Hey, Big Fella: Battleforge

By Alec Meer on May 14th, 2008 at 10:15 pm.

David vs Goliath, only Goliath isn't an absolute cretin with an obvious weak-spot the size of Burma

There I was, idly clicking links in search of post-worthy news, and I stumble across Battleforge. “Collectable card game-based RTS?”, I think. “That’s either some half-mad Russian thing, potentially an out-of-the-blue triumph like Armageddon Empires, or another low-budget curio like Saga Online.” Then I thought about how my hand hurt as a result of brushing against a two foot-tall stinging nettle during a futile attempt to mow my monstrously unkempt garden, and I stopped paying attention for a little while. When I eventually tuned back in, I was surprised by two things.

Thing the first: that looks brilliant. Thing the second: wait… was that an EA logo?

It was indeed. See?

Here are some reasons why Battleforge is dead interesting:

1) Phenomic, the EA studio behind it, is headed up by Volker Wertich, who created The Settlers. And, er, Spellforce.
2) It’s online only – and persistent online at that, with a whole bunch of community stuff thrown into to help ensure Battleforge is a game folk live in, rather than merely play. There’s a vague sense that a great deal of RTSdom is gearing up for a major change in this kind of direction – applying MMO values to an army rather than a single character.
3) Bloody hell: just look at those big bastards ripping through hordes of little bastards.

Like Saga (my review of which is in the latest PC Gamer UK, and if I plug them here then perhaps they’ll give me something better to review than Dirty Dancing: The Game next issue), armies are based on trading cards – what’s on your cards is what’s in your army, and presumably the bartering and collection behind this is a big part of Battleforge’s onlineiness.

Clearly, it could yet be a confusing mess of hardcore RTS brutality, rewarding the insanely dedicated while leaving casual players in the cold – but, quite frankly, the EA backing does at least mean it’s likely to punch a few weights above the average fantasy-RTS-with-a-twist. Definitely looking forward to hearing more about this one. If only because Big Guy Versus Lots of Little Guys is one of those enduring game images I can never quite get enough of.

I haven’t actually seen Battleforge myself, to my chagrin – but Bit-tech’s Joe Martin (who you may have spotted popping into RPS comments on occasion) has, and he’s written all about it, replete with a meaty Wertich interview (who makes bold pronouncements “such as I think our approach of going online only is really going to change the market”) right here.

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23 Comments »

  1. Lorc says:

    Huh. That looks really fun. And startlingly free of middle-of-the-road fantasy clich├ęs – the big horny giants make me think of Sacrifice’s funky monster designs.

    He really does plough through those little fellas doesn’t he?

  2. Svenska says:

    it really doesn’t look that bad, and you were right about the big dudes dominating the smaller guys. If it can put up more factions it’ll be great.

  3. Garreett says:

    Hopefully it’ll use a Warhammer-esque points system – have a few huge monsters, or have a balanced army?

  4. Svenska says:

    why wouldn’t you go for all huge dudes? Look at em!

  5. MindBrain says:

    Collectible card games can be cool electronically but the price has to be right. I tried playing Pox Nora http://www.poxnora.com/ and it’s grossly expensive. I spent $75 bucks on it and that doesn’t even get you close to being competitive. There’s people on that spend hundreds and hundreds.

  6. lulz says:

    Looks like Wirrior Kongs.

  7. fluffy bunny says:

    The Settlers is the best game ever, so this could be good.

  8. Noc says:

    Yeah, but Spellforce was pretty mediocre.

    Still looks interesting, though. I’ve always had more of a penchant for “Design and Army and then Use It” games (a la Total War) than the usual “Build Stuff to Churn Out More Bigger Tanks Faster” flavor of RTS.

    And figuring out clever ways of killing Big Stomply Things is always good game material.

    . . .

    The thing I was worried about at a first look was that it would use the CCG business model, which is designed to keep you buying cards in order to compete. That’s the reason I don’t play MtG anymore; I just can’t afford to be continually buying cards to keep up with new releases.

    But it looks like they aren’t using a CCG-styled micropayment model, which I think is a good sign.

  9. Saflo says:

    Was that a Mayan pyramid with legs?

  10. RichPowers says:

    Anyone else reminded of Demigod?

