Successful games on Kickstarter seem only to have to follow one simple rule: give the fans what they want. Battle Worlds: Kronos does just that: a turn-based strategy game focused on troop movement, akin to old school classics Advance Wars and Battle Isle. It’s not a game for everyone, though. Long-time fans of the genre looking for something a little more cerebral and sedate for their PS4 will love it; the kind of person who wants the ability to hold a controller in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Anyone looking for action or instant gratification will probably not have a good time, and should move swiftly along to something else.
Most societies decide to have an election to see who leads a country, and I can assume that once we’ve done away with nations and become Earthworld, or Homeworld or Terra Prime or whatever, the same thing will probably happen, just on a larger scale. In Battle Worlds: Kronos, however, they prefer to sort it out with a bloody good war. Thus, the various factions that make up the ruling class send troops off to Kronos to sort out who will become the next ruling faction. Focusing on the struggles of the house of Telit and Yerla Inc., the war is treated less like a tragic waste of human life and more like a cross between a game show and an election (pretty much exactly the same as any major political debate in the UK these days). Tonally, it sits somewhere between Command and Conquer and Frank Herbert’s Dune. Melodramatic, but strangely compelling. Sadly, the cutscenes aren’t live action and there are no giant worms.
The narrative is told via cutscenes, which bookend the game’s missions, and via in-game dialogue. Not only does it help with the world-building, but gives you helpful hints about the enemy and the best way to deal with them. Honestly, it’s not the most captivating of tales, being somewhat by the numbers, but I found myself enjoying it at points. The main bulk of the game is made up of an extensive campaign, with the opening few missions slowly easing you into both the narrative and the ins-and-outs of the game’s different systems and, most importantly, basic troop types. It helps you to get to know their strengths, weaknesses and upgrades, and the best way to implement them in battle.
During your turn, each unit can carry out two actions. For basic types, this is simply moving or attacking. However, some must carry out certain actions, which means that some units are more adaptable while others are best utilized in certain situations.
Before you start playing, Battle World: Kronos warns you that it’s going to be hard. It isn’t kidding. It’s entirely possible to fail the tutorial missions and if you’re not careful, all your best laid plans can swiftly turn into a flaming pile of wreckage. The game demands that each action you perform be well-considered. The constant threat of defeat, though daunting, adds an extra element of drama and tension to battles, making your victories feel all the sweeter. When you get them, that is. There are plenty of controller-tossing moments in store before that ever happens.
Outside the main campaign, there are challenge maps to battle through (though the PC version’s multiplayer modes are conspicuous in their absence and something I hope gets added at a later date). Each map, unsurprisingly, tasks you with completing certain set objectives and challenges. Though they’re nothing to write home about, the cranked-up difficulty will appeal to the truly masochistic. In keeping with the distinctly old school feel of the game, Battle Worlds: Kronos’ visuals have a very distinct 1990s vibe. Despite using fully rendered 3D models, the game’s troops look like they would just as easily fit into C&C or KKND; unit designs all feel distinct, yet comfortably familiar. The music of Battle Worlds: Kronos soundtrack is suitably grandiose, fitting the grand scale of battles (and it’s a good thing too, because a single mission can take several hours to complete). It chugs along competently, but it’s not something you’ll find yourself humming on your way to work.
The thing that is most likely to turn people off Battle Worlds: Kronos, other than the crushing difficulty, is its incredibly slow pace. Missions can take hours to complete, and moving each unit can become an exercise in tedium–especially when you’re trying to scout the area. Looking for enemies across large maps can often take around a quarter of an hour to find even one, let alone engage them. Kronos is a very cerebral affair, one that requires a lot of patience. If things go awry, you can find yourself sitting there, defeated, feeling as if you’ve just wasted two hours of your life that you’re never going to get back.
Battle Worlds: Kronos is certainly not for everyone. You have to be a real die-hard fan of old-school strategy games, the kind of player that enjoys getting kicked in the bollocks by a lack of proper planning. However, if you don’t have fond memories of spending hours in Battle Isles, or just wish that Nintendo would make another Advance Wars already, I would proceed with caution.
Battle Worlds Kronos was reviewed on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.
Developer: KING Art Games | Publisher: Nordic Games | Genre: Turn Based Strategy | Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 12+/E10+ | Release Date: November 4, 2013 (PC), April 26 (PS4, Xbox One)