Advance Wars games is still unknown). Impressions of the game were much more positive, with many players comparing it to Battlefield 1942, Star Wars Battlefront and other squad/vehicle-based shooters. The game was met with a warm reception upon its September release in North America and December release in Europe. With the game finally released in Australia, it’s time Battalion Wars got the (belated) PALGN review treatment.

The angry lynch mob responds to another Easy Mode

The angry lynch mob responds to another Easy Mode
Battalion Wars starts out with players dealing with a border dispute between the Western Frontier and the Tundran Territories, after Tsar Gorgi relinquishes power to his son, Marshall Nova. Exchanges between these two countries become increasingly ugly, until the conflict goes from a simple dispute to global war, as new powers emerge and threaten the very things that the Frontier and Tundrans were fighting over in the first place. Each territory bears striking resemblance to a certain real world power both in appearance and disposition, though they also have a variety of unique (and somewhat cliché) personalities in their employ, from the chirpy Brigadier Betty to the scarily masculine Major Nelly (who couldn’t be further from Nell from Advance Wars).

Players will be quickly introduced to the story and basic mechanics of the game upon starting the campaign. Arguably one of the best achievements of Battalion Wars is its seamless integration of strategy and action, which players are introduced to early, allowing them to actively participate in fire fights at the same time they hand out orders to their subordinates. The game actively encourages players to plan strategies first before running into battle; you’d be wise to follow this advice, and get into a habit of organising your troops and armour before an attack, due to the game’s retention of Advance Wars’ unit strengths and weaknesses. The game’s missions are structured in a manner that precipitates a reasonable expectation of players to apply techniques they’ve learnt throughout the game, but at the same time refuses to give players reminders on how to apply these moves – this cumulative learning component is a little frustrating, but you can always go back and replay the earlier missions to pick up things you might have missed.

Brendan rushes out to get his Kenny Loggins CD

Brendan rushes out to get his Kenny Loggins CD
Mission variety is something of an issue in Battalion Wars with a lot of standard protect, capture, rescue, escort and capture and hold missions. However, the game mixes a few of these mission types into any one level of the game, which makes it a little more acceptable. Controlling the game is quite easy, with the game employing an aiming system quite similar to Metroid Prime, while the C-Stick and face buttons are used for assigning orders to your squad. Looking at any soldier and pressing the Z-Button will allow you to take direct control over that unit, meaning that you can control every unit in the game, if you so wish. There’s quite a good selection of units, from Advance Wars staples like the machine gun troops, mechanised troops, light and heavy tanks and recon vehicles, as well as units unique to Battalion Wars such as the anti-air and flame troops and a number of aerial craft. Ground vehicles can seem a little tricky to control at first, but players will find that adjusting to these craft takes only a matter of minutes. The levels in the game are very large, providing a lot of room for players to move around in. Map size seems to increase as the game progresses and the aircraft and helicopters are available, but they’re never prohibitively large.

Battalion Wars’ biggest downfall is its length. While the missions are somewhat unforgiving to start with, players will find that if they take missions slowly, they’ll be able to get through them with little hassle. The game’s 20 levels + 4 bonus levels will take less than 10 hours to complete, but there’s nothing left to do after that, unless you’re one of those “S ranks on every mission” types. The exclusion of multiplayer was a big oversight on behalf of the developer, though executing it correctly on the GameCube without online play would have been interesting, to say the least. Still, there’s no map editor or War Room like the Advance Wars games, severely limiting the game’s long term potential.

A village of women and children? Where's an A-Bomb?!?

A village of women and children? Where's an A-Bomb?!?
Graphics are of a somewhat debatable quality in Battalion Wars; the game has a very low poly, low resolution look to it and a bit of fogging, but at the same time there will be an absolute ton of stuff happening on screen at any one time without the game skipping a beat. The game’s levels are very large, and feature a lot of varying types of terrain. The game has a fairly unique art style which looks like the offspring of Small Soldiers and the Army Men games, with many characters (especially General Herman) taking on an exaggerated look. This is most apparent in the pre-rendered cinemas, which are quite good. Sound is pretty good in the middle of the battle, though voice acting varies in quality and music is so generic that it barely registers. That said, some people will probably notice the finer parts of Battalion Wars’ aural experience, particularly if they have a Dolby Pro Logic II amplifier at their disposal.

Battalion Wars is a fun title with a lot going for it, but falls short on a number of areas – mainly presentation and length. It is a marked improvement for UK developer Kuju; if this studio can keep improving and producing games at or above the quality of Battalion Wars, they might even become a recognisable name (for the right reasons). With very little else set to come out for the GameCube before the launch of the Revolution, Nintendo fans have little choice but to pick this game up for something new – it’s a good game, but it’s just lacking that layer polish that makes a good game into a great one.
The Score
Battalion Wars is another one of those games with a lot of good ideas and solid gameplay which just lacks that extra layer of polish needed to make it an A class title. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Content

Star Wars Battlefront II Review
26 Nov, 2005 How does the PSP version stack up against the console version?
Star Wars Battlefront II Review
26 Nov, 2005 Get in there ya big oaf, I don't care what ya smell!
The Greatest 100 Games Ever: 80-61
02 Nov, 2005 Our countdown continues as we cover positions 80-61.
8 years ago
Cool review, might consider picking this game up if I ever see it around... Love the picture captions! icon_lol.gif
8 years ago
I think that the game would be fun to play, but I'd wait for it to hit the bargain bin before buying it.
8 years ago
^You'll be waiting a while icon_wink.gif
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/1va

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  15/02/2006 (Released)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Year Made:

Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.