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iPad  header logo

Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front Review


For: iPad   Also on: Steam

Full of eastern promise

Product: Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front | Publisher: Slitherine Software | Format: iPad | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front iPad, thumbnail 1
When the original Battle Academy came out, I scoffed at its exortionate price tag.

Surely no-one would spend so much on one game in a software ecosystem where quality free games not only abound but thrive.

Then I played it, loved it and realised sometimes you have to pay a great price to get a great game.

This sequel doesn't change the formula much. The action has shifted from the Western Front to the East. The graphics are a bit crisper. There are some new units and play modes.

But it's still a port of a PC game and it's still outrageously expensive. Fortunately, by keeping the core intact, all the things that made the original so enthralling are still in place.

School

It's a light strategy game of tactial warfare. There are four campaigns, some of which cast you as the Russians, and some as the Germans.

Each is broken down into a number of distinct scenarios on different maps. Some are cramped urban firefights, others open killing fields, but most mix up a little of the two.

Fog of war, the inability to see where enemy units are on the map until you've got something of your own around to spot them, is crucial to the gameplay.

Hidden units can fire from ambush, gaining a substantial attack bonus. Tanks, understandably, can see very little. They're people shut tight in thick metal boxes, after all.

So driving them straight up the map, not knowing where the foe is hiding armour and anti-tank guns, is suicide.

Instead, you've got to scout out the area with your poor bloody infantry. But they're slow and squishy. To protect them as they advance, you need tanks. And therein lies the central conundrum of modern combined arms tactics.

The game hammers home this tight interdependency between unit types. Every empty space on the map is a potential trap. Co-ordinating your unit types to clear it out, square by square, is a delicious combination of testing tactics and hot terror.

College

Of course, you're not just limited to troops and tanks. There's a vast range of unit types in the game, including mortars, scouts and self-propelled guns.

They can do new things too, like lay smoke and take specific damage to weapons and tracks. Many scenarios give you off-map resources too like big artillery, air strikes, and medics. It all adds to the strategic depth on offer.

Yet for all the challenge the game offers, it rarely feels overwhelming. It's wonderfully accessible. You just tap a unit, tap where you want it to go, tap what you want it to shoot at.

Tooltips tell you hit and damage chances. Some of the later scenarios, where you get to pick your own troops from a roster, get confusingly big. But most of the time you're given a sensible number of units to co-ordinate.

In many respects, it plays a lot like XCOM. There's the same focus on not blundering into the unknown. It's offers a similar level of satisfying strategy while remaining playable by anyone.

Of course, there's less aliens and more history. But that's part of the charm.

University

With so much detail, down to modeling individual soliders in infantry squads, the game conjures a wonderful narrative.

Your smartphone becomes a little window down into the Russian battlefields of the 1940's. Beneath your fingers, tiny legends are forged and miniature heroes rise to the occasion with acts of bravery.

It's hard not to love your units, to feel real guilt when your blunders reduce them to smoking wrecks. It's hard not to love the game.

If the single player campaigns aren't enough for you, there's also a skirmish mode where you can set up your own scenario.

There's cross-platform online multi-player too, with both co-operative and competitive modes. There's easily enough play time here to justify the price tag.

Oddly, the only people I wouldn't recommend play Battle Academy 2 are fans of the previous entry.

These are expensive games, and for all the brilliance on display, there's not enough that's genuinely new to justify splashing out all over again.

But for everyone else, mobile strategy doesn't come any better than this.
 
Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front Review
Reviewer photo
Matt Thrower | 28 October 2014
A pitch perfect, pick up and play blend of strategy and accessibility, history and thrills
 
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