Battle Isle: The Andosia War is the third release in this series of tactical games. It combines elements of several different styles of strategy and war games, such as resource collection and management, city and base development, and strategic combat, all under the pressures of real-time competition. A thorough interface helps the player to manage these many different aspects of the empire efficiently. Battle Isle: The Andosia War renders units and environments in full 3D. Online play is available through publisher Blue Byte's websites.
Battle Isle: The Andosia War borrows some elements from RTS games and some from TBS games, bringing together an interesting concept. The combat portion of the game proceeds along the turn-based route, while economically the game moves along in real time. Conceptually, the idea was probably to work on economic aspects of the war effort during your opponent's tactical move, while your opponent does the same during your move.
Upon first being informed of this concept, I was pretty interested, thinking that it would be a good way to alleviate the boredom that often ensues during opponents' turns in normal TBS games. In practice though, the idea doesn't live up to expectations, as there are several problems with it. First, production and research jobs take a certain amount of time to complete. Yet, if you end your turn prematurely, the time until completion does not advance. Let me illustrate with an example. I finish moving my troops, and have 3:25 left before my tactical turn ends automatically. Meanwhile, I am researching the Sniper Rifle, which will take another 2:50 seconds to complete. If I end my tactical turn now, that time does not advance. Now, with economic functions being independent of tactical turns, this does not seem to matter, but I disagree. If I finish a production job during my tactical turn, it is better, as I can begin moving the new soldier to the front lines sooner. Thus, although usually not to a great extend, it is sometimes beneficial to draw out your tactical turn rather than end it early, which simply increases down time.
Also, many times there truly is nothing to do economically during your opponent's tactical turn, particularly during the campaign. A few turns into a specific map you may find yourself done building new structures, meaning all you have left to do with your economic self is research and build units. This doesn't usually take more than a minute of your time, while the AI can often take several minutes to complete any given turn. If this particular turn happens to give the AI opportunity to attack you, it is not so bad, in that you can watch the ensuing combat and root for the good guys. On the other hand, if you cannot even visually see an enemy unit on this particular turn, I hope you have a book handy.
That being said, there are definitely some good things to say about the game. First and foremost, combat in the Andosia War is outstanding. Despite the fact that the two sides in the campaign seem to fight with identical technology, units are well varied and all seem to have a place in the army. Ranging from the weak (but not entirely useless) light infantryman to powerful artillery units, with a dash of air force and naval power thrown in, the game includes all the basic necessities of warfare. It is also particularly nice that units all have seem to have very prominent strengths and weaknesses. The Ranger for instance, is an extremely fast recon vehicle, with a great circle of vision and armed with a fairly short-range machine gun. Great for scouting ahead of the army (hence, recon), and also quite good at eliminating infantry. Rather frail though; if attacked by a tank, the ranger makes some nice burning wreckage. Then there is the Dogstar, an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) with pretty hefty armor and high speed, but completely devoid of weaponry-unless you load some soldiers into it. This vehicle is immeasurably useful, in that it is much faster than infantry, and much tougher as well. Simply drive the Dogstar(s) right up and close to the enemy units, and unload some soldiers. Then, proceed to lay waste to your enemies with the infantry, only to load them back into the relative safety of the Dogstar when they are done. It's almost beautiful.
In these ways (along with a host of others) combat is an extremely tactical situation. This is due to the great variety of strategic capabilities of each unit (as illustrated to some degree above), as well as several other factors.
Movement is handled so that moving and attacking both make use of action points. So, if you do not move your entire range in one tactical turn, you may have some attack capability left over during your opponent's turn. Thus, if he moves a unit into your attack range, you get to sucker punch him (note: unfortunately this happens automatically, so you can't "save" the free attack for the second unit to come into range). Of course, this works for your opponent too, so you must be prepared for the occasional sucker punch.
