Battalion Wars

Battalion Wars
Battalion Wars Cover
Platforms GameCube
Genre Advanced Real-time Strategy War
MtAMinutes to Action 7
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

Battalion Wars is a GameCube exclusive real time strategy/action hybrid developed by the British second-party team Kuju and published by Nintendo. Real time strategy is a popular genre but has been mostly unsuccessful on consoles, due primarily to the lack of a mouse. Battalion Wars tries to solve this problem by introducing a new control scheme, as well as allowing the player direct control over any unit on the field at any time.

Battalion Wars was initially announced as the console entry into the Advance Wars series, billed "Advance Wars: Under Fire," and later was spun into a new series. Did the new control scheme and 3rd person shooter mechanics bring the long-hoped-for innovation to console RTS games, or will this be a massive mess of mangled controls and muddled objectives? Only I know, and I'm going to tell you.

Paul Eastwood returns with another action oriented game, if you like his style, check out his first hour reviews of Freedom Fighters and Enter the Matrix!

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I choose a save file and the game begins. I'm dropped into a mission select screen, with one available mission. I get a briefing about putting my basic training into practice; it looks like the first level is going to be a tutorial.

03 - I am treated to a cutscene that describes the political situation in the fictional world: my country has an uneasy peace with the neighboring country, separated by a demilitarized zone. The other country (I'll call them the Red Team since they favor clothing on the lower end of the visible spectrum) is crowning a new Tsar, a more peaceful man than his father who just retired. Meanwhile, the General of the Green Team (that's my team) is anxiously waiting for the peace to end so he can fight.

Battalion Wars Target Dummy

04 - I have control of a Rifle Grunt. Tank controls, to be specific. Forward runs, left and right turn, back makes him back up. A fires, B jumps, L targets, R is crouch and aim manually. X, Y and Z don't really do anything right now, nor does the C stick.

05 - I make my way through an obstacle course which tests my basic movements, jumping and targeting. The controls are odd, they seem a little laggy. It doesn't seem like they're wrong, just something to get used to.

06 - I see a couple of latrines, but I can't go in. My CO is a woman with an annoying-cartoon voice who keeps reminding me of what to do if I take too long. This is what Navi would have been if the N64 could have supported voice.

07 - An enemy spy is detected! He's setting up a listening post on our side of the DMZ! That's a no-no. I shoot the listening post and it blows up.

08 - I'm chasing the spy, but I don't have any camera control; it always follows my man. Pressing B while locked on will make the little guy roll in the direction the control stick is held. I find another listening post and make it go boom. I can't quite keep up with the spy; I wish I could move faster!

09 - Up ahead I see one of my fellow soldiers lying on the ground injured. I must help him! I run to his aid, but he's already dead. I vow to make the spy pay. Nothing will stop me, not even the river in front of me! I swim across a meet up with a squad of 4 Green soldiers, who now follow me wherever I go.

Battalion Wars Machine Gun Nest

10 - I guess I should explain, each man carries an assault rifle; holding A releases a stream of bullets wherever I point it. Among the five of us, we can level a scathing amount of firepower at a target. In other news, Y orders my men to move to a location or attack a target, X makes them alternate between following me and standing ground.

11 - We come across a friendly recon (a truck/jeep thing). By targeting it and pressing Z, my control transfers to it. Cool! I'm driving the recon now, which lets me smash through a barbed wire fence and move much faster. It controls a little weird though.

12 - I beat the mission by driving to a certain point and get rankings on my speed, power, and technique, along with a info card about each unit I used (rifle grunt, light recon). I also discover that the Red Team (who all speak with bad Russian/Austrian accents) has moved troops through the DMZ into my country. This means war!

13 - For the record, all the Greens have exaggerated American accents (Texas, New York, etc.). I start the next mission right where I left off (minus the recon for some reason), and finally extract vengeance on the back-stabbing spy.

