Battalion: Nemesis


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Rating: 4.7/5 (124 votes)
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Battalion: Nemesis

PsychotronicIt's been nearly 7 years to the day since Nintendo revolutionized the world of turn-based strategy games with Advance Wars, a candy-colored celebration of military tactics that dared to make war-games fun. Not that games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Civilization weren't fun themselves, mind you, but they were a grueling sort of fun, the kind that involves micro-managing every aspect of your subjects' lives like an obsessive puppet master. The ratio of preparation to actual combat was very low. Advance Wars shook everything up by handing out dozens of disposable soldiers and tanks, making them blow up real good, simplifying the interface to the absolute essentials, and then making everything look ridiculously bright and happy. The result was almost criminally likable, the kind of game that you only put down at 5:00 AM when your Gameboy's batteries finally gave out.

Battalion: NemesisBattalion: Nemesis, from UrbanSquall, is a respectable attempt to translate the fast, accessible brain-play of Advance Wars to the realm of free online games, without directly treading on Nintendo's intellectual property. If you're already familiar with AW, then this will feel like an interesting remix of its concepts. But if this is all totally new to you, then Battalion: Nemesis may very well be the coolest thing you've ever seen.

It's tempting to do a blow-by-blow comparison between Battalion and Advance Wars, but I think that would be unfair to UrbanSquall, who have poured two years of development into this project and made every effort to re-balance it so that it feels like its own game. This is a simplified structure built on Nintendo's groundwork, with a pared-down roster of units, and an emphasis on aggressive tactics and shorter battles. In other words, this is a casual take on Advance Wars. It belongs to the world of free online Flash games, rather than the world of portable consoles.

The gameplay is like a complex version of Rock-Paper-Scissors played out on a chess board, with major emphasis on positioning and choosing the right unit to do the right job. Your Scorpion Tanks, for example, are powerful against a range of enemies and highly mobile, but they are helpless against air attacks. Flak Tanks can easily take down airplanes, but those same Scorpion Tanks will rip them to shreds. In most pairings, one unit will have a definite advantage over the other, but when they are evenly matched, it's important to attack first. Most units will automatically counter-attack, but if you've already half-blown them to bits, they won't have the strength to do much damage.

Combat takes place on a grid. To move or attack, just click once on one of your units to select it, then on the space you'd like to occupy, or the guy you'd like to blow up. Unlike some strategy games, like Advance Wars itself, you don't move and attack with separate commands. All you ever need is two mouse clicks. When you select a unit, the spaces within movement range will be highlighted in green, and the ones in firing range will show up red. An icon will appear over enemies that you can currently attack, indicating how much damage you're likely to do. If you don't want to think too hard, just look for the green "plus" signs.

To scroll the map, either position the cursor near the edge of the screen, or use the [arrow keys]. [Control] selects your next available unit. If you want to know more about any particular unit, select it and then mouse over the icons in the box at the lower right side of the screen. Many units have special characteristics that may not be obvious, like a bonus when the unit is on offense, or the ability to attack submarines.

Those are the basics, but you'll definitely want to play through the 6-level Boot Camp to get a handle on everything. It's important to understand the difference between direct attacks and indirect attacks, and how to use your foot soldiers to capture territory. Even if you're an old Advance Wars veteran, it's worth taking the tour, since there are fundamental differences in the way Battalion approaches some aspects of the game. There are no longer any dedicated transport units, for instance, and captured territories don't automatically heal your army. Instead, every unit can take a turn to heal itself, and ground units can spend cash in order to instantly summon a personal transport vehicle.

Battalion: NemesisA 10-stage original campaign will lead you through battles across land, sea and air. Included are three difficulty levels and a suitably melodramatic storyline involving a rogue commander and experimental technology. The writing is quite good, if a little dry. I wish there had been a stronger central character, and a more defined villain, but really I'm just grateful to have a purpose going into each mission. When I'm facing down a vast network of turrets and rocket trucks, it helps my motivation to know that the fate of millions is at stake.

The difference between difficulty levels is mostly in the intelligence of your computer opponent, although the hardest level also cheats a bit by granting the computer more resources and slightly stronger units. The enemy AI is questionable in some ways (though it's been improved even since the game's original release), but what the computer lacks in brains, it makes up for with sheer numbers. The real problem is the time it takes for the computer to complete its turn on the larger maps. In a game so focused on speed, it's strange to have to wait half a minute for the enemy AI to figure out what units to make at its factories.

The presentation is generally fantastic. The music is an appropriately bombastic affair of drums and horns, and the graphics—by Heli Attack veteran Chris Hildenbrand—are gorgeous, although I actually feel they went overboard in one respect. Each lovingly detailed vehicle has four different facings, and it's hard to tell the difference between the rear view of some units at a glance. It might have been better to return all the units to a side view after they were done moving, since directional facing has no effect on the gameplay.

