Back to the Battle Academy

By Nik Gaukroger 31 Jul 2014 0

A couple of weeks ago we teased you with a notice that Battle Academy 2 was on the way and that we?d do a preview as soon as we could; well here it is.

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Firstly we should note that Battle Academy 2 has been available for some time on an Early Access Programme so quite a few players will have already got their hands on the game. It also means that the preview copy we were provided with is, we believe, fairly close to what will be the final release version. Certainly there were no stability issues or obvious glitches; it feels to me that the developers must be at the stage of game balance, scenario creation (and balance), and final polish. Hopefully there will be a release date announce soon.

Secondly I would note that v2 is very much an evolution from the original and not a revolution; it is reassuringly familiar in many, indeed most ways, so getting up and running for players of BA1 is simplicity itself ? not that it was ever a difficult game to get into. That said you do immediately notice that the updated game has had a serious makeover, as you will see from the screenshots below. It has lost some of the ?cartoonish? look of the original game and is now more ?serious? in look and feel. No doubt this will help BA2 get the attention of some gamers who did not like the look of BA1 because of that ?cartoonish? look. Whilst I personally did not mind the look of BA1, I much prefer that of BA2. Additionally I?ve found the background music to be more ?serious? as well, however, that may be because of the Eastern Front inspired theme ? the Soviets did like their solemn music ?

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Which leads me onto note the setting ? the Eastern Front from Operation Barbarossa through Operation Bagration; with the press preview copy covering just Bagration. The full game will see you start playing as the Germans as they invade the Soviet Union, and then switch over to the Soviets as they push the invaders out of the Motherland with 4 campaigns covering this progression. Obviously the hardware available changes quite dramatically over time, and by the end King Tigers and IS-2?s provide some seriously hard tanks to use or deal with.

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This second iteration of Battle Academy introduces a number of new features. The main ones are:

Partial damage ? a unit isn?t just fully functional or destroyed anymore; they can suffer partial damage which affects how they operate. This partial damage can be light or heavy and the categories I?ve seen are: immobilised, secondary weapons disabled, main weapons disabled, reduced visibility, reduced action points. These certainly add to the game, but can really frustrate your plans as I found in the scenario where one of my tanks suffer a hit which knocked out its guns just when I needed it to force the pace; great ?

Smoke ? dead useful this one; as you?d expect it lays down a smoke barrage that obscures line of sight so your troops can be safe from the enemy (hopefully), it disperses over time and this is not uniform over the barrage which is a nice touch. Smoke can be available from an ?off table? artillery barrage, from some tanks, from on field artillery or from some categories of troops (e.g. sappers). Takes some getting used to using but can be vital in scenarios where you have to attack a tough defensive position (and there are a few of those ?).

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Trenches ? affect how line of sight works as well as providing cover; you need to look along them to see the enemy properly.

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Barbed wire ? stops infantry moving; tanks flatten it, however.

Air superiority ? as well as air strikes there are now air fights to determine who has air superiority which then allows you more freedom of air actions for 3+ turns.

There is also a new Skirmish Mode which is fully integrated into the game. This sets up a random battlefield for you to fight a single game over. You have quite a lot of control over what you get here such as: force size, battlefield size, type of battle, Axis or Allies and the like. This feature is, for me, one of the real highlights of BA2 and I?ve wasted, sorry spent, quite a few lunch times playing a small skirmish mode random game ? with mixed success ?

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One thing I did notice when working my way through the Bagration campaign is that the individual scenarios within it are still very much stand alone, even though they tell a story as you go along. Units do not carry over. Another thing about the scenarios is that some of them are pretty big, bigger than most I played in BA1, and also can run for a larger number of turns ? in BA1 usually 20 was about the max, however, BA2 has some with 30 as the time limit. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on you the individual; personally I liked it although it did eat up an alarming amount of time.

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So in conclusion what do I think?  Bearing in mind this is a preview and not a full blown review - although to be honest I?ve probably played enough for a full review which should tell you something ? I?d say that Battle Academy 2 is a winner. The evolution is good and has added plenty enough to the original game for it to be well worth getting even for the most hardened BA1 aficionado. And now if you?ll excuse me, I?m off to set up just one more skirmish mode game ?

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