Battle Worlds: Kronos – Review
Follow Genre: Turn based strategy
Developer: King Art Games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, iOS
Tested on: Switch

Battle Worlds: Kronos – Review

Site Score
2.5
Good: Harkens back to the classic strategy games of the 90s
Bad: Flawed game design
User Score
2.5
(4 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.5/10 (4 votes cast)

Promoting itself as a spiritual successor to the classic strategy game Battle Isle, the Kickstarter-funded Battle Worlds: Kronos makes its way to Nintendo Switch, more than five years after its initial release on PC. The Switch isn’t lacking in turn-based strategy games, with titles like Valkyria Chronicles and Wargroove, but none of those venture into a futuristic sci-fi setting the way Battle Worlds: Kronos does. Whether the game has anything to offer to the turn-based strategy genre other than a thematic shift is a different story altogether

Story

The planet of Kronos is host to a strange tradition: when the emperor dies, the four factions that inhabit Kronos will go to war to determine the successor. To do so, a faction needs to conquer the twelve holy temples and light a fire on each temple simultaneously. The faction that can do this will appoint the new emperor of Kronos.

Unfortunately, the previous time this happened, one of the four factions, the House of Telit, decided to use the nuclear option and nearly blew up the planet. This meant a mass exodus – the people on Kronos that could afford it fled to a neighbouring planet, Rhea – the new emperor among them.

Two centuries have passed and despite several attempts to prolong his life, the emperor has passed away. The 200 years that passed apparently weren’t enough time to come up with a new election process, so the fleets of each of the four houses -the aforementioned House of Telit, the Residents, the Order of the Lumati and Yerla Inc.- return to Kronos, desperate to fight to become the faction that delivers the new emperor.

This is the basic setup for the campaign: after all, you need to fight for something. At times, the story feels like an afterthought, and to be honest, the game doesn’t really need it either. The important parts are delivered in cutscenes, with more details given through mission briefs and pop-up dialogue delivered by static sprites.

Graphics

Boasting hexagon-grid maps and units that feel like the 2D-sprites of the old days, despite being rendered in 3D, the game looks like a modern version of a 90s strategy game, which is the intent of the developers. If you ever played RTS games, like Command & Conquer or Total Annihilation, seeing Battle Worlds: Kronos is sure to make you feel nostalgic for those games.

Units are color-coded, so at a glance, it is obvious which unit belongs to what faction, although it can be difficult to tell units of one’s own faction apart as sometimes they do look rather similar in appearance. Flying over the map feels smooth, and most of the time the framerate feels stable although when there is a lot of action on screen, lag and frame drops can be quite common.

Cut scenes are another thing entirely: human models look dated and blocky with very robotic expressions and rooms feel large but empty, although shots of fleets moving through space can be awe-inspiring.

Sound

Just like the graphics, the sound design stays true to the spirit of the 90s, with short sound clips used for things like moving units, gunshots etcetera. That said, environmental sounds make the map feel alive, with the sounds of crashing waves and seagulls providing ambience when water is nearby for example -although one would imagine those birds not sticking around when an army chooses to rage war in their territory.

The musical soundtrack itself is quite understated and mostly limited to cutscenes and menus. Although the music is intended to feel epic at times, it is also forgettable -chances are you won’t be listening to the tracks outside of the game.

Voice acting is a mixed bag -some of the actors will attempt to convey genuine emotion, the leader of House Telit being a good example – but unfortunately, other voices feel so dishonest or fall flat that you won’t really engage with these characters.

Gameplay

Turn-based strategy games that were built for PC first and foremost can be hit or miss in their execution when ported to a console, and Battle Worlds: Kronos feels like a mixed bag as a result. It’s difficult to assess whether this is a bad port or if the port itself was done right but the design of the game was clunky to start with.

For the most part, it does seem like the flaws inherent to Battle Worlds: Kronos are by design. This is evidenced by how smoothly things like the Switch touch screen were implemented. Ports from PC to console tend to suffer from a poor control scheme in general: micromanagement is just easier with a mouse and keyboard setup. However, the feeling you get when playing this game on Switch isn’t that the controls themselves are bad but that some of the game design choices were.

It’s never a good sign if a game patronizes the player, yet Battle Worlds: Kronos does this right off the bat. When you load the tutorial, you are greeted by a message informing you that the game is difficult, but fair if you pay attention to the tutorial. This is fair. What isn’t fair though (and what sets the tone) is that you are then prompted to tell the game that yes, you will pay attention to the tutorial three times before you even get to take your first action on the battlefield.

After this, you are taken to the tutorial map and this is where you get your first taste of a game that unfortunately suffers from several issues: controlling your army seems counterintuitive at times and the interface feels both limited and cluttered at the same time. Relevant information regarding units on screen is hidden behind menus, and unlike most turn-based strategy games, there is no “undo” button, which seems like an odd design choice as you still need to confirm the end of your turn.

This is taken further in buildings and creating extra units: you are never given enough information and -especially in the beginning- you won’t even know what building will provide what unit until you see that unit spawn.

Battle Worlds: Kronos makes a lot of promises. It promises an easy-to-learn but difficult to master game, which is the formula every strategy game strives for. It promises an engaging sixty-hour campaign where you will face several enemies and will experience both sides of war, and it promises several possible playstyles. That final promise, sadly, feels the emptiest. Every faction uses the exact same units -explained in the game by the fact that they all purchase their gear from the same weapons manufacturer- with one exception: each army has a single unique unit that only they can use in battle.

Unfortunately, for a game that calls itself a strategy game, there is not a whole lot of strategy involved: the AI applies the same tactics on every map and will rush you with a seemingly near-infinite supply of units. Your best bet is to complete the map as fast as possible, with not a whole lot of creative freedom or coming up with different ways and strategies to win a map. It often feels like the only way to beat the game is to railroad and play it exactly the way the developer intended with very little margin of error or room for improvisation. For example, moving a unit simply to scout of the battlefield is a no-go, as a move action can only be done once, regardless of distance. Since a unit can only move as far as it can see, this means that you’re often forcing your expendable units to rush forward to lure out enemy units, who will be the first to attack most of the time.

This proves to be a repetitive and frustrating experience – you will find yourself replaying the same map over several times until you either happen upon the strategy the developers wanted you to employ or you simply give up and remind yourself there are better strategy games out there.

Conclusion

It’s hard to recommend Battle Worlds: Kronos on Switch to anyone but those that are really desperate for a turn-based strategy game on Switch -and if you are, keep in mind that there is a new Fire Emblem on the horizon. The issues with the limited AI could be avoided by engaging with other real players but even then you’re still stuck with a counterintuitive control scheme and a confusing, cluttered interface.

 

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Rating: 2.5/10 (4 votes cast)
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Battle Worlds: Kronos - Review, 2.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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