Island Hopping – At Its Best

Battle Isle: The Andosia War
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With Battle Isle: The Andosia Wars, you can do some serious island hopping! The latest installment of the Battle Isle series (Hehe I remember the first one that I bought just after installing my first CD-ROM drive on my computer many moons ago) Battle Isle: The Andosia Wars is an intriguing combination of turn-based movement and combat and a real time economy. So while your opponent plays his turn, your economy is busily producing the goods and units you will need during your turn.

The premise of the game is an attempt by the Children of Haris, lead by their High Priestess, to wrench control of the land of Chromos from its current rulers, lead on the field of battle by General Bratt. Battle Isle: The Andosia Wars allows you to take on either side in the conflict! It also has the option of playing via the Internet and the Blue Byte Gaming Channel (a free service) with up to eight people in any given game. I ventured into this realm once and just long enough to realize that, like many online games, there are a core of VERY good players out there on the Internet. I would need to bone up more on tactics and resource management before I try to take them on in combat!

The game itself revolves around building up an economy to allow you to field an army to defeat the opponent, who is doing the EXACT same thing. You have all the required elements to allow you to take whatever direction you want. The base elements of Water, Iron and Aldinium need to be mined or gathered and then put into a form that can be used to build the tools of war (refined or purified). You get to make an Academy to research improvements to your mining techniques, upgrades to buildings and new buildings as well as new and improved troop types and vehicles for taking the battle to the hated enemy quickly. You can make more than one Academy by the way, and research multiple things simultaneously, but watch out that you have an economic infrastructure that can support multiple research projects and your army at the same time.

The interface is relatively easy to get used to. The tutorial starts this familiarization but is of limited practical use as it leaves key items (like how to get out of pause mode which it puts you in when your turn begins) out and I found myself frantically pawing through the rules book to find out how to do things. I had to run through the tutorial (waiting for the REALLY slow game load each time) several times before I felt comfortable with the game controls. Then I REALLY learned the game with my first scenario. You need to have a good handle on the economic side of things so that you can concentrate on the tactical side and beating the snot out of your opponent. It is well worth the investment of a couple of times through the tutorial, or the initial scenario, to be sure you understand the game interface and economics.

The graphics are quite impressive. You have a ‘camera’ that allows you to view the battlefield from almost any perspective, all under your control. You can watch from a distance or get up close and personal to direct your forces. There are a set of hot keys designed to quickly take you from unit to unit and island to island in a given scenario or campaign. There is a time limit to the turn based portion of the turns, so do not get caught up in the awesome graphics that can best be seen close up, and let your turn run out before you are finished. But DEFINITELY take the time at some point to look at the units up close and view a battle or two up close as the battle graphics are something you do not want to miss.

After building your economic base you then have to take the battle to your enemy. You must extend your energy net to keep pace with your forces as they move forward. Your Klaywor units are large lumbering vehicles that transform into the Energy Relay Posts (ERP) that extend your energy net outwards. The Ants (vehicles not insects) take this energy and recharge and repair your units in the field. These Ants, Klwywors and ERPs are a favorite target of human opponents so guard them well. The placement of these ERPs and the number of Ant units you take with you can well determine your success or failure in a given mission.

This game also has Air and Naval vehicles! You have the capability of forming your units into fighting groups that can be identified and jumped to when necessary. Be cautious on moving these groups of units though, as the AI seems to have a very bad time with using the available movement to the maximum extent possible. It moves the units one at a time and a unit can block the movement of another – yet to be moved – unit. You can get a group of units to where you want several turns ahead of when the AI would get it there for you by commanding them yourself. You can set up travel lanes from your production facilities to the front, but again need to be cautious about having large numbers of units try and move along the pathway at one time.

The amount of information that is available on screen for each unit type is astounding. Click on a foot troop and then bring the mouse cursor over a transport unit and the ‘load’ icon pops up over the vehicle and clicking it will move the foot unit to the vehicle and load it onboard. Each unit has a long green line over it depicting the amount of movement possible. When the green line is gone so is the unit’s movement ability.

In addition there are also one or more small green boxes displayed under this line for units capable of firing on other units. This is the number of ‘shots’ a unit can take in a turn. As the green line goes down so will the number of small green boxes (indicating how many shots are still available). You can move – shoot – and move some more or any combination of the two until the green line is exhausted. And if you leave a unit with a green box at the end of a turn, it will take ‘opportunity fire’ on the first enemy unit to enter its field of fire the next turn.

This game is a lot of fun to play and well deserving of the 4 GiN Gems I have given it. It takes a little time up front to get familiar with all the mechanics of the game, but then the fun begins. I think this one will be staying on my hard drive for a while.

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