On PC, the Total War series is renowned for offering some of the most beautiful, in-depth, and entertaining war gaming experiences out there. So, seeing the series hit iOS is a big deal. While it’s somewhat disappointing that Sega and developer Creative Assembly didn’t make Total War Battles more like the original game, this is still an incredibly gorgeous and creative mix of strategy and puzzle gaming.
Total War Battles takes gamers to feudal Japan, just as a warlord is taken by surprise thanks to the treacherous attack of a rival. His son is left to save the clan and claim revenge, beginning an epic tale of warfare and drama.
The first thing that will strike players about Battles is how gorgeous the game is. The landscapes are beautiful, and lightly overlaid with a hexagonal grid pattern. The buildings are distinctive and detailed, but it’s the character animations that really impress. Creating soldiers of various sorts to fight for you is straight out of classic PC-style real-time strategy gaming, and watching these tiny warriors battle each other is truly impressive.
Stoking the flames.
Characters are smoothly animated and react to attacks in a variety of ways. They parry each other, knock arrows out of the air, and die realistically. In short, the battles feel more personal because your units just move and react right. The soundtrack is terrific as well, as is the voice acting and letters between missions that move the story forward.
Total War Battles distills the gameplay of the PC games into something that feels more mobile-centric. The gameplay offers some truly authentic real-time strategy elements. You’ll build a base, constantly create new troops, attack and defend, and use tactics and strategy. At the same time, the RTS experience is definitely much more tightly focused to create a level-by-level, puzzle-like hybrid.
Each of the many missions tasks players with specific goals– usually killing a certain number of enemy units, or a specific unit. The maps are relatively small, but varied in layout. Buildings need to be linked to a previous structure, and require a certain number of grid spaces. Some buildings can’t be placed near other types of buildings, and laying out a complete base feels very puzzle-like. In fact, the game has branching bonus missions that offer extra experience points and often focus on puzzles that require you to build specific structures. It sounds simple, but can be incredibly hard.
Shrine on, you crazy monks.
Total War Battles could provide better visual cues all around. It doesn’t show you the property borders of all your structures when placing new ones, for instance. And during combat, your units will lose fighters, but it’s harder to judge a unit’s remaining strength without a traditional health bar.
Another major issue that both adds to the puzzle-like nature and the frustration is that units can’t move backwards. Units only move forward, and you command them, oddly enough, with hand pointer buttons at the bottom of the screen instead of just tapping on a grid space. They don’t respond immediately, either, so proper planning is key. Melee units can attack any enemy in a connecting forward space, while ranged units only shoot straight ahead.
In Total War Battles, there are support units, archers, spearmen, riflemen, swordsman, cavalry, and more specialized units, and learning how best to use the various soldiers is an intelligently fun, if challenging endeavor. That said, the game can be punishingly hard and there are no difficulty level settings for more casual gamers who are just learning the ropes of tactical warfare.
Total War Battles also sadly lacks online play. It offers local two-player matches, but the real-time nature of the gameplay makes it a bit chaotic to play on the same device.
Despite the complaints we can level at Total War Battles, however, the overall polish of the presentation and creativity of the gameplay is undeniable. This is a distinctive and engaging strategy game, well worth checking out.