BATALJ is a game that has been developed by Fall Damage Studio, the developer was created by 4 ex veterans of DICE, who we all know are the amazing developers of games such as Star Wars Battlefront, Battlefield series, Mirrors Edge and many more wonderful games. The team over at Fall Damage Studio have created something totally different here than what they are used to creating and BATALJ is their debut game and I've put it to a test.
It’s certainly different from Battlefield or Star Wars Battlefront in the sense that BATALJ is a turn-based strategy game. One of the unique factors about the game is that turns are taken simultaneously by each other, you may be thinking to yourself “hang on a minute, how does that work?” Well, imagine both you and your opponent taking turns at the same time during a game of chess, and that’s the beauty of the game! Come to think of it is a very simple idea to keep matches refreshing and making sure the player has to not only think about their strategy but their opponents more so – they teach you in poker to never play the cards but play the player, well in BATALJ that would be my advice.
The developers have created a very simple game that anyone can pick up and get to know the factions and units and their favoured strategy to a good level pretty easily, as mentioned already that’s the easy bit it’s the reading of your opponent that will make or break your game. The first thing to do is to make your squad, there are three factions to choose from with nine heroes (three in each faction) and 54 different units that you can use. So you’d want to find units that will complement each other, your chosen hero and of course your play style – don’t be freaked out by the number of units on offer, think of it that the more choice you have the better chance of finding a strategy suitable for you. The screenshot above looks at the Rusters faction squad builder, each unit and hero has unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses, a quick tip here is to use the Sandbox mode to get to grips with your units abilities and movement ranges so it becomes second nature to you.
In the screenshot below you’ll be able to see BATALJ’s unique selling point in action. You will have a series of actions that you want to complete and so does your opponent, you make them during your planning phase as does your opponent and both play out together in the action phase. The game is quite refreshing to play, it certainly adds something fresh into the turn-based strategy genre by having your opponent make their play at the same time of you. You know what unit will be moving in what order by the queue at the top of the screen so you can plan your moves depending on that and it adds that bit of anxiousness for you to see if you have played your move right. With the depth of units you can build up some really bold aggressive strategies or play more defensive and go with some healing/tanky units and try to bunker the caps out. So far only Quick Match is available but the developers have said that Ranked Matches will be available very soon after they make a few changes which is something I’m looking forward to.
There are two ways to win a game, the first is by claiming points each turn by controlling some or all of the control points. In the screenshot below the control points are those green circles on the metallic platforms. By putting one of your units on those you control it and as long as you control it at the end of the turn you gain a point for each one you control, first to five points wins. The second way to win is of course as all strategy games go – destroy all of your opponents units. This is extremely difficult because at the start of the first turn and end of every third turn you get to spawn in new units, the technical term for this in BATALJ is “wave spawn” from the ones you picked in your squad.
I believe that this is a game you can pick up and play and the best of way of learning how to play is jumping into a quick match and trying out your latest strategy. The games I have played generally are not that long, they can last up to between 10-25 minutes depending on how close the game is. With the plethora of units, heroes and abilities you can come up with some really diverse and unique plays to bamboozle your opponent and I’ll be completely honest with you this is not a game I have been watching for long. I saw a press release not so long ago and was seriously intrigued at the developers claims about simultaneous turns, they were true, it adds a fantastic element of strategy and surprise to the game. The game tends to be quite micro in management which adds to the impact of the simultaneous turns concept in a very good way. Whereas some of you may be thinking Total War games have simultaneous turns vs the AI or human players, whilst that is true those games are more macro in the sense that you have an entire battlefield to move around in or a campaign map, the maps in this game aren’t exactly huge, you can also only move a certain amount of spaces depending on your character and you’re all after the same capture points. The micro-management of your units in this arena really emphasises and exacerbates the strategic input you need to have to win the game.
I could go on forever about the simultaneous turns and what it means but I also want to focus on the graphics and smoothness of gameplay. The units look good, there is an attention to detail that I really like particularly revolving around the animations when a unit heals or does a specific attack move, the developers have really thought those through and they don’t seem clunky like other turn-based action games when units attack. The user interface is very easy on the eyes and is simple, I like simple UI’s, maybe that is just me but I find them so much easier to use and also more visually appealing. The sound effects and voiceovers are good too, the sound of the blades when using the hero Zero as you finish off an opponents unit is very satisfying indeed!
In conclusion, I did not think this was a game that I would enjoy, but I have to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing BATALJ – credit to Fall Damage Studio. It’s good on the eyes and the ears, there is a little learning involved but not so much you feel overwhelmed. There are plenty of different strategic options to suit your play style and outfox your opponent and the developers have managed to make the simultaneous turn system work a treat, making the game so much more exciting. If you’re into turn-based strategy games I’d wholeheartedly say to give this game a go, it’s refreshing and brings something new to the market and makes it work in a way satisfying way if you get it right and a frustratingly anxious way if you manage to not predict your opponent correctly. This is the game that will change turn-based games in the future, making them faster, less predictable and more enjoyable.