Hopefully, Battalion: Nemesis will be the first entry in a series. Several aspects of the game are under-utilized at this point, and it would be nice to see a new campaign flesh them out. Most obviously, there are only two air units at this point, and not very many missions take advantage of them. And 10 missions don't really give you enough meat to chew on, or for that matter give the story much time to develop. Of course, wanting the game to go on longer isn't much of a complaint. I'd love to see what UrbanSquall can do now that the game engine is in place and all their time could go towards designing new levels.

The most glaring omission at this point is simply that there's no multiplayer. Give the denizens of the Internet a way to wage cartoonish war upon each other, and UrbanSquall will have a genuine hit on their hands. Throw in a level editor, and it will be out of control.

Play Battalion: Nemesis

33 Comments

tenkuchima Author Profile Page September 8, 2008 2:57 PM

This is a lot like advance wars, but even though I love advance wars, I really don't like this game. It's not a terrible game, but it's like playing a cheap knock off.

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This is the flash game I've been waiting for for years.

I played the first Advance Wars what, 7 years ago, nonstop. Loved it. I've got it my computer, but not at work.

Awesome way to pass the time!!

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Do we really need a novel written to describe each game?

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@Ken:

Reviews are what JiG is all about. The cream of the crop are reviewed so only the best get your attention. If you don't like it don't read the review and simply play the game, or just go to another site (but you'll be missing out!)

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Namelesswonder September 8, 2008 8:54 PM

It's a good game. Although it may take sometime to learn the controls and what this and this does. But it only takes about a few minutes. Campaign can be real frustrating. I can't get past Chapter 8 but I will soon.

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pretty good game, but stuck on chapter 10, any tips would be nice

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just the frustration of having one button to select, move, repair, and deselect a unit. Multiple times I chose the wrong unit but ending up wasting a turn repairing the unit when all i wanted to do was cancel my choice

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I love this game. There is a level 1 on hard walkthrough on youtube BTW.

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I really loved the game, only in the last battle after an hour i accidently hit "back" short before winning, ruining all my progress (damm firefox mouse gestures :-) . The AI is not tremedously good nor extremly bad. It is questionworthy. On maps with equal starting chances like the bonus map it doesn't stand a chance. Otherwise it does seem to adapt to my unit list. Like when I build a lot of cruisers, it will build bombers to take them out. If I build a lot of raptors it builds flak tanks... so it isn't that bad. Also it definetly uses every opportunity to hinder me taking an oil point... its IMHO pretty okay, if its about a flash game, and not the game based version of deep blue.

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There is a multiplayer version of Battalion called Battalion:Freedom, though it uses slightly different play mechanics from Nemesis.

Nemesis is a well made game, but there's just something missing from it. It is Advance Wars pared down to just its essentials, and without the extra dressing it loses some of its charm.

It was fun, but all it really served in doing was make me want to go back and play an actual Advance Wars game.

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I feel silly having to ask this, but i can't figure out how to disembark ground units from a leviathan. I see the option to "unpack", but it just gives me a dialogue that i "can't unpack units on this square". My leviathans are all on coastal squares and obviously can't move onto land squares.
I've got to be missing something simple. My thanks in advance for telling me what it is!

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Nice, very nice game. But I travel to much and am isoloated frm the net to be playing online and would like to be able to download it and play it isolated from the net.

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Sorry for the two posts in a row. I've just answered my own question. Units can only exit a leviathan on a beach square, it seems. I guess the Oil refinery on the island with no beaches is just there to taunt me.

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A note on the length of your reviews, Psychotronic:

Although you are definitely a good writer, I do agree with Ken that they are becoming a bit long. The first longer one was a nice change from the usual fare, but I've stopped reading them in full now that every review has become much longer.

In a blog style format, my attention span is conditioned to a shorter review. My main reason for reading the review is to decide whether or not I should play the game or not.

Now, with games that I'm thinking about buying, I appreciate a longer review because I like to make a more informed decision when I spend my hard earned cash.

Those are my two cents, and it's not meant as a criticism of your writing ability, but rather the appropriateness for this format.

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I personally enjoy Psychotronic's reviews, but for those who don't, my first instinct is just to say, "Well, if you don't like the length, don't read them!"

But that is being a bit flippant and it's easy for me to say that because I actually do like them. After further thought I realize that the commenters above do have a point. After all, on a busy day you might want to just drop by the site for a minute or two, see if the game is worth playing, and maybe bookmark it for later. And if you miss a day or two of reviews (which I often do), reading a number of long reviews can be daunting.

