Battle Isle 2
The words strategic, wargame and hex-grid have been known to send many game players heading rapidly in the opposite direction. Combined in a single sentence they can be upsetting enough to cause permanent emotional trauma. So if I say to you that Battle Isle 2 is a hex-grid based strategic wargame you may feel the urge to rip the next few pages from your issue and incinerate them before any real psychological damage is done.
But then again, you might not, and the reason for that will be either (a) you are the sort of sad individual who can quote the vital statistics of just about any piece of war merchandise in existence, or (b) that a few years ago you somehow found yourself playing the original Battle Isle, and, even more surprisingly, found that you enjoyed it.
Its not that a few years ago a number of apparently normal games players suddenly discovered that they had closet tendencies to play strat... er, sorry... you know what, its simply that Blue Byte had managed to so something that no sane and normal person thought possible: to make a... thingy... that was accessible, absorbing, and, yes, dammit, fun!
Battle Isle and its sequel are both set in an alternate future universe in which rival factions slug it out across land, air and sea. The weapons and units used in these battles are all logical extensions of current military technology; so foot soldiers are replaced by robots, and tanks and gunboats have become faster and more sophisticated.
The game can be played either against the computer or another human opponent. The former takes the form of a campaign in which the player must win a set of increasingly difficult and more complex scenarios. To begin with, only a few units are available but, in time, more powerful units come into play.
Like any other wargame, each unit has different strengths and weaknesses, and spheres of operations. The players take turns to move whichever units he wishes to, attacks where desirable and performs administrative and support functions like repairing and transporting other units.
While the objective in the first game was to capture the enemy HQ, each scenario in the sequel has a different objective. It might be to destroy all units of a certain type, or to capture and hold a strategic town. The radical change in strategy required from one scenario to another makes the play more interesting and varied. For instance, establishing a stronghold by setting up defensive rings around a strategically important area may be a good way of handling one scenario, but the next might require a bold thrust through enemy lines with just a few choice units.
Whatever the weather
In addition to the greater strategic variety, Blue Byte has added a great many other features which add complexity and depth to the original concept. There are now 50 different units, each of which may have as many as four different weapon systems. So while the Demon 131 Light Battle Robot carries only a 9mm machine gun for offensive and defensive purposes, the Dragon hi Battle Helicopter is equipped with air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, a 30mm cannon and a 20mm machine gun. So, not only do you have to decide which is the best unit to utilise in different circumstances, you must also decide which of its weapon systems is best suited to the role you have given it.
Some units, namely submarines and aircraft, are also capable of travelling at different vertical levels, a factor that is often ignored in two-dimensional wargames. This allows for the possibility of flying bombers safely at high altitudes over enemy territory, or of sneaking submarines under cordons of boats to surface well inside enemy territory.
Terrain is now divided into 17 different categories, ranging from road and rail to extreme mountains and very deep seas. Each unit is only capable of movement on some of these terrains and the rate of movement is also dependent on the terrain. There is. however, an added complication, since one of the significant additions to the game is weather systems.
There are six possible weather systems: clear, light rain, storms, light snow, and blizzards. Not only does the weather have a direct effect on obvious factors such as visibility, it also indirectly affects other aspects of the gameplay. Land units, for example, may be making good progress across a dry and dusty plain when an unexpected deluge turns it into a mud bowl and brings the traffic to a halt. Or a sudden cold spell might freeze a previously uncrossable river, allowing robots to swarm across it.
The postman always dies twice
Of course, warfare is as much about keeping the support machinery going as it is about making bold and inspired moves at the front line. That is a fact well worth remembering while playing the later scenarios in Battle Isle 2. In fact, if you don t remember it, you wont be playing the later scenarios for very long. There are three factors to be taken into consideration: ammunition, fuel and energy. Obviously each unit has a limited amount of the first two and this must be taken into account when planning ahead. Units can be re-armed and refuelled either in the field (if you have suitable tanker and transport vehicles) or returned to friendly towns and buildings first.
Energy is needed to repair and manufacture units. It is found in the form of Aldinium crystals. When these are collected and transferred to the correct buildings they can be converted into raw materials for new or replacement equipment. You can keep the front lines supplied by building a network of roads and railways.
Now you see it, now you dont...
Another new factor is radar. Only hexes that come within range of a friendly radar unit will be visible. Each unit has a limited range of its own, which is fine as long as your units are fairly evenly spread in the battlefield. Ideally you need permanent radar cover. This is provided by fixed tracking stations, but these need protection. Areas which have no radar cover and are unexplored appear as dark hexes. Once an area has been explored, you will always know what sort of terrain to expect, but, unless units remain active in that area, it will be impossible to tell what the weather conditions are, and what enemy units are active.
Battie Isle 2 is, quite simply, a masterpiece. I must admit to some trepidation when I first began to play it. How could Blue Byte have possibly packed more features into such a classic game without ruining its instant appeal and accessibility? But they have done so with ease. Furthermore, the little presentational extras, like animated sequences and a slicker interface only help to absorb the player more into the game. If you played and loved the original, then this is going to keep you happy for a long time and, if youre new to Blue Bytes creation, you are really in for a treat.
Download Battle Isle 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP