War Tapes Hell Awaits06 Mar 2015 0
In his semi-regular column War Tapes, Jake Tucker takes a look at the Slitherine – Hunted Cow Studio cooperation Hell – a fantasy wargame development of the successful Battle Academy 2 game engine. As this has just been released on iPad now may be a good time to have another look at it.
Most games I cover for The Wargamer have a realistic setting, so thematically Hell is a breath of fresh air. A turn based strategy of good vs. evil, with armoured paladins facing off against abominable hellspawn.
There’s a steady stream of hardcore wargames but they tend to focus on real world theatres or alternate history scenarios. This makes Hell somewhat unique in that it transplants some of those “hardcore” sensibilities across to a unique setting.
The game is out for both iPad and PC and should have cross platform multiplayer, but everything discussed below is from the Steam release for PC.
You can control both paladins and hellspawn through their own 10 mission campaign, with the ‘Order of the Radiance’ battling to defend mankind from the invading demons, while the forces of Hell battle to deal with the orders retaliation. There are small attempts at humour along the way, but without giving too much away, it’s played fairly straight.
It’s built on the engine for Slitherine’s series Battle Academy but is at more of a skirmish level with maps being compact and combat small scale. I really loved some of the area control mechanics present in the game and felt that it enabled you to try some different tactics; unfortunately trying to be smart is where I encountered problems. After 2-3 levels I learnt the only real way to proceed was to group my men up into big mob and then get combat advantage and flanking on each enemy before focus firing them down. If you try anything else you can quickly be overwhelmed and the developers have seen fit to balance the enemies low accuracy ranged attacks by allowing them to be used twice a turn - the problem with this is that when the stars align you can quickly lose 1-2 soldiers in a turn. This will more often than not irrevocably damage your chances in the mission. This can happen no matter how safe you’re being so the best way to mitigate this risk is to mob up so that the AI will target randomly. Doing this limits your options suitably.
This isn’t so much the case when playing as the denizens of Hell themselves, but if you give me the chance to play a righteous paladin then that’s what I’m going to want to do. It’s a much tougher campaign fighting through hell but the area control mechanics really come into play and you start thinking about your positioning to stop yourself getting surrounded. You have a wealth of low accuracy troops that you can focus, so instead of pulling my forces together I found I’d try to stagger them out loosely around a target and do enough damage to bring them down.
Things change as you progress through the campaign. Bigger demons, battle priests and some other neat stuff I don’t want to spoil. There’s a wealth of statistics that can you can dive into if you’re that way inclined, but they’re tucked away at the start and even after a few hours of play I didn’t really use them much. You quickly get a feel for your units capabilities and combat can be swung by elements like elevation, veterancy and zones of control, so I mostly just played it by ear.
This probably explains why I’m so bad at it.
All things considered though, I didn’t enjoy Hell much. Often I felt like the game was treating me unfairly or a roll of some invisible dice had cheated victory out of my grasp.
In the positives, the story seems to be a string of one trope after another, but hammy fantasy is woven into the tapestry of Hell so you can still have a good time. I had a lot of fun with the setting. If they stick with the world and flesh it out a little more they could probably turn this into a memorable franchise, but at the moment there’s not much to recommend this over Battle Academy.
Since Jake wrote this piece Hell is currently being sold at the special offer price of $10.00/£7.99 until the end of this weekend – now could be a good time to give the game a go for yourself if you are so inclined.