When bandying ideas around for interesting things to feed into your face via this here website, we at GigaGamers decided that the first game we’d feature in our Multiplay videos would be a slightly obscure, free-to-play online RTS named Battleforge. Obviously, then, it’s worth introducing you all to the wonders of this game ahead of time, and what better way to do that than with a review? I even made a video!
Battleforge is one of the more unique RTSs I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Blending MMO and card game ideas seamlessly into a set of streamlined, tight mechanics, it’s surprisingly well-balanced, and its online nature means the developers can (and do) continue to patch it with balance fixes and extra content. The core idea of Battleforge is that instead of selecting a fixed faction, you choose cards from a collection to build a deck, which you then take into battle. These cards represent units, buildings, and support spells, each of which is summoned directly to the battlefield, rather than requiring construction by other units or buildings as is the RTS norm.
On top of this, the game only has one resource – power, accessible only from strategic points on the map called power wells – and a very stripped-down tech tree, itself based on other strategic locations. Building orbs of particular colours on other strategic points unlocks cards in your deck; that’s it. These orbs and wells can of course be destroyed by your opponents, which is always exciting.
The game is very MMO-like; PvE levels are laid out like dungeons and cards can be upgraded using rewards garnered from playing the game. This actually adds something to it. There’s no grinding involved unless you really desperately want those upgrades – I play the game purely for fun rather than for the rewards, eschewing the MMO stereotype. The gradual player progression adds a small flavour and incentive on top of that.
PvP in Battleforge is fast and dynamic. Base-building is nonexistent, as is your economy. The game revolves entirely around intelligent use of units, spells and special abilities, and map control. There are four types of unit (small, medium, large and extra-large) and towers, which offer area defence or magical support. Each unit has a damage bonus against a certain type of target, and maximum efficiency is achieved by quickly deploying counters to whatever your opponent brings out. Fortunately, this doesn’t actually overpower the game, and even if you lack a precise counter or a handy spell, the game is still an RTS – weight of numbers, good positioning of units, or appropriate target priority all pull their weight in this game.
Truth be told, the fusion of MMO, card game, and RTS staples – each one streamlined down to its most important parts and mixed with ingenuity – is greater than the sum of its parts. The game is slickly and intelligently put together, remarkably well-balanced, and easy to pick up yet hard to master. Small touches like the highly intuitive control group system and the extremely clever void power mechanic (where 90% of the power you spend on a unit or spell gradually trickles back into your power pool once whatever you summoned has left the battlefield) make the game that little bit more friendly without you really noticing until it’s pointed out.
On top of that, Battleforge is just fun. The visual style is bright, crisp and colourful, and the unit designs are completely mental, in the best of ways. Animations are exaggerated in a slightly cartoonish way, and each XL unit is truly a sight to behold; the giant monsters have a definite sense of weight, and dwarf anything smaller they’re put next to. Bizarre units like floating, castle-turreted battleships and large undead who’ll happily play football with their own heads when bored sit among more traditional (but no less awesome) firebreathing dragons and cannon-wielding ogres. Collecting cards just to see what the units look like in full 3D motion is quite an incentive.
What’s the downside? Well, as any free-to-play MMO, it’s microtransaction-powered, and unlike most decent F2P games, it’s very difficult to get many cards (especially rare ones) without spending money. The upside of this is that the in-game money isn’t hugely expensive and, if you stick to a small number of factions/decks at a time, the game shouldn’t cost you an inordinate amount. Fortunately, the game’s balance is helpful here: rares are actually more or less in line with the common and uncommon cards. Instead of being flat-out more powerful, they simply do things the common cards couldn’t do. You can (and people do) happily win games using only common and uncommon cards, which will also cost you far less money
I’d recommend Battleforge to anyone who didn’t have a crippling aversion to RTS games. Since it’s free, the only price of checking out the smartly designed mechanics and great visuals is the time it takes to install. On top of that, you can join us in-game for Multiplay! The idea of Multiplay is to take a news podcast, do it while playing a game, and then add not only the sparkling wit of our game banter but also players from around the site’s community as well! The first game we’re going to try for Multiplay will be Battleforge, so jump in and say hello!