The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
Battalion Wars is a real time spin off off of a little known turn based strategy series, that series happens to be Advance Wars (who could've guessed?). As such, it's light hearted and has a colorful art style. The characters and nations are based off real world countries and clearly exaggerated stereotypes of them, like the Solar Empire (Japan) characters going on about honor or the one Western Frontier (America, or for him 'Murica) general who loves football and is constantly shouting. I wouldn't say any of them are very deep, but Kaiser Vlad got the best German video game villain award from some site I'd never heard of Screw Attack.com. I've seen complaints about the story being confusing because of the jumping around in time periods, but I don't see it. First, you're playing the Prologue 200 years ago, then the present, then 30 years ago, then the present again, back to the past in a campaign just before the prologue, and then back to the present. Is it really so confusing?
The gameplay focuses on using the units at your disposal to defeat those of your enemy, and trying to accomplish whatever objective you have. The units act similarly to Advance Wars in the sense of them being balanced like rock-paper-scissors, where tanks are effective against other tanks and most infantry, bazookas are effective against tanks, AA missiles are very effective against planes and helicopters but useless against land and sea forces, machine gun soldiers are effective against infantry, light vehicles, and can be used semi-effectively against aircraft, particularly if they're flying low - the only way to avoid AA missiles.They can be ordered to attack specific units, guard facilities, wait, or follow. You can cycle through All Units, all units of a certain type (ex. all light tanks, all rifle grunts, etc.), or individual units with the D-Pad. The A Button is used for most commands, it causes a selected unit to go into follow, and if it already was following then into wait. Locking onto enemies and pushing A causes you to order selected units to attack, and locking onto friendly facilities causes them to defend. It's unusual, but works well once you've gotten used to it, there's just one problem - there's no "move here" order, so if you want your troops in a certain place you'll have to walk over there and have them wait. It's not as if it'd even be impossible to have, the 1 and 2 buttons aren't used in any truly important way.
"Bad Russian accent." "Bad Southern accent."
But you don't just order units, you partake in the fighting yourself. You can take control of any unit, land, sea, or air directly. They all utilize lock on for aiming, move with the control stick, and shaking the nunchuk causes a different action for three units it does something for. Infantry roll sideways or jump, fighters do a barrel roll that throws off missile lock, and submarines submerge. The controls work fine for all the units except fighters and bombers, especially fighters. Someone had the bright idea to have you turn by twisting the Wii Remote, which isn't reliable or precise at all. The bomber's slow speed makes it tolerable, but the fighters high speeds make it a nuisance to control - luckily, you don't have too very often.
The combat is different based on what you're controlling, but it's generally lock on, fire, and strafe if you aren't in an air vehicle. The strategy in offline gameplay is mostly limited to coordinating attacks with the units that are effective against whatever you're fighting, and it's more a test of quick thinking and reactions than complex strategies. While neither the combat nor strategy would work on their own, they mesh well and make a unique game that is fairly engaging despite that. However, in a future game I'd like greater depth for both combat and strategy, or at least for strategy.. Bringing back the 'move here' order would be a good start...Levels are generally rather linear but have some fairly open spaces, and it isn't uncommon to have multiple routes to take, and they make good use of secondary objectives. Primary objectives are well varied, ranging from capturing facilities, escorting soldiers from the safety of your Battleship, defense, or destroying certain units or targets. The only level that was particularly poorly designed was the last one; It has a long, drawn out, incredibly easy first 90%, but in the last area they start taking the battle seriously and you'll only ever lose here, forcing you to do the whole thing over again. The conditions for an S Rank on one criteria are also ridiculously strict, while Technique is incredibly lenient.
Like the Advance Wars series, you're graded on three criteria on a scale of 1 to 100 at the end of every mission, then awarded an S, A, B, or C. If you average an S or A you unlock bonus content like concept art or humorous profiles of the units of each nation. It's not much, but it's all the incentive you've got to replay the missions.There is a large array of distinct units, over the course of the game you control three air units, four sea units, and six infantry and ground vehicles each. There are several others you don't control, and in all missions you're given a set number of units to accomplish your goals. If there are facilities on the map, they will be reinforced awhile after death there. Facilities are captured by infantry and each of the five have a different role: four resupply different groups of units (airbases for air units, barracks for infantry, factory for ground vehicles, and ports for ships), and the HQ, which results in defeat for the owner if it's captured.The AI isn't very good. They'll often stop moving as they attack, making them easy targets, and they wait until you come near to attack, rather than attacking immediately. Many units have attacks that automatically take into account the direction the enemy is moving, making them more likely to hit. The only enemies who's attacks can be avoided easily or indefinitely is tanks in open areas; circle strafing at any distance beyond close range ensures they'll never hit you while you drain their health bar away.Which brings me to a complaint; the difficulty curve is too gradual, and Battalion Wars 2 is home to one of the worst tutorials I've played. It drags on for much of the first campaign (There are five campaigns, where you play from the perspectives of five of the six nations), and you actually don't have access to basic actions until they tell you how to do them; you can't even change the zoom level of the camera or switch to other units until they tell you how to.
