Calling all soldiers, it’s time to report for duty!
Many of you will no doubt have piled hours and hours into the original free-to-play title Battle Islands, managing your resources to build a suitable base to defend and subsequently launch attacks from. Now there’s a follow up to it, Battle Islands: Commanders, which is yet another World War II strategy game. Developers DR Studios are no strangers to the free-to-play model, but will they be able to provide gamers with another WWII strategy game, whilst also offering something different from what we’ve seen already?
To cut a long story short, it’s unlike the previous iteration in many ways.
Battle Islands: Commanders forgets about the notion of attacking enemy bases when they aren’t there and instead focuses on real-time PvP. This means that every battle, training ones aside, is against a living, breathing humanoid with the same task as you – to destroy your opponent’s Warship before they destroy yours. It’s a simple objective, one which requires a surprising amount of planning and reactive choices to succeed. Oh, did I mention that you’ll be using a deck of cards to initiate such combat?
After completing the rather straightforward tutorials and then receiving a starter pack of units to kit out your battalion, you’ll have some choices to make. Each card chosen for your deck to prepare for upcoming battles represents a unit to place upon the battlefield during a match and comes with a deployment cost. Although the deployment meter constantly recharges, there’s not always time for it to recharge enough to unleash an epic tank, or something equally as costly. Therefore, there needs to be a balance within the battalion of eight units to ensure windows of opportunity aren’t left wide open for the enemy to exploit.
Unfortunately, once the tutorials are done and dusted, very few options remain as to what to do next. Ranked Battles are the bread and butter of Commanders, allowing humans to face off against humans to earn medals and resource crates. Other than that, there are only friendly and training conflicts to partake in, and these offer nothing apart from the chance to test out new strategies or units.
During a battle, only four cards will be offered up as potential options at any one time, hence luck plays an important part in getting the cards you both want and need. Throughout the three minute long battles, you won’t ever run out of cards and the match only ends when either the time runs out or a Warship is taken out. Each player also has a pair of barracks to bring added protection to the ship, which if taken out can add a point to the overall score – it could be an important point towards victory should the time limit be reached.
Earning medals via winning matches actually unlocks different areas – or theaters as they are known in-game – in which the battles take place; these range from North Africa to East Asia. Despite a healthy number of theaters included, I feel as though the designs and layouts could’ve been far more distinguishable from one another. The good thing is that each new theater brings a whole host of new units to acquire via the unlockable crates.
It has to be said that variation within the unit selection is great. Whether you need a small troop of riflemen, a fighter plane, attack dogs, tanks, turrets or barbed wire, all this and more can be found in the crates. Should you already have the card, it’ll be kept and added to the original card to eventually level-up the attributes of that one, thus boosting its strength. Crates containing units and other resources are earned by taking out a set amount of the main enemy structures, waiting for a bog standard supply crate every four hours, or from winning a match.
And it’s with the crates that the micro-transactions of Commanders come to the forefront, because there’s often a wait in order to unlock a crate – thankfully though this can be sped up using gold. Gold does pop up sparsely in crates for free, but they really want you to buy some and it’s increasingly tempting when there’s a 12hr wait on an awesome crate. Gold is also used to purchase crates outright, and it’s quite telling when you’re up against a low medal opponent that they’ve spent cash when they decimate your units with ease.
Joining an alliance, a clan of sorts, is another way to earn units to bolster your deck as you can request specific ones that might be close to levelling up. As of yet, my allies have been a bit tight and so I haven’t really noticed the benefit up to this point.
Battle Islands: Commanders deserves a few mini-sessions of play a day, because it’s not a bad little strategy game at all. Deciding upon placement, timing and whether to allow your opponent to deploy his troops first are all important factors in winning. It’s frantic at the best of times, with most battles going right to the last minute, but it’s a one-trick pony in that Ranked Battles are all it really has. I wish there was a greater difference between all of the theaters, even just random layouts to freshen up the action would’ve been suffice. It’s slightly off-putting to be destroyed by people who have probably paid good money to be so deadly; however, you can either suck it up or join them at their own game.
As it’s free, why not head over and download Battle Islands: Commanders? You won’t be playing for hours on end, but there’s definitely a bit of fun to be had in short spells…all at no cost to you.