There’s a certain charm of turn-based strategy games that have thrilled people for centuries – Chess and Chinese checkers being prime examples, both requiring foresight and ingenuity in order to anticipate the opponent’s every move. Now superimpose the faction-based combat of the former atop the tiled map of the later and you get games like XCOM and Atlas Reactor. But these games are restricted in their very methodology of being ‘turn-based’ resulting in prolonged gameplay.
This is where the RTS game called Batalj comes in. But does it do differently enough to make an impact, lets find out.
Batalj (Swedish for ‘combat’ and not to be confused with Balaji) is a fierce 1v1 game developed and published by Fall Damage – a Swedish studio co-founded by four ex-developers of Battlefield. Combining the aesthetics of Overwatch and the gameplay of XCOM, Batalj is the studio’s debut game, giving a unique experience of concurrency while being turn-based at the same time.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Each match begins with the selection of one of the three factions – Rusters, Splicers and Relinked. After that, you have to choose which characters to deploy constricted by the number of points you have in hand. The objective is fairly simple – face-off against the rival faction to take over certain control points across the hex-tiled map. Each match is divided into 5 rounds and you are awarded a score in each round if you either take over a control point or kill a rival unit or both. The first to get five scores wins the match.
Now you might be thinking ‘what’s unique in that?’
True, the main goal may not be that much unique but what sets it apart from other games of the genre is the fact that you and your opponent’s turns occur simultaneously during what is called as the Scheduling Phase, which begins after you’ve chosen your faction. During this phase, both of you are given only two minutes within which you must decide what actions each’s units will take once the Action phase begins. This is where foresight and strategy comes into play – you need to perceive where your opponent will be planning to move his/her units and choose your attacks accordingly as there will be occasions where you have chosen to attack your opponent’s position but in the Action Phase you find that the opponent’s unit moves away from that position before you can attack. Forward thinking is essential to stave off your opponent’s attacks while inflicting the maximum damage in your quest to take over the control points because once the Action Phase begins, it will be watching a cut scene as your units will carry out their actions.
The order in which each of the units plays out isn’t predetermined. You see, each unit’s actions require a certain ‘delay’ to get executed. The more damaging the attack, the higher the associated delay and higher the delay, the longer it will take for the action to occur during the Action Phase. The Delay is the most important thing you need to consider while choosing offensive attacks or moving to a certain hex-tile as your opponent will be concurrently planning his/her move to counter you. There is a unique timeline feature at the top of the screen which determines in what order the units across the map move when a new round begins. The order is based on the action points used by a unit during the previous round, so if a unit is left idle without moving or using an ability, it will move to the front of the timeline in the next round as it hasn’t consumed any action points. By the same token, units carrying out more than one task in a round will be sent to the far end of the timeline for the next round. This allows you to see in what order your unit will be activated and so you can plan accordingly.
Characters and Maps
Despite being in its beta stage, the assortment of heroes and characters the game offers is mind-blowing! Each has its own unique active and passive abilities which greatly influences the way in which they perform and affect other units within their faction. The developers even went as far as giving a short backstory to each of the 54 characters in Batalj.
There are three factions as of now – Rusters (mechanical droids piloted by scavengers and nomads), Relinked (part man, part machine) and Splicers (weird stuff straight out of Warframe) with enough units to spoil you for choice. There are about ten Tier 1 and Tier 2 units as well as two or three heroes within each faction, all of which require different points to get deployed. In order to play this game, you need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every single character from every single faction as you can end up in a pretty tight spot while playing if you haven’t taken into account what tricks the opponent’s units have up their sleeve like freezing you instantly or draining your character’s health bar or lunging from one end of the map to your character’s hex-tile to inflict aerial damage (Rusters to that). What I felt is that the character design is largely inspired by games like Titanfall and Warframe, whereas the colorful visuals are comparable with Overwatch and Paladins.
As for the maps, there are four types each with a distinctive layout and positioning of control points, so it is better to study each one with a tactical viewpoint in mind as not all the hexes are accessible for maneuvering.
Batalj mainly focuses on 1v1 multiplayer. There is Quick Match mode that pits you against a rival faction after you’ve selected your own faction and the matchmaking is pretty sweet and fast for its beta stage. All in all, the game lives up to its name in terms of online combat.
There’s also a Sandbox mode that lets you spawn various units and tinker with them, experiment how they will fight against each other – the perfect playground to analyze and assemble the perfect squad.
The tutorials are also very intuitive giving a first-hand experience of the online battles though it is quite short which might not be enough for newbies. But once you start fighting you won’t remain a newbie because the game offers a ranking and leveling system – basically a badge to brag your friends about. Speaking of friends, the discord channel is very friendly and active.
The temporary lags might be the only con in this videogame. Batalj requires a minimum of 8 GB RAM along with GTX 750 or its equivalent, so expect massive frame drops if you are running it on an older system with less RAM. The lags will get on your nerve when you are struggling to assign actions to each unit during the time-bound Scheduling Phase which might make or break your chance of winning the round. Another con can be that the same visuals which make the game so vibrant, might prevent the characters from appearing distinct from the map’s colorful topography. There were times where I had to waste crucial seconds just to find out where my units are because there is so much happening on the map; it usually becomes a kind of clutter if you lose focus of your units. Moreover, the game doesn’t highlight which units are still idle i.e. no actions have been assigned to them, so it is very much essential to keep track of your unit’s positions.
Priced at 569 INR, Batalj is one of the most glorious looking RTS out there that allows both you and your opponent to battle simultaneously instead of being turn-based. This means a typical match will last for about 15-20 minutes. The ruthlessly fast-paced nature of the game will keep you on your toes at all points. In the age of overly saturated Battle Royales and MOBAs, if you desire something different, then this is definitely a game you should look forward to. It offers so much as of now, imagine what will be coming once the game gets a full version release!