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What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I've got nothing against non-traditional monetary models in games. BattleForge's odd setup, where players buy card packs through the online store to supplement their significant starting pool, and complete real-time strategy missions with created decks, is an intriguing framework. The online backend is solid, with a browser that lets players quickly find teammates or opponents for the mission they're interested in. It's too bad that the actual gameplay is so shoddy I wouldn't play it if the entire thing were free.
The basic combat is very traditional RTS battle, granting victory to the player who best uses counter units and properly employs his troops' activated abilities. Many of the little details that go into RTS design are poorly done, though. The massive pool of creatures and spells you may encounter makes it difficult to keep abreast of strengths and weaknesses. The extremely fast pace makes it easy to be overwhelmed – especially if, as in many scenarios, you have multiple fronts to deal with.
There isn't much of an economic game, either. Controlling nodes gives a trickle of power to your pool, and any dead units slowly return their power cost to your bank as well. Strategic orbs can be captured to allow access to the higher tiers of spells in your deck. Most maps are designed in such a way that each player has access to a preset amount of these, meaning the units you summon are virtually the only determinant of success.
BattleForge is a combination of strange mechanics and bad design. Units are diverse, and yet none of them are terribly interesting. Missions have a ton of variety on the surface, but in practice they're variations on the same few objectives. Combat is vanilla RTS, but too messy to allow for much tactical or strategic creativity. New revenue models are a good way to try to find success in a tough PC gaming market, but even the cleverest is nowhere near as important as good gameplay.
You might think that having to buy cards to play Battle Forge is a money grab by EA, but if you didn't buy one single extra card you'd still hold an awesome arsenal in your hands. The unit options available via your card deck are staggering. On the one hand, balancing a deck with healing, firepower, etc. takes practice. On the other, it's very easy to deploy some kick-ass units (complete with special powers from the start). The latter ? helped by the ability to drop units anywhere on the map next to friendly units ? leads to a tug of war between raw power and strategy that leaves the player with plenty of options, some frustration, but lots of fun.
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