second chance games

Search This Website of delight

BATALJ is a simultaneous turn-based tactical game about 1v1 combat with each player leading their own custom built team of units. ...




BATALJ is a simultaneous turn-based tactical game about 1v1 combat with each player leading their own custom built team of units. The title is the first game from studio Fall Damage and shows a lot of promise, but may need some more work to be given a full recommendation. 

BATALJ features combat that in some ways resembles the new XCOM games, where each of your units can move and do one action each turn. The twist is that each player chooses the movement and actions of each of their units in secret, and then once both players hit go, the action plays out. The units do not act all at once, however, instead they go in a specific order that is known to the players while choosing moves. This opens up some serious strategy calculations. Do you go for the sure kill, knowing your units can act before their hapless victim gets a chance to escape? Or do you try to predict your opponent's actions, hitting them where they least expect it? Of course, you might be totally wrong, and watch helplessly as your units whiff at empty air. You also need to think about future turns when making your choices. Different actions incur different amounts of delay, which is what makes the overall unit order get rearranged each turn.

 All of this action takes place in one of several small arenas, with three objective locations that the players must fight over. If you end a turn with more locations in your control, you get a point. 5 points wins the match. A location can be contested by both players, which means no one gets control of that spot. The really interesting thing to me was that control of more objectives only ever gives you one point. So, if you have control of one objective, and no one controls the others, you get one point. If you control two or even all three of the locations, you still only get one point. This creates the opportunity for a variety of strategies. You can try to use fast units to spread out and have a presence across the board, or you can move your units in a blob and try to crush whatever resistance they encounter, or a hundred other approaches in between. Each side gets some reinforcements at specific intervals, and depending on how the battle is going you might want to bring in a healer to fix up your hero, or a unit to counter whatever strategy the enemy is using. Everything, of course, depends on what units you have and what the enemy has. Being a novice, I just picked a variety of units and then figured out a strategy as I went!

There are three different factions of units in the game, each with a different theme and set of heroes. There is a default squad for each faction, but the real tinkering fun comes from assembling your own squads and thinking about how different units could work together to create some serious combat synergy. In my relatively brief time with the game I did not get into the nitty gritty details, but I did play several matches and studied the various abilities available to each unit. Each faction has a half dozen or so different unit types, and each of those units has its own set of two to four possible actions it can take during a turn. Many units also have passive buffs that shape their role on the battlefield. If you are a fan of MOBA's you will immediately feel comfortable with this aspect of the game. Most units have some kind of basic attack, and then either more powerful attacks or support type abilities. There are units to heal, units to take out an enemy's armor, units that can cloak, some that can fly, some have area denial weapons while others focus a ton of damage on one target. There is a lot of variety here and simply exploring what the various units are capable of will take some time.

So, it might sound like I have nothing bad to say about this game, but, unfortunately, we are about to get to that part. The actual gameplay is very solid, the problem is that you might have a hard time finding an opponent. BATALJ is meant to be a competitive game, focused on 1v1 matches between human players. The game has some lovely stat screens and battle logs, and promises that ranked play is on the way. However, it isn't clear whether the player base is there to support it. I was able to find several matches via the automatic matchmaking, but at times I was stuck waiting for a while with no opponent to be found. The forums aren't very busy, and Steam Charts shows that only a handful of people are playing at any given time. Normally, I wouldn't knock a game for having a small player population (some of my favorite games over the years are pretty obscure), but in this case, if you don't have a reliable supply of opponents, you can't really play the game. There is no single player mode to speak of. There is a tutorial against some bots, which I found enjoyable the first time through, but after that you have to go online.

I really, really hope the game finds a player base, because the developers seem enthusiastic and responsive to player concerns. Perhaps a few more updates and greater awareness will draw people into the game, but I fear it might be a tough sell without any kind of single player gameplay. Another option would be adding asynchronous matches as seen in Frozen Synapse. That would make it a lot easier to find and play a match, even with relatively few players out there. 

As it stands, I would like to recommend this game, but can only do so with the massive caveat that this is an online only game with a very small player base, which may or may not be around in a couple months. I hope this doesn't discourage the developers, because they clearly put in a lot of work into this and released a game that is fun to play and looks great. Hopefully they can find a path forward that will bring in the player base that this game needs. 

BATALJ is available on Steam
Developer/Publisher: Fall Damage

- Joe Beard

1 comment :