So how about a compromise, one that, considering the effort Psychotronic already puts into his reviews, would require little additional effort? I'm thinking of an "abstract" that can go at the top for those who might not have the time or inclination to read the longer review. For example, for this particular review, I might write an abstract as follows:

"After two years in development, UrbanSquall have released Battalion: Nemesis, their take on Nintendo's turn-based strategy game Advance Wars. B:N is simpler than AW, emphasizing aggressive tactics and shorter battles, which makes it a perfect fit as a casual Flash game. You are put in charge of an array of land, air, and sea units with which to defeat the enemy forces. Each unit has its own special role, with some units performing specific tasks (like capturing structures) and other performing well against specific types of enemies. The game helpfully shows you how much damage a unit is likely to do to an enemy in its range, with a green plus indicating an advantage, a yellow equals sign indicating an even battle, and a red minus sign indicating a disadvantage. The six-level Boot Camp will show you the basics, and the ten-level Campaign has an interesting (if melodramatic) storyline. Graphics and music are exceptional, but the shortage of Campaign levels, under-use of air units, and lack of multiplayer are shortcomings that will hopefully be addressed."

That's 175 words, less than 15% of the 1205-word original. I just whipped that up off the top of my head (and it shows--not my best writing), but with a little extra thought it could probably be pared down to 150 words or less.

That's just an idea. Like I said, I'm fine with the longer reviews, but abstracts might appeal to some.

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Interesting game. It ate up a few hours. The last map in particular is neat because it's more than just a single "wave" fight. The very end has a tiny bit of frustration, but nothing that doesn't make a good plot twist.

My only beef with the game is it interface kinda sucks. It really needs to have a good undo so you can change your plan half way though a long drawn out set-up period.

twinotter

[Edit: Twinotter, if you have a game to suggest, please use the link at the top of this page so it will get the appropriate attention. Thanks! -Pam]

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The one absolutely unforgivable feature of this game: It's designed to take all of your CPU. The little animations of each sprite go as quickly as your CPU lets them, ensuring that this little flash game is the only thing that can comfortably run on your computer at the time.

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Anybody have any hints for level 6? I can't make a dent in it.

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Suho1004,

Do you see the irony of writing such a long post discussing the pros/cons of having long reviews? I couldn't make it through *your* post!

Not picking at anyone here, I just enjoy that sort of irony.

Cheers!

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Ian,

I'm glad my comment amused you, although I'm not quite sure I see the irony. I wasn't really discussing the pros and cons of long reviews. I was simply trying to offer a valid solution to what was perceived by some as a problem. Not everything can be covered in a short, witty comment.

(Apologies to Psychotronic. That's the last off-topic comment I'll make.)

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level 6 blows. ::rage:: the game is decent.

short enough?

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AP, level 6

It's an ambush, they're going to come to you

Look at the landscape. Tanks can't cross mountains. You have a rocket launcher that needs defending. Do you notice anyplace that's hard to attack?

Invisible tanks still follow tank rules, they can't move after they attack. But you can only see them when you have a unit next to them

Park the rocket launcher where there are mountains on three sides. Put a tank on the fourth side and don't move it.
Send out one or two units to "scout" for tanks. If you find some, hit them with the rocket launcher or the other tanks.
They should run out of tanks before you do. Don't extend too far from your "base".

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Is there a comprehensive economics screen? If not, there should be. Why force someone to try to count all of their refineries to try to figure out how much $ is coming in next turn? Also, I wanna build artillery too.

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Much obliged!

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Rex Mario (the 3rd Mario Bro.) Author Profile Page September 10, 2008 11:19 PM

It's been 7 years since Adv. Wars?! I feel like I was just playing it all night and getting no sleep before School in the morning just yesterday!! Well now that I think about it I have been out of High School for 5 or 6 years now so I guess the math does kinda work. But man how Time Flies!! Anyway I love this flash adaptation and can't wait for more levels. Excuse me now I have some Double As to charge and an old game cartrage to dust off!

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Hmmm... I don't believe that this isn't stepping directly on Nintendo's intellectual property. It's such an obvious clone, really.

Would it really be such a bad idea for more games to use hexes instead of a square grid?

I feel that this game is something of a cheap knockoff with some of the deeper strategy removed.

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JonMW obvious cloning is not a copyright infringement. There are have been plently of lawcases on this. (Borland vs. Microsoft to start with, where one mimiked the menu structure of the others so users who switch over feel comfortable..)

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I feel that is IS possible for a person to tread all over intellectual property without being able to be tried in court.

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Level 7 is an invisible nightmare.

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So after getting to the point where I could defeat any level easily, I'm trying to come up with new challenges. My favorite so far is "trying to beat level 7 without building anything".

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Whoa - I just finished playing the first level and was taken to a hidden level. The user plays as spartans and the opponent is just black. No clue how I did it, though.

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