It doesn't begin getting challenging at all until you're just over half way through the game, and there are only 20 missions. You can play any of them individually without having to play the whole game over again though, which means you only have to play the tutorial once. For the entire game, the enemy commander will often announce whatever they're going to do and what they're going to do it with, and you're usually attacked with small groups made up of one general type of units (infantry, air, armor, etc), making countering them a matter of sending in tanks against non-bazooka infantry, anti air units against gunships and bombers, rifle infantry against bazookas, etc. It's ironic, because the first game was not only difficult (although it's difficulty curve was more up and down than the worlds most nausea inducing rollercoaster), but if you weren't paying attention in the last few missions a bomber would fly in and decimate your battalion.
The multiplayer is where the game really shines, despite its flaws the unique gameplay mechanics make it enjoyable, and it offers a real strategic challenge because you're going up against a human. First of all, yes it is active. I've found games at every time of day, albeit inconsistently. There are three options when searching for a game: searching for someone playing a certain map, which is unreliable. Searching for any map in a certain mode, which almost always results in a game being found in under a minute. Or searching for any of the sixteen maps across three modes, which hasn't failed me yet (although I rarely use it for fear of playing co-op). On the downside, it uses friend codes and lacks any voice chat.There are three modes, co-op, Assault, and Skirmish. Co-op has four maps and is the weakest of the modes (yet probably the most popular), Skirmish has six maps that are fairly consistent in quality, and Assault has six maps that are hit or miss.The co-op has two players work together to complete objectives similar to the campaign, but with troops split between two commanders. They usually have one player in control of anti-ground forces while the other has anti-air, which would hypothetically make greater efficiency possible. However, the aforementioned lack of voice chat hurts that so it's more like two individual efforts, where if the other individual fails then you'll be massacred by units you can't effectively fight back against.
Skirmish is the Battalion Wars equivalent of Deathmatch - two players fight each other with equal base forces on a symmetrical map, and they try to get more points than the other before the game ends. You earn points primarily by killing enemy unts, but you can also get significant bonuses by landing the first kill, killing the unit the enemy controls directly, and seizing enemy held facilities, and holding a facility gives you a certain type of unit. Most maps have two or three capturable facilities, (there are always a few uncapturable ones) Holding two facilities of the same type doubles your rate of reinforcement and more importantly restricts your enemies supply of that unit.While that does give the battles some real strategy and a focus beyond 'kill the enemies', they went overboard with the advantages of taking an enemy facility. You already make the enemy lose an important unit and give yourself the advantage, but then you get 100 points on top of that. It would have been better if there was some disadvantage, so that battles between two people with a large gap in skill don't turn into one person holding them all and destroying the weaker enemy forces. Say, make it so that if someone controlling all the facilities loses one, then their foe gets 200 points, a major increase. The threat of that happening would not only make people more cautious when it comes to taking all the enemy facilities, but it would give the previously losing player a greater chance of a successful comeback if they manage to recapture one. Perhaps if someone loses a facility then all their units waiting to be respawned respawn immediately.Despite the symmetrical nature of the mode, there are balance problems on two maps, Donatsu Island and Sand Castles, and because of the same reason. They each have under-countered air units. Each side has a single AA infantry, and they can be easily killed by the gunship in DI or the bomber in SC, letting the enemy attack them with near impunity. Adding a second AA vet would be bothersome to keep track of and make the air units underpowered, but adding a two or three assault vets would let the player retaliate somewhat effectively without making the air units underpowered.
The two maps without captureable facilities are the worst ones out of the six. Melee is a ground map where both players have a heavy tank and some infantry, and it's pretty predictable. Exchange of Fire is a naval map where each side has a small fleet and a bomber, and the focus is on destroying the enemies naval guns with your bomber. Most people just sit under the safety of the guns and fly out the bomber to attack the naval guns, but with the right opponent it can be fun.
Assault is an asymmetrical mode that places one player in the role of offense and the other in the role of defense. The attacker tries to destroy two objectives in order, then capture the HQ before the time runs out; the defender tries to stop him. The tricky part in asymmetrical modes is balance, and do they succeed? Well, sort of.Most of the maps have balance that is passable at worst, but the other two are pretty badly imbalanced in favor of the attacker, and one of them could be easily fixed by giving the defender a few bazooka soldiers. The maps are all well varied, and some have first and/or second stages that are entirely different from the final one: one starts out with a naval battle, but after that goes to ground combat for part two and three. Another has two parts of air battles before the final assault on the HQ, although that map is ruined by the fact that fighters are all but invincible because of the barrel roll that makes the missiles lose the target, and the imbalanced HQ assault. The multiplayer does have its flaws, but seeing as how this is the first game in the series to have multiplayer some stumbling was expected. There's still a decent selection of good maps, and even the imbalanced ones can be entertaining, if frustrating at times.
It goes for a very low price, so I'd recommend buying it if you like unique games or strategy games and don't demand perfection. I'd say that the first had a better campaign, but most of the people I've seen say they prefer the second - but that's a story for another day. Btw, if you buy BWii and play with me, I'll give you a fifteen second head start to make it fair. Btw, that Let's Destroy Metal Gear reference was because I just finished watching that entire series again. Btw, I just said Btw in two sentences in a row and it sounds stupid.
*This review has not been edited to address the bad Russian accent mechanics