    Everything about Battleforge sounds awesome except the trading card element. No way will I pay for new decks and booster packs and other such tomfoolery.

  11. Noc says:

    Rich: It doesn’t look like it works that way. It seemed, at least to me, that you’d earn cards and such by winning games. Not taking the other player’s cards, but being rewarded with them MMO style.

  12. Acosta says:

    I’m going to disagree on Spellforce being “mediocre”, I think that apart of a good game, it’s the only one that managed the formula to mix RPG and RTS in a satisfactory way. Maybe is not the best RTS or the best RPG, but it was a very interesting game that played like no other.

    I played Battleforge a little bit in the european event where it was presented. And looked very nice, one of the focus was in cooperative RTS, with a map design that allowed two armies to work together for common objectives (luring enemies into a point so your ally ranged units could take them from the top of a hill).

    Overall is something fairly different, which is always good. For my part, I welcome MMO designs and ideas into RTS, I’m really tired of the actual model and I think we are ready for something else. Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Battleforge (and maybe Dawn of War 2, not sure), this is the type of projects I would like to see more.

  13. RichPowers says:

    Well that’s good Noc. Some preview somewhere indicated that the game would rely heavily on microtransactions, which I interpreted as something like booster packs.

    But I’ll still be a curmudgeon about MMO-like elements infesting genres otherwise free of unlocks and other such nonsense. First the FPS genre (CoD4, TF2) and now probably RTS…blah (ya, tech trees are a form of unlocks, but not in the same way as grinding for 50 scout kills with a damn needler!)

    On a side note, I really dig how more RTS games include superunits. Demigod, BattleForge, SupCom, even C&C all have enormous, over-the-top uber-weapons that are far more creative than the usual RTS fare (giant submersible aircraft carrier!? rolling tank factory!?)

  14. fluffy bunny says:

    I also think that SpellForce was a very good game. It had some problems with the difficulty level (at least before the patches), but other than that, it was one of the most enjoyable RTS-ish games around at the time of release. It was fresh, fun and challenging, with memorable missions and locations, and it mixed RPG and RTS elements in a way that actually worked. And it was truly epic as well, with huge levels and a story mode that took ages to complete.

  15. Joe Martin says:

    From what I saw there’s no microtransactions planned at the moment. The game will be updated freely and regularly according to Volker, though whether the game will sell as a retail or subscription model remains to be seen.

  16. Okami says:

    The game will feature “booster packs” that contain new cards that can be bought via microtransactions. Though all of the cards contained within those boosters can also be acquired by completing campaign missions and killing bosses.

  17. Frosty840 says:

    I’ve always liked Volker Wertich.
    Admittedly this is entirely due to his wonderful name which, if anyone remembers, was on nearly every screen of The Settlers‘ opening credits (you guys all watched the opening credits at least once, right? I’m not the only guy who ever did that?).
    The Settlers was intelligent and complex, but brutally flawed; those flaws , though, somehow managed to become an integral part of the game, and made it into something rather amazing for its time.
    Never played Spellforce, though.

    I’ve always avoided CCGs, though, on the basis that replacing gameplay with large-scale random number generators is abhorrent (dice are small-scale random number generators and are largely awesome. A 0.00002% chance of a given enemy dropping The Loot Of Much Shinyness is a large-scale random number generator and is basically a very, very boring alternative to real gambling, in my book), so I’ll probably give this one a miss. Shame.

  18. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Big monsters are BIG. Relic invented the Relic units. I wonder if Phenomic can solve the tiny man mass pathing problem?

  19. Riotpoll says:

    Looks cool, BIG monsters beating up little dudes = awesome.
    Hopefully if it does have a micro-transaction thing then you can unlock the same stuff by playing the game; similar to the way Guild Wars works with pvp unlocks now.

  20. Nikica says:

    The guy from The Settlers, yay, then I will play it. :) !!!

  21. Zonderic says:

    This is basically what I have been craving since 1994 when my friend told me sega genesis was releasing a card reader to visualize magic: the gathering.

  22. Jochen Scheisse says:

    I wonder if it will include a card that makes your ships transport the god damn goods around! That would be like finding chainsaw fuel on Mars…

  23. araczynski says:

    “change the market”? unfortunately probably true, but not for the better, at the least i won’t be buying an online only game. well, unless it s good mmorpg :)