Wargaming finds a new home on the iPad.
Shortly after purchasing my first generation iPad I began to ask if anyone knew of an honest to goodness wargame for the device. At the time, the answer from most strategy oriented gaming studios was that they had ‘big plans’ for iOS. Years have passed, and while we have seen plenty of Risk clones and a few smaller standout experiences, I have yet to play anything on the scale of Battle Academy for the iPad.
A turn-based, top-down battle experience with grid based movement, Battle Academy isn’t too far removed from a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Further parallels with D&D include attacks of opportunity, along with a heavy emphasis on attack probability and unit positioning. It shouldn’t be a surprise then, to hear that games such as D&D and its modern counterparts such as Tactics Ogre are all descendants of wargaming.
Players won’t encounter any elves or goblins in the game’s WWII setting, though, this is a tactical wargame filled with tanks, machine guns and airstrikes. Battle Academy takes place over a series of historical campaigns, with the option of downloading more via IAP or as free user generated content created in the PC version. The iPad title is actually a faithful adaptation of of the previously released PC game, and players can even engage in cross-platform multiplayer matches with those who already own Battle Academy for their desktop.
iPad users won’t be at a disadvantage in these matches, either, because the game looks and controls beautifully on all versions of Apple’s tablet. Double tap on a unit and you are well on your way to selecting a tile to move to, rotating your unit to prevent flanking, attacking an enemy, assaulting a building, or providing suppressive fire on an entrenched enemy group to cover your advance. While there is intense tactical depth in Battlefield Academy, the controls won’t get in your way.
This definitely isn’t a game for those who want instant action, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of considerate unit positioning and careful advances. Most of the time, your shots will not hit; it is never a sure thing that your move into enemy territory will lead to your anticipated degree of success. Unit types also play an important role. While it may be easy to quickly jump into the fray with the lightly armored Stuart tank, a hasty attack on a spotted transport that left my tank exposed and alone yielded the expected deadly results. The varying types of terrain are yet another factor in your success, as different levels of cover, elevation and ground consistency all have drastically different tactical implications.
This penchant for punishment can leave some players frustrated, but going back to that same battle with a measured approach will be intensely rewarding. Battle Academy manages to be challenging without turning into a puzzle game, there isn’t just one approach that will work. Your agonizing over which building to hide your engineer in, or which tank to place at the tip of your advance will pay off. All of the lessons learned apply in the game’s multiplayer mode- which pits players against one another in a play by mail skirmish.
Battle Academy is a welcoming but challenging experience. While not everyone will be able to enjoy this wargame, it clearly does not try to be a game that everyone would love to play. This is a deep and thought provoking experience, and not one to be missed.
Battle Academy is available for the iPad at $19.99