Mobile Gaming: Battle Academy Preview
Scott Parrino literally gets his hands on the iPad version of the upcoming Battle Academy. Soon to be released, does it remain faithful to the original?
Playing a dyed-in-the-wool strategy game, both for PC and in the tabletop medium, usually involved one thing: sitting at a desk (or table). That is where you led your troops, maneuvered your cavalry, directed your air strikes, called in your reinforcements, planned your offensive, etc. The problem was that if a player had to leave, that is where their game stayed. The player’s opponent would have to wait for the player to come back to play their turn, like a faithful and loyal dog.
This writer knows that there are several strategy games out there on portable platforms such as the PlayStation Portable, the Nintendo DS, and yes, even laptops can be considered a portable platform. The iPad though comes in to steal the show, however, when it joins forces with Slitherine and Matrix Games’ Battle Academy.
With the combined effort, strategy game fans now have complete portability for the fun and challenging Battle Academy. The top feature this writer has uncovered (besides the game being scaled and ported to the iPad in a well-done fashion) is the ability for multiplayer games to be played on the PC (or Mac) and then brought to the iPad. Perfect for the grognards that don’t want to let a family trip ruin a perfectly good flanking maneuver or wrap a nail-biting defense against an opponent. While unfortunately there is no option for this cross-platform portability for singleplayer, this is a great step for those that were looking for this multiplayer option. At the time of this writing, this writer wasn’t able to test out the PC-to-iPad multiplayer function.
With the above out of the way, we can now focus on the game itself. This writer will be honest; he was genuinely impressed with the iPad version of Battle Academy. Battle Academy for the iPad isn’t a scaled-down, modified game that is Battle Academy in name only, it truly is the full game, just on the iPad. The campaigns such as the Western Desert Campaign, Battle of the Bulge, Battle for Normandy and the add-ons Blitzkrieg France, Operation Market Garden and Operation Sealion are present in all their glory. While understandably that the iPad cannot handle the higher-end graphics that PCs and Macs can output, it can certainly handle the gameplay and fun of its plugged-to-the-wall competitors.
The AI is still as challenging as ever, not exactly the “pulling your hair until you’re as bald as Bozo the Clown” but neither a complete and utter push-over. The option for an “easy mode” still remains in the iPad version, which is a great option for those that want to start getting their feet wet into strategy gaming. (This writer did not opt for “easy mode”.)
Since the iPad does not come outfitted to be paired with a mouse, the scary thought of using fingers to control the battlefield can be a daunting task. Gone is the precise control of the deft mouse, the glorious scrollwheel, and the satisfaction of hearing the ‘click’ of sending orders from the mouse button, right? Wrong! The control scheme is a very easy and even fun implementation for Battle Academy for the iPad. Players select units by touching the screen where it is at, with zoom function tied to “pinching” the screen and rotating it – which this writer has found out to be the fun part – by keeping on finger still and rotating another around it. It took a few turns to get used to but after that it was smooth sailing and became second nature. There might be some issues with those that aren’t too precise with their fingers; in that regard there are numerous iPad pens that easily get the job done.
Past strategy games on the iPad have this issue of not doing confirm-order presses. Accidentally touching a hex or an order with a knuckle (or a dog’s nose) can be frustrating as a unit is sent out on a wayward path or to its certain death to cannons that have the advantageous position. Luckily, Battle Academy for the iPad requires a second press on the screen to confirm a move, attack, etc, preventing any accidental mishaps.
Graphically Battle Academy for the iPad is pretty decent for being converted to work on the tablet. The iPad version uses the same graphics from the original game on the PC, with some minor differences such as shadows being diasabled, particle effects having fewer particles displayed, and some minor grass detail has been removed. Even in the preview build, there is no stuttering or lag or any loss of animation or effects. Those that try to nitpick in making direct comparisons from the PC to the tablet and in turn feel that they’re being robbed in the graphical aspect aren’t the real wargame type.
The sound carries over from the PC in good quality. The peppy and instrumental soundtrack is present, as is the full range of combat sounds and battle chatter. A pair of headphones and relaxing in a comfortable chair is more than enough for a sensory enjoyment experience, which is a great thing. That seems to be the whole attitude of Battle Academy for the iPad, nothing is truly lost and a lot is gained in going to tablet form.
It’s about time strategy games start coming to the iPad in surefire form. The technology here is a wonderful thing and combining all the positives and keeping the negatives to a minimum is something that all gamers should be looking forward to. While nothing will truly replace the camaraderie of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow grognards at a table, surveying chits on a map, or seeing the whole battlemap for the Market Garden operation on a large high-definition monitor, having the comfort to take the battle to your recliner or keeping in touch with your opponent without having to be glued to one medium is undoubtedly a welcoming aspect in tablet wargaming.
Battle Academy for the iPad is releasing soon, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it flies off the digital shelf as much as it did as it originally released on the PC and Mac.
Preview written by: Scott Parrino, Editor in Chief