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|17 DEC 2010 at 12:34am|
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Posted In: Articles : PC Game Review
Developer: Bandera Games
Website: Battle Dex
At first glance, Battle Dex may look like a 3D version of the handheld strategy game classic Advance Wars, but that is where most of the similarities end. Where as Advance Wars was based on the ?You go, I go? play scheme, Battle Dex changes it up by utilizing the same mechanic that is used in the popular Combat Mission, known as the ?Wego? system. Combine a hexagon-tiled map and the use of collectible cards to upgrade and enhance units or hinder the enemy and you get Battle Dex.
Battle Dex is very easy to get into with a bevy of singleplayer missions that can help refine and earn you various cards to use in combat against your real enemy: other players. Battle Dex?s main mode of gameplay is pitting you against other players in various situations, be it free for all, teams or if you are tired of losing to skilled players, co-op against enemy AI. The downside of playing against other players is that there is going to be a learning curve against you until you get the hang of how combat and cards work. Luckily the community is quite helpful and has some in-depth information on strategies, units, maps and its own Wiki page.
Matches are won in one of two ways: by either capturing control points until one of the players reaches the limit or destruction of the enemy headquarters. On the map there are resource buildings that can be captured to increase the amount of gold you receive each turn. Gold is very important as it not only is used to purchase units, but to use the cards in your deck. Here is where strategy kicks in, do you use a card to boost a unit?s stats or use the gold to buy some units?
The cards themselves can be a mixed bag in several ways. The worst is going up against someone with a rather powerful card that can easily turn the tide of the fight their way. While some cards are rare or ultra rare, they are not totally offset by their price. This can be frustrating if you are unprepared. The positive side is that most of the cards (the common ones) are helpful for newer players, such as ones that repair units or get them out of harm?s way. Additional decks can be purchased or earned.
The units themselves each have their use and generally have a unit that they are strong and weak against. For example, infantry are not really powerful and can be easily chewed up by artillery and recon units, but they are the only unit that can capture points or resource points. Helicopters are strong against ground units but cannot defend themselves against other air units such as aircraft. Keeping units under the protection of others is paramount very rarely can one lone unit survive against a group.
As mentioned before, the turn system is based on the ?Wego? system. For those that are unfamiliar with it, at the start of your orders phase, you tell your units to move or prioritize enemy units. Once both sides have finished giving their orders, the units will carry them out within that timeframe. Your heavy tank may run into a recon unit and fire at it, but the recon unit?s orders may tell it to keep going elsewhere. All of this unfurls as you watch and you are unable to interfere until the action phase is done. This type of gameplay can take some getting used to as it requires some thought to plan ahead. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes rewarding to watch your light tank flank around as your artillery lobs shells at a newly spotted and idle infantry unit.
The art direction definitely leans towards a 3D Advance Wars style. The units and buildings are not drawn to scale but each unit has its own animation. A minor nitpick is that shells from tanks and artillery do not exit from their cannon but from the center of the body itself. Brush that issue aside and players will enjoy the varied style in the maps; from jungles to snowscapes to forested areas. Players can also zoom and rotate their view to their desire if need be. This review of Battle Dex was done on a HP Mini notebook, which handled the game wonderfully without any major issues aside from the main menu not fitting entirely due to the limited screen size. Those with laptops and older computers shouldn?t have to worry about Battle Dex taxing their system.
The sound is your standard fare of gunfire and explosions. It isn?t too varied but the sound quality is decent and doesn?t offend the ears. Throughout the battle you?ll hear units call out enemies that are spotted or if they?re taking major damage. The banter isn?t too campy and you?ll get a chuckle or two from some witty comments.
Unfortunately Battle Dex is done entirely online. There is no offline mode, which can be a huge hassle for those on spotty wireless or just not connected at all. At the time of this writing there doesn?t seem to be any plans to patch in offline play.
All in all Battle Dex is a very fun strategy game. It is great for those that want a basic strategy game with some frills, but nothing too deep. It is a great trainer for those that are looking to get into the Combat Mission series, as it does utilize the ?Wego? turn system. The collectible card aspect can be frustrating against seasoned players, but it does add an additional strategic element that is rewarding for those that plan ahead. It isn?t graphically complicated and while not as detailed as some current 3D strategy games, does not fail in maintaining the atmosphere of gameplay. Those looking for something deeper and with an offline feature may not want to check out the title.
For those that play Battle Dex and enjoy the competition, Bandera Games does host tournaments with cash prizes. The grand prize is $30,000 with other tournaments being a few thousand.
Review written by: Scott Parrino
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