14 - I have unlimited ammo, but I have to reload every now and then. There's a meter on my reticle that shows how many shots till reload, which he does automatically. The strategy here is to finish off a clip when it gets low so you can start with a new one. By pressing the control pad, I get a birds eye view of my character. It's a bit Pikmin-esque.

15 - I approach a bridge, which we all know is an important part of any battle. Why? Don't ask such questions! The Reds have set up a machine gun nest on this side to try and hold me off, but I knock politely and ask to be let in. That was sarcasm; in reality I emptied an entire clip into him. This allows me to jump in and hold the the enemy off while my men take the bridge. Yay!

Battalion Wars Tank Recon

16 - Although the machine gun doesn't have to reload, after a while it overheats and I have to let it cool off. Oh well, time to move on anyway. This just in: Rolling Breaks Target Lock.

17 - I come across a camp full of baddies, way more men than I have. Just in time, the General sends in an air strike and kills most of them. Thank you very much.

18 - I use a cluster of explosive barrels to take out a machine gun nest, thereby liberating 4 more of my men who had been captured by the Reds. I have 8 men under my command, cool!

19 - I now have twelve men and a tank! I'm in the tank. Ooh, I got big guns. The tank can fire shells, and it has a manned machine gun mounted on top.

20 - The Reds send in bazooka troopers which are deadly against tanks, so I leave it behind. My soldier gets killed, but control is immediately switched to the closest soldier.

21 - I can't find my tank, it must have gotten blown up. I'm losing a lot of troops.

Battalion Wars Cutscene Girl

22 - I'm down to only three guys, their recons are tearing me up, and since I lost my tank I don't have any anti-vehicle weapons. It takes a lot of bullets to destroy a recon.

23 - I manage to finish the mission, but with a C ranking because I lost so many men. My men are dancing, reminding me of Kirby.

25 - Cutscene: the retiring Tsar of the Red Team used his last day on the job to start a war so his son (whom he felt was weak) would have to fight it to toughen up. Gee thanks, Dad! My next mission is to protect a base until reinforcements arrive.

27 - An effective strategy: sending my men to attack from one side while I go around the other. My one character does nearly as much damage as the whole squad. AI friendlies never seem to shoot as much as players do, nor do they target ammo dumps, which are the best way to take out groups of soldiers.

28 - I get a couple of Bazooka Veterans, so I take control of one. I can fire a slow-moving explosive shell, or charge up by holding A to fire a faster moving, more powerful shell. I take out the enemy recons in no time! It's hard to tell, but I think it may have only taken one shot apiece.

29 - The Bazooka Vets are way bigger than the Rifle Grunts! Now that I have several units types, I figure out that by using the C stick I can select unit types, and even individual units to issue orders to or take control of. It'll definitely take some getting used to to issue orders quickly.

Battalion Wars Overworld Map

30 - I leave my Bazooka Vets guarding the base and take my Rifle Grunts scouting. I clear out a machine gun nest and my CO tells me that I can put one of my soldiers in it, which I do. Now one of the grunts is manning the machine gun. Cool! I do the same with another. Now I'm playing with power!

33 - In an attempt to flank the enemy, I got too far away from the fighting and my CO insulted my courage. It was part of the plan, I promise!

35 - The enemy CO landed a helicopter in the middle of my base and began unloading infantry, but I wiped them out as they issued forth.

36 - They're sending in tanks, but I have Bazooka Vets and a tank that just arrived for reinforcement.

37 - I win this mission, my men start dancing again. One of them is doing the moonwalk. I wonder if the developers considered the possibility of the game being played for review the day Michael Jackson died....

38 - My next mission involves rescuing two of my spies who were captured. There was less exposition cutscene-wise beforehand.

Battalion Wars Sentry Tower

39 - I have six minutes in which to finish the mission. The troops speak gibberish, kind of like Simlish.

