Stepping away from their mini-trilogy of 8-Bit Armies games, Petroglyph have set their eyes on revitalising another retro concept. Rather than pseudo-Command and Conquer or Warcraft-lite, this time it’s one of a few lesser seen ideas: tailored units.
The big selling point behind Forged Battalion is the capacity to take individual components and a single unit type, then combine them into something wholly new. The likes of Relic Entertainment dabbled in this with Impossible Creatures, but Petroglyph are set upon following a machine-based aesthetic, albeit one which allows the player to construct oversized acid-spewing robot ferrets and eight-meter-tall bipedal sniper tanks.
The core gameplay focuses upon the same series of mechanics the genre is famous for. You harvest resources, construct buildings to churn out units, and then send them into battle. There are a few bonus super units atop of these, and even a few orbital strikes. It’s the same song and dance we’ve done a thousand times, but the addition of a tech tree which unlocks individual unit components proves to be a major game changer. It means that, while you can predict the general attacks and styles of enemy tactics, there is far less reliance upon hard counters. You cannot simply predict that an enemy will field and throw at you from a predetermined roster. The basic rock-paper-scissors format instead more generally follows unit types, but the ability to remake them entirely throws a great deal of uncertainty into the mix.
The map layout and core gameplay itself is clearly focusing upon quick and instant battles while reducing the start-up time. This means that you are rarely waiting around for battle, but the inclusion of turrets and sturdier buildings means that turtling is a viable option. That being said, many aspects are still undercooked here. The building roster itself is very limited, with only a few structures available at the moment, meaning you will often fall into the same initial building routine one game after another. Furthermore, the actual super weapons themselves are alarmingly underpowered, and lack the ability to deal serious damage to an enemy army.
This is very much a work in progress, as is the case with all Early Access releases. However, there are already signs of this shaping up to be a solid take on an old idea which has rarely been done right. Between a remarkably intuitive AI, the sheer variety of unit combinations and a focus upon rewarding tactics besides Starcraft-style early game rushes, Forged Battalion is set to be another success. With an expected release later this year, RTS fans should definitely keep an eye on this one as it develops.
(No score given, due to the under-development nature of the game.)
FORGED BATTALION / DEVELOPER: PETROGLYPH / PUBLISHER: TEAM 17 DIGITAL LTD / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (EARLY ACCESS)