When I was a young boy, I used to love going to the library. It was a good 20 minutes walk from the house (I struggle to get my son more than 20 metres from his Xbox these days, but I digress), but I didn’t mind, strolling across with a jaunty whistle upon my lips and hope soaring in my heart. The object of this hope? Either a new Tintin book, or if I was really lucky, an Asterix and Obelix book I hadn’t read. I couldn’t get enough of these peculiar Gallic adventures, and so when word reached my shell like of a new game that promised to be based on the exploits of Asterix et al, well my excitement rose and interest was very much piqued. Gallic Wars: Battle Simulator, coming from MadGamesmith, is the game in question, and promises something I’d not heard before: a rogue-like strategy game. Is this micro-niche worth exploring, or is a bag full of books more fun?
Now, the thought of a strategy game, which I like, and the Asterix universe, which I also like, seems like a match made in heaven. The concept is good too: a horde of smelly Gallic barbarians give the Roman empire a good kicking and chase them out of the lands. Or, as the squishy but numerous Romans, you’ll get to try and do the reverse and defeat the Gauls. Sadly, as with so many things, the execution of the idea is a lot worse than you would hope. Let me explain.
The developers here seem to have taken as the basis for their game the almost entirely stupid Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, which makes a virtue of looking bad, having ridiculous rag doll physics, and an almost totally hands-off approach to the actual fights that occur. You know the drill – set your troops up in hopefully a good formation, then set the battle going. And keep your fingers crossed that you win! Well, that’s pretty much what happens here as you set your available troops in a start area, give them a series of waypoints to navigate to (in theory, but I’ll cover this in a bit), then kick the fight off, and generally despair as your troops and those of the enemy seem to avoid each other like the plague. Or as one brave axeman rushes an entire gang of Romans and gets battered.
The tutorial of Gallic Wars, which is pretty vital you’d think, is absolutely useless. It tries to tell you what buttons do what, but half the time they don’t do anything, and the rest of it they do as they as supposed but in the wrong area. Do you want to select all the troops, and maybe make them a group? You know, like you’ve been able to on consoles since Command & Conquer was on the PS1? Well, good luck, as the controls for this thing do not work. I never once made a group of my troops, with the result that every time they had to move anywhere, they ran around like headless chickens, slaughtered to a man. Every single time. Eventually I learned to kind of make my way around the controls, and put the waypoints close together, so they didn’t have the room to fracture the group, but it is a pretty shoddy state of affairs to be honest.
Graphically the game looks the very definition of “okay”. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the cartoon-style graphics, the way the troops move or the stupid rag doll physics. The sound is pretty poor as well, if I’m being brutally honest. But that’s not the half of it and as you progress through the game, should you find the will somewhere, then you do start to unlock new Generals and new magic attacks. Nice, you may think, but even these aren’t enough to ensure that it is actually fun to play. And what are the names of the generals changed to? In a game which proudly trumpets that it was inspired by Asterix and Obelix, why are the General’s you unlock called Astefix and Obefix? I’m guessing licensing costs, but the whole thing just feels a little underhand if I’m honest.
All in all, Gallic Wars: Battle Simulator is a game that takes an interesting idea and smothers it under a pile of bad controls, dubious design decisions and poor gameplay. If you like Asterix, or strategy games, I can’t recommend this game to you. If you like Totally Accurate Battle simulator, first of all, my sympathies, and secondly, the controls here are so difficult to use that even fans of T.A.B.S. would struggle to find fun. This is most certainly one to avoid.
Gallic Wars: Battle Simulator is now available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One for £4.19