Battle Nations has a lot going for it, great art, simple combat and the Steam version has Team Fortress 2 characters. On the surface this is a Farmvillian ‘click harvest’ sort of game that wants you to buy micro currency called nano pods. These nano pods let you finish tasks instantly instead of waiting X amount of seconds, minutes or hours. You can also buy the good units with nano pods. If you don’t want to buy nano pods, you can slowly get them, maybe one per level you achieve.
With that out of the way, this game sets itself apart from other click to harvest games by having simple tactical strategy combat. Its your army vs enemies. Before each battle, you pick X amount of soldiers and place them on the battle grid. For the most part, on your side, each grid seems to be 3 rows of 5 with the last row only having 3. Each type of unit / soldier has a different attack range and pattern. Some troops can only attack the first row of enemies. Others can attack up to two rows. Some units can attack the entire row or every enemy on the grid as long as its not being obscured. There are fire units that cause burn damage as the battle goes on. If all of your units are out of ammo or ‘cooling down,’ you can ‘pass’ a turn.
Once the battle starts, the units cannot be moved. When a row of units has been cleared, the rows move up. So when the front line dies, the next line becomes the new front line. Combat is turn based. You go once, then the enemy goes, then you go. Like a game of chess where you only do one attack instead of a RPG that might have your entire party take a turn before the enemy gets its turn. Each attack has a cool down that lasts one or two turns. Its a very simple system. Easy for kids, easy to play. The enemy AI seems random. They won’t make intelligent attack patters like this unit is hurt, let’s finish him off!
When a unit is ‘injured’ (finished off), you will need to visit your hospital and admit them into the hospital. Its not just automatic. It just feels like an extra clicking process, when really the game could just have a courtesy to put them into the hospital for you even if it takes X number of minutes to fully heal them. Units that are not ‘injured’ get full health for the next battle, which is great. It seems like a courtesy when everything is click heavy.
When units get enough experience from battles, they can be promoted (leveled up), which takes X amount of hours. Once upgraded, they have improved stats, other bonuses and even additional attacks. It adds some nice depth to a simple game and rewards players who put in the time or nano pods.
If you’d like a real combat challenge, eventually the game will let you post a battle flag so you can have Player vs Player. In PvP each player gets 20 seconds to take a turn, which keeps the battle active. When you’ve used a unit in a Player vs Player battle, you can no longer use that unit for X number of hours until they ‘return,’ but if you use nano pods… This makes a need to buy more units from your barracks and pay nano pods for the better units. If you accomplish a mission while in a player vs player battle it kicks you out of the battle, denying you a victory bonus. The plus side is that if a unit dies in battle against another player, you don’t need to restore them from the hospital. They just come back with the others fully healed.
It is player vs player that I enjoy, that keeps me coming back every 2+ hours to play it. Facing real people and having to chose, do I make an A+ team to take on an unknown team and have only C units for my next team? Or do I make two B+ teams for two battles? Usually I can win the first two battles, before my good units are used up. The good units are the ones that cost nanopods, but the game gives you one or so of each good unit, so you know just how good they are compared to the rest. When those good units die outside of player vs player, they cost a lot of gold + metal to heal them in the hospital. With that in mind, I rarely use my good units in non PvP.
Now that I’ve covered the actual game part, let me cover the ‘click harvest’ half of the game. It feels like every other click harvest game. You have an ‘Outpost’ and several types of buildings. You have expand your land, setup military buildings, shops, homes, resource gathering and place decorations. Homes (camps, houses) will increase your worker capacity and get you gold from ‘taxes.’ Decorations will boost resources you gather from nearby buildings. Such as flowers will get you 8% more gold from surrounding homes. Military buildings like Barracks, factories and so on will build units. Resources will let you gather things like stone, lumber and oil. Having gardens, raising crops, tool shops, building tools and bakeries baking goods will all get you gold. The problem is you need to click to harvest the output of ea in X amount of hours.
All buildings can be upgraded, but you can only upgrade one building at a time, unless you use nano pods. Upgrading buildings makes them more efficient and gives higher output. Clicking things seems a lot like busy work and that’s part of the fun of building your own outpost, because you took the time to get it. Sure you can sink a lot of time into this game, Farmville or the Simpsons, but there’s a certain point where it becomes too demanding like a bad habit.
I’ve been playing 5+ hours and I still haven’t gotten to any Team Fortress 2 characters. They reserve those characters for level 10 players. Want to know how I know? It will tell you with full screen billboards. Not just billboards for those characters, but full page ads saying for $5 you get X amount of nano pods and we’ll throw in 10,000 gold! These billboards appear frequently and I need to click ‘no thanks.’ I started taking screenshots of them and I wonder if Steam will bust me for screenshots of spam, when its in game.
The game also seems a little crash heavy, I’ve got 3 computers that I play this on and while some crashes seem to be random, it crashes pretty consistently when I try to view detailed information on a unit. If others are having this problem, it can prevent them from getting beyond level 6.
The character art is a high point of this game and goes a long way to make me enjoy it anymore. With every new objective, you’ll read short lines of dialog from them and after you complete an objective, you’ll read more brief dialog and see what you earned. To be honest, I didn’t read the dialog when there’s an easy to follow objective list bluntly telling you, build this, upgrade that, visit here and battle that. The dialog seems needless and just more clicking even if they could be reciting the best lines you’ve ever heard. The mission list is easy to follow, but after you click a mission, to open the objectives, then you need to close the list and do it, when the game could easily just have a button to instantly do it so you don’t need to exit and find it. Of course if there was some easy click button it would cost nano pods.
In the future I’d appreciate easier clicking so I don’t have to scroll around to find everything and click on it. Any developer could easily make a long list of ‘countdowns’ so that I can easily see what’s doing what and a harvest everything button that has been cooled down, but again that would probably cost nano pods to do something so courteously easy for the player. I guess being convenient for a player doesn’t generate revenue.
In all, there is an actual game here its not just click to harvest, but there are other click harvest games and other tactical strategy games that seem deeper with better AI. It will keep you coming back day after day to harvest things and play, but make you feel like you’re missing out when you don’t have the better units that cost nano pods. The game gives you good units, but if you want more of those good units, you’ll need nano pods. Without the potential for Team Fortress 2 characters, I would have lost interest.