Battle Isle: The Andosia War

Here’s the fifth installment of Blue Byte’s long-running Battle Isle series. Andosia War meshes traditional turn-based tactical combat and real-time economic simulation. The idea is that you’re given enough time to ponder combat strategy for each of your units, but still feel the tension and sweat induced by managing a war economy in real-time. This sure sounds good on paper, but it turns out to be less thrilling in execution.

6_1The story picks up from Blue Byte’s Incubation. There’s a major struggle for power brewing on the planet of Chromos, and you can lead one of two sides of the conflict: the Children of Haris sect, or the Chromian government. For each side there are 11 missions (for a total of 22). Each side’s story is relayed through static comic book cinematics. Even more disappointing is that the units are the same for both sides — they’re just a different color. It’s bad enough to make the two sides identical as far as capabilities, but making them even look the same is a bit too much.

For those of you who are new to the formula, Battle Isle isn’t your typical strategy game. Each side makes its tactical moves on the battleground working under a time limit. You make your move, then your opponents (AI or human) make theirs — just like Risk. The twist is that not only do you need to worry about leading your troops to victory on the battlefield, you also have to worry about establishing and maintaining a strong real-time economy that will keep your army moving.

4_1At first, the economic stuff at least gives you something to do while you’re waiting for your opponent to make his move, but it quickly becomes tedious doing everything that Battle Isle requires of you. Waiting up to eight minutes (depending on the skill level) for your opponent to complete a tactical turn becomes frustratingly boring, and you long for a time compression button. Also, since your Economic and Battle Islands are separate from each other, you’re required to set up sea transportation routes to keep your troops supplied. This could have been fun, but it’s more of an extra drag.

Then, you have to move each of your units — of which you can have dozens to manage in a mission — one at a time (you can group units, but this isn’t always efficient), and each can make several moves per turn. This translates into individual missions that can take several hours to complete. You’re also required to set up power supply lines on your Battle Island, which is basically setting up a series of telephone poles. Again, not a lot of fun. And the game engine doesn’t do much to speed things up, either.

It might have looked good on paper, but Battle Isle commits the capital mistake that no game should – it just isn’t that much fun. A strategy game that doesn’t give you stuff to do on a constant basis, where you end up staring at a screen waiting for a counter to run down, is one that needs to be overhauled.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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