40 - I make it into the base where my men are being held, they're in a fence with a recon, I guess that's what they were driving when they were captured. I free them from their prison by targeting an ammo dump which just so happened to be right next to the prison. They jump in the recon and my control automatically switches to it. I now have the remainder of the six minutes to get them across the border back into Green country. Driving the recon is insane; I had noticed before that the controls were a little funky, but now trying to race the clock and enemies, it's bouncing all over the place. It's out of control; it gives it a really good feel, like a movie chase scene.

41 - I don't have any weapons; there's a machine gun mounted on the back manned by one of the spies, but I'm going so fast it doesn't matter much. A rifle grunt is in my way, so I slam into him. It sends him flying, and my recon spins out. I round a turn and nearly fly off a cliff, but the recon holds steady and we keep going. It's crazy, but it's fun.

42 - The Reds try to stop me by raising a drawbridge but I ramp over and easily clear it, then plow through a line of grunts on the other side.

43 - I plunge over an edge into the water and my recon is destoyed. Fail!

45 - I'm back in the recon; they tell me to just follow the road, but that's not so easy. The recon bounces a lot, and when it's in the air you can't steer it.

Battalion Wars Helicopter

46 - I'm doing better on time, but a sharp turn causes the recon to roll completely over. Fortunately the tough little truck was designed to handle that kind of abuse and rights itself.

47 - There are gas cans here and there that refill the recon's health.

48 - An enemy helicopter blows me up. Boo. The difficulty of this level comes from the crazy controls of the recon.

49 - Back in the recon. I've got the first part of this mission down to a science.

51 - I decide to take a shortcut through a forest: bad idea. The trees are too close together to navigate easily, and I waste a bunch of time trying to get out.

53 - I'm past the point where I died last time, but the road goes through some more woods.

Battalion Wars Bunker

54 - I have less than a minute, hope I don't have far to go! I ramp over a roadblock and hit a tree in midair which sends me spinning. Luckily I land on all fours and keep going.

55 - I made it! The time limit no longer applies, but some of their men have followed me. I get a tank and some men with which to fight them off.

56 - My tank got blown up, right before they send in their own tank. My Bazooka Vets blow it up.

58 - The enemy sends in a helicopter, but I have Missile Vets, which are anti-air. They shoot the chopper down in no time. Wow, the chopper explodes in mid-air and bodies rain down! Harsh.

59 - The mission winds up, and I get a C ranking because it took me so long. Blah.

60 - No time to start a new mission, this hour ended almost perfectly.

Battalion Wars World Map

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 7

Favorite Thing: Being able to take control of any unit at any time.

Least Favorite Thing: Fumbling with controls to issue orders. It'll take a lot longer than an hour to get used to it.

Graphics: Endearing cartoon style, as usual Nintendo-published titles use the hardware to the best advantage. The style works so well that the polygon count isn't even an issue.

Sound: Appropriately cartoony sound effects and voice acting.

Story: Actually pretty interesting. The story is told by a cutscene before each mission and ties into chatter from the COs on the battlefield.

Environment Design: Some obvious cover (fallen logs, boulders), but fitting for a cartoon war. The enemy's placement of ammo dumps reminds me of Hogan's Heroes.

Fun: Fun enough.

Keep Playing: I will keep playing, mainly to see what other units there are. The action is fun enough that I won't mind playing, and the story is enough to elicit a chuckle and raised eyebrow.

Thoughts: Battalion Wars seems like the inevitable military application of the game mechanics in Pikmin. Controlling one character while issuing orders to the rest, being able to switch control between multiple units (2 in Pikmin 2, unlimited in Battalion Wars) switching the camera between overhead and traditional 3rd person views. However, Pikmin allowed for more patience and planning, whereas Battalion Wars requires some quicker maneuvering. This makes the game more exciting, but also leads to more fumbling with controls and more mistakes. There is really no strategy at all and only light tactics; this is something that I think will change as the game goes on.

Note, several games since have used the idea of a console RTS that had the player controlling a single character and issuing orders to all the rest, including Overlord and Valkyria Chronicles.

This is my third review in a row in which the game designers went out of their way to include a restroom of some sort.

Battalion Wars Commanding Officers