In my experience, games like Battle Worlds: Kronos come around at most once or twice in every console generation, and that is a great shame. Kronos is a spiritual successor to the classic Battle Isles series (set on the planet Chromos, no less) and features deep, challenging turn-based combat on a hexagonal battlefield. With such a strong history to live up to, and with the hopes of every strategy fan that owns an Xbox One resting on its shoulders, Kronos is bound to come under serious scrutiny, and I was as interested as anyone to see how it fared.
Kronos is a comprehensive and faithful recreation of the games it seeks to emulate, but like so many other throwbacks to classic series it occasionally lacks the production values of a more mainstream release. However, if you have an interest in turn-based strategy, that shouldn’t dissuade you from taking a closer look at Kronos. Whilst it has a few problems on the surface, this is a game with roots that run very, very deep indeed.
Here’s what I liked:
Grand campaign – Kronos features two opposing campaigns, plus an additional shorter campaign that was originally released as DLC on the PC version. Following a fairly haphazard tutorial mission, the game throws the player right in at the deep end, and the theme of lengthy, challenging missions is maintained throughout, with some taking as much as a couple of hours. There is variety here as well, with an interesting smattering of traditional battles, as well as those which introduce one or another form of time limit or restriction. Finally, there are also a handful of challenge missions that act as skirmish battles. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more of these, or perhaps some kind of randomisation feature to mix things up a bit more.
Grande armée – Turn-based strategy games can’t succeed without a wide and varied range of units that allow for armchair generals to develop strategies around, and Kronos features over fifty unique vehicles across land, sea and air. A combined arms strategy is essential in almost every mission, and players will need to balance the strengths and weaknesses of each unit carefully. A good example is the use of artillery pieces, which are as vulnerable as you might expect, but hidden behind a wall of tanks will decimate the enemy. Introduce planes or even longer range naval guns into the mix however, and you’ll need to respond with anti-air vehicles and bombers or destroyers of your own to counter the threat. It’s complex, involving and a lot of fun for those who take pleasure in balancing the complex interplay of units across large, diverse battlefields.
Grand view – Although Kronos isn’t good enough looking to set the world alight, it is detailed and purposeful in its design, with units that are mostly recognisable despite their small size. The maps are detailed as well (especially close up) but the most impressive feature is the ability to pan out until the camera is seamlessly replaced by a pure tactical overlay that offers useful insight on crowded battlefields.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Bad teacher – Kronos is an expansive, complex game, but it features one of the worst tutorial levels I’ve come across in years. Yes, you will learn how to select units, move them and attack, but not much else. There is a wiki style help system, but it is poorly written and overly wordy, which meant I rarely wanted to read it. This will result in players having to learn some of the more complex controls on the fly, and unfortunately, you don’t know what you don’t know. I failed a mission early on because I didn’t realise that the seemingly useless artillery I was lugging around needed to be deployed via an obscure submenu before it could fire.
User disengagement – This negative point relates to the one above, but also stands on its own as a further problem with Kronos. There are certain controls and limitations of the game that simply serve to frustrate. For example, the submenu I referred to before is obscure and could easily be replaced by a few contextual button reminders on screen depending on what unit is selected. A more annoying issue (bearing in mind this is a turn based game) is the fact that once you choose to have a vehicle take an action, you can’t undo it and you don’t get a chance to confirm it with a second press of the button. This basically results in a lot of unwanted attacks and moves, which can lead to frustration and possibly, game loss.
One is the loneliest number – Here we are again, discussing the lack of multiplayer in a game that is crying out for it. I do appreciate that turn-based games can be challenging to play online though, so perhaps the idea of an online version of Kronos is wishful thinking on my part. That said, I really would love to have seen a multiplayer mode in this game, because the tactical depth afforded by the units, maps and engine is vast, but requires human intelligence to truly exploit.
I really like Kronos, and that’s not simply because as far as Xbox One strategy games go, it’s my only choice. It’s a deep, detailed game that rewards perseverance and provides a robust challenge for many hours after you feel that you’ve mastered the basics. It really only lacks the everlasting appeal of a multiplayer or skirmish mode, and it suffers from a few minor issues that could be addressed in a patch at any time. The challenge for Kronos will always be that it remains a very niche title for console gamers, and I just hope enough people give it the chance that it deserves.
Score: Highly Recommended
Battle Worlds: Kronos was developed by King Art and published by Nordic Games on Xbox One. It was released on April 26 2016 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes. Click here for information on XBLA Fans’ new scoring system.