Battle Worlds: Kronos Review
Release Date: June 11th, 2019
Publisher: THQ Nordic Developer: KING Art
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Kronos starts off with a beautiful but unnecessary and cheesy cut-scene that sets the narrative that warring factions are vying to, wait for it, control the galaxy. (Obligatory Game of Thrones reference goes here.) In practice, Kronos really just uses this setup to give a brief rationale for the war you are about to lead and to point you in the general direction of the enemy. It's a bit over done but this caused a short, but happy, flashback to old games like Command & Conquer, so we can forgive the initial cheese. Getting started was a bit frustrating. The menus are more than a bit confusing and the tutorial was downright patronizing explaining, “The developers decided to make this game hard, but you should stick with it!” This was so annoying that by the time I actually started playing the game, I was trying to invent snappy but critical observations to include in my review.
This changed when the battle began. This crew knows jack about menu and interface design, but they know their way around a wargame. The map is easy to understand, pretty and has ACTUAL HEXs on it! All you darned kids don’t remember these, but they tell you precisely what space your unit is in, Just like on the paper and dice wargames we played back in the Third age of gaming, right after the asteroid destroyed the second generation of consoles. You can zoom in and pull back to your heart's content, and the maps are quite well done; despite the retro feel, they aren’t trying to replicate 8-bit graphics here. It’s easy to distinguish units from one another and tell who is firing and when they are hit. The interface needs a bit of work when laying mines or moving units from factory building into combat, for example, but generally straightforward and accessible.
As promised by the nimrod in the tutorial, the combat is challenging, and there is a lot of welcome variety in the missions. Just like real life, you are often outgunned and outnumbered. I also remember a battle that resulted in me being chased across the map like I just stole Chuck Norris’s TV on football night. Even when evenly match you need to pay attention to your terrain just like if you let yourself get flanked or fail to provide over-watch you're gonna have a bad time. This is a higher level of tactical gameplay than I’ve seen in years, again reminding me of desperate battles won and lost on paper maps with little paper counters. There are certainly some good strategy games on the PC, but this is on my 9-year-old’s Switch, and I’ve yet to see a “real” wargame on any console. My only real criticism apart from the interface is the AI. It seems to run through a library of reasonable but predictable moves, and after a few battles, the sharp-eyed general will begin to be able to anticipate the AI.
Multiplayer on the Switch was a pleasant surprise as well with a well-executed “hot seat” mode that plays surprisingly well on the touch screen when undocked. My only observation here is that the controls used when docked are necessarily different than when in touch mode, and this is a bit of a struggle at first.
Bottom line, Battle Worlds Kronos is a unique and surprisingly well executed tactical game. I honestly think I prefer to play on the PC (Get off my lawn!), but it’s also nice to play hot seat on the big screen on simply sit back and heckle while someone else plays.
Excellent overall design
Good mission design and variety
Poorly designed Menus
AI becomes predictable with experience