It’s World War II. You’re an Allied commander trapped behind enemy lines in the harsh African desert. Your troops are eating sand as the enemy infantry have them pinned down from a bunker high atop a hill. The German artillery has decimated your tanks, and your reserves are still too far away to be of any help. Morale is low, white flags are being readied, and there’s serious talk of surrender. What do you do, soldier? What. Do. You. Do?
Battle Academy, from Slitherine Software and based on a concept from the BBC, is an exciting turn-based strategy game that will ask you to deal with these situations and more. Designed in part by a university professor and military historian, it’s an involving, deep and challenging game that will test the mettle of even the most seasoned strategy gamer. It’s far from easy– war never is– but it is an extremely rewarding experience.
Deep strategy coming up.
In the game you command the Allied forces against the Axis powers through a series of missions, each with a different set of objectives, like taking over check-points, destroying artillery, capturing an enemy road, or completing tasks within a number of turns. Before each mission you have a certain number of points to spend on units to use in the upcoming mission. Each mission is different and not every kind of unit will be used. Sometimes speed and stealth is key, but other times you need to power through enemy lines with overwhelming force. You have a huge number of units at your disposal, including tanks, transports, anti-aircraft and light combat vehicles, as well as an array of infantry, like snipers and grenadiers.
You control your units one at a time by double-tapping the one you want to use and then tapping again on what you want to target, be it an enemy unit, a building, or a stretch of land. When you tap on your target, a series of icons appears, each denoting an action. You can then do things like move, blast an area with suppressing fire, storm a bunker, deploy troops, run over enemies with your tanks, or remain on guard. During battle, your units can level up and increase their health, skills, and abilities. They can also get scared, wave a teeny-tiny white flag and retreat if there’s nothing to block their movement. Terrain is also a factor. Some of your vehicles may not do so well in certain areas and can break down, stopping them dead in their tracks and making them sitting ducks. This may sound like a lot to manage, but the gameplay is simple and elegant and rarely feels overwhelming.
The graphics are good, not great. Units are well drawn and detailed, but they’re not going to blow your mind. We really like the way you can zoom in and out and even spin the screen around and angle it in whatever way we want to be able to get a better look at the field. This is so easily done that it’ll soon become second nature to you. But the sound is really where the game shines. The music is a forceful, driving military soundtrack that seems to never get old. The sound effects are also amazing. The sounds of guns blazing, soldiers screaming orders, bombers roaring through the air, and tanks rumbling is so immersive that you might forget for a second you’re merely playing a game.
All that said, the game has some problems that we hope are addressed in updates. Sometimes while you’re manipulating the camera or even selecting units, the screen will jerk and jump around. Also, when starting a new mission, you actually choose your units before you know what the mission is. This makes it impossible to strategize about what units you might actually need and sometimes requires restarting a stage just to get it right. This is, frankly, a rather bizarre design decision on the developer’s part. Also, we must mention the price. Twenty dollars is a steep price to pay for an unknown property from an unproven company. And beyond that, there are additional mission packs you can buy at $10 a pop.
Battle Academy is for the hardcore strategy gamer only. The high price, high difficulty and occasional technical hiccups will dissuade many. But for those of you who are willing to take the challenge, you’ll encounter a highly engaging, absorbing and lengthy experience the likes of which has rarely been seen on iOS.