Review – Battle Worlds: Kronos (Switch)

As a huge strategy fan, I was very excited at the idea of a meaty turn-based strategy game on the Switch. On paper it certainly seemed attractive, with both a hefty multiplayer (though hot-seat only) and the 60+ hour  single-player campaign. In implementation however, Battle Worlds: Kronos may have the hardcore strategy gameplay down, but fails to deliver on almost anything else.

The incredible amount of single-player content was one of the main selling points of the game and there’s certainly a lot to play through. There are three multi-mission campaigns, two of which are set on opposite sides of the titular battle for Kronos, with the third being a standalone campaign that was originally added via DLC. The seemingly low amount of missions per campaign is misleading, as each one is a long multi-objective affair with optional side objectives on top. Scattered amongst missions are cinematics that help push the story forward as well. There’s just as much here as they claimed, but the problem is whether or not you’ll have the desire to get through it.

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The third campaign title “Trains” revolves around militarized trains that you bring from Point A to Point B. Strangely, these are probably the strongest missions in the game.

For starters, the story is generic at best. The premise is that on the world of Kronos, open warfare between the great houses decides who will lead after the death of each monarch. Now the Emperor has just died and war has once again returned to Kronos, with you taking on different perspectives per campaign. The story, which is conveyed both through CGI cinematics and in-game dialogue, is uninteresting at best, and serves simply as a reason to fight your next battle. Characters are unremarkable, plot twists and turns either obvious or irrelevant, and the writing in general leaves much to be desired. Now this is not necessarily a game-killer, it just means that the mission design and game play need to really deliver in order to provide motivation to keep playing. Sadly Battle Worlds: Kronos provides none.

While the first campaign does start strong, flaws are immediately apparent and only grow worse as the game progresses. The tutorial mission not only does a pretty poor job of tutoring, but is also one of the hardest missions in the game. It can be pretty hard to learn how to play a game when it’s beating you relentlessly. While some say that a hard barrier of entry can be good, as it gets you used to the hard stuff instead of pampering you, the difficulty here feels more cheap than educational, and would no doubt turn a lot of people away at the start. While the game does get easier afterwards, it’s filled with moments where the difficulty will suddenly spike. When a “Game Over” can lose you hours of progress, as missions are EXTREMELY long, losing not because you were outplayed, but instead due to cheating AI or poor encounter design, can have the most dedicated strategy gamer rage quitting.

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Even in a strategy game, dialogue making sense is important.

Mission objectives aren’t designed much better, sadly. While the main goal for each mission is usually different enough, the meat of what makes up each chapter will very quickly start to feel the same. You start off with a predetermined army each time, and though you have the ability to capture factories on the field to build more, it’s usually not very many. You have to use what you are given extremely well, as even one mistake can be very costly for your finite forces. Each level thus feels like a puzzle, with a handful of ways to use what you’re given to solve the objective, which makes repeated objectives feel not so much like fighting a new battle a different way, as it does solving a puzzle you already solved. Once you’ve figured the winning strategy out, that’s it, as any experimentation usually leads to a quick game over. Everything feels the same and plays the same, with no real way to change either.

Battle Worlds: Kronos is a game I desperately wanted to like. I’m a huge fan of Panzer General, Advance Wars, and Battle Isle, the game that inspired this one, and I was really hoping this would deliver a similar experience. Sadly the end result is  uneven at best, with solid gameplay held back by mission design that runs counter to the gameplay style, and difficulty spikes that can end your carefully planned strategies with one cheap trick. Classic turn-based strategy fans would be much better served with the absolutely amazing Wargroove, also available on Switch.

Graphics: 6.0

Nothing special graphically and faction color schemes make it hard to tell unit types apart, which is a shame because designs are pretty neat.

Gameplay: 7.0

The strategy gameplay is extremely solid, but it’s let down by mission design and some occasional artificial difficulty spikes.

Sound: 6.5

What little voice acting the game has is actually pretty good, but the music and sound effects rarely rise above generic.

Fun Factor: 5.0

While the strategy part is fun, the difficulty spikes, mixed mission design, dead on arrival multiplayer, and an underwhelming story don’t do it justice.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Battle Worlds: Kronos is available now on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Battle Worlds: Kronos was provided by the publisher.

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