Finally, Ants and Klaywors play an important role in tactical thought in Battle Isle: The Andosia War. Klaywors are large vehicles that can transport stationary units (i.e. small buildings) such as turrets, pillboxes, or energy relay posts. Once they convert to building mode, they are there for good. So, you move your Klaywors around, setting up a network of energy relay posts (ERPs) which transfer energy from your military HQ to your Ants. Ants (being small non-combat vehicles and not insects) then can use this energy to recharge your units' batteries, repair, or even upgrade other units. This makes the Ant an immeasurably valuable unit for the budding general.
In the end, it adds up to a lot of tactical consideration that must go into each battle, but it manages not to become too overwhelming. Rather, it makes combat all the more interesting and fun.
Of course, as I have already mentioned, it may take quite some time to get to a good fun combat. There will often be a several turn spans during which both sides are simply moving their armies around, or consolidating their forces. It often adds up to a lot of time spent staring at the screen waiting for an opponent's turn to end, only so that you can do another menial movement. Fortunately, you can create a path and assign a unit to it, so that it will automatically follow the path at the beginning (or end) of your tactical turn - this way you don't have to spend too much time thinking about it. Unfortunately, if you send large groups of units along a path at one time, they tend to move in the least efficient way, getting into each other's way and taking several turns longer than necessary to reach the end of the path, or sometimes getting completely stuck altogether.
In the end, although slow at times, the gameplay experience tends to be quite good. If you can make it through the doldrums that tend to exist between the storms of combat, you are in for quite a treat, as the battles are a blast.
The combat also tends to look quite nice, and in fact I would say that Battle Isle features the best looking turn-based combat I have ever seen. Sure, you can watch the battle from the overhead omniscient view style prevalent in a lot of RTS games, but I prefer to get up close and personal. The view system allows you to play and watch the game from practically anywhere, including on the ground, amongst your army (or the opponents, or off to the side etc.), allowing you to note the fairly remarkable detail given to the units. Follow behind your Ranger along the ground in the dirt cloud kicked up by the wheels of the fast little bugger. Better yet, set the camera on the ground just behind an enemy unit your tank is about to fire on, and witness the glory of some spectacular explosion effects. I have always been of the mind that TBS games should look nicer than RTS games for the most part, in that there is much less movement and effects to be rendered at any given time. The Andosia War actually does look better than most, if not all RTS games I have played.
The background story (which I'll talk about in just a bit) is told through some interesting comic book style cut scenes, that I couldn't help but enjoy. No real animation of note in these scenes but rather still shots of characters and environments. The only non-graphic novel part of these cut scenes was the fact that words were spoken rather than written in thought bubbles.
This interesting style of story telling relates the tale of a rebellion of sorts, as the Children of Haris works with the static goal of the eradication of the Chromian state, which has ruled for some time. They wish to instate their own rule and such, as rebellions normally do. The story does have some interesting twists related to the commanders of either force, though, which tends to keep it fairly interesting.
The characters in those cut scenes speak their words aloud, as do the units in the game, and for the most part the voice acting is pretty good. I was particularly impressed with the fact that units will sometimes alert you verbally to their status. If one is particularly damaged he will let you know with a "Can't go on much further..." or similar message (there is a bit of variety here). Similarly they will clue you in as to when they spot an enemy, or at various other times. The sound effects in combat are stellar as well, with explosions, gunshots, and artillery blasts being well done.
In general, Battle Isle: The Andosia War runs smoothly, with a few exceptions. First of all, I had a couple of complete crashes to desktop with no explanation (I believe this only happened in the tutorial though). Secondly, and much more annoying, comes a somewhat strange occurrence when first starting up the game. My first click of the mouse on the menu always minimizes the program. Fortunately bringing it back up is as simple as clicking on it in the task bar, and it runs fine afterwards, but it is still a bit odd and annoying.
Battle Isle: the Andosia War is certainly an interesting title. The concept for the game was an interesting one, and could have been either exceptionally good or horrendously bad, depending on implementation. In this case, I think the result is somewhere in the middle, though definitely more good than bad. The gameplay itself, although slow at times, features some of the most inspired turn based combat to come out in some time, with gorgeous three-dimensional graphics and fairly good sound. A couple of bugs are out there, but nothing too major. Although the game will probably not appeal to RTS fans, despite some real time elements, it should prove enjoyable to most TBS gamers.
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