Battle Dawn Review, an MMO Wargame via Your Browser
Browser based games have come of age. They’ve gained in complexity, rivaling some of their more traditional competitors and offering gamers every gaming experience from adventure gaming to arcades, to RPGs. It was only a matter of time before war games battled their way to the browser as well.
Battle Dawn by Tacticsoft is one of the most popular of the new genre of browser based war games, and its combination of simple playing style with strategic complexity explains why. Battle Dawn is a game of strategy, diplomacy, and tactics. Individual cities, alliances, and coalitions vie for power all with the goal of becoming the top rated in the game. But in the world of Battle Dawn power comes in many forms. Every player is the leader of a colony, building their city while engaging in battles with some and forming alliances with others.
Alliances are Battle Dawn's version of the game guild and members can help one another, sharing resources and defenses, but alliances can also make enemies, putting cost to safety within alliance membership. The game is free to play and turn-based, with games lasting an Age, a preset number of years until game finish. The game ends at the end of an age or at a point in which an alliance controls the ultimate game objects, the relics. Strategy in the game takes place primarily at the alliance level where player made alliance compete for possession of game relics and resource boosting crystals. In the process alliances make and break deals, conquer their neighbors, and at times wage vast wars against one another.
The tactical portion of the game is easy. Players build their cities, and armies, then attack and defend as necessary. But it’s the choices of what to build and when, who to attack with how large an army, and how much to hold back in defense that brings about a complexity to the gameplay. There’s no one skill that wins position and power, it takes a combination of effort on all fronts to survive, much less prosper.
For a free to play browser based game the visuals of Battle Dawn are mixed in quality. The game is played on a pre-rendered world of either Earth or Mars. The playing area is a terrain map, accurately portraying Earth’s landmasses and oceans, and showing a desolate Martian landscape. The world map has three zoom levels that take it from a full global view into a small regional tactical view. The visuals offer easy game assessment at any level, with armies, cities, and diplomatic status quickly discernible.
Player cities are visible in two levels of detail. In construction mode they are quite detailed, with additional city development features adding to the cityscapes. However these detailed cities are only visible to the city owners, other players see only a generic city on the world map whose size varies according to city population, though players who donate to the game do have an adjusted city image showing the world at large that they’re a supporter.
Player units are varied, offering 3 versions of 3 basic unit types, infantry, vehicle, and armor, with concussive, beam, and explosive weapons. The units are all vulnerable to a different weapon type, adding to tactical options when developing new units. Player units however are disappointing visually with troops of all types and sizes appearing on the world map as the same generic aircraft, varying by color according to the unit owner’s intent and alliance status to the viewing player. As for special effects the only effects included in the game occur when the player uses an Ion cannon, and is visible only to the player using the item.
Rules and Strategy
Much like a game of chess the rules are simple and easy to learn, but the strategy necessary to win can get deep rather quickly. A few successful players and alliances have been involved with the the game since its beginning in June 2006, but longevity is by no means a guarantee of success. It may take an age or two to get the strategic aspects of the game completely, but help is always available from alliance members, and a constant influx of new players keeps the game interesting.
Like many free browser games Battle Dawn allows players to spend a little money to gain an advantage. Sometimes this can result in more than a little leg-up to those willing to spend. Available advantages are primarily resource based, with an upper limit on total resources gainable per purchase. But in a game where production plays a large part in ability to defend and conquer, the additional resources purchased at the proper moment can make a big difference in regional power balances. But it’s still possible to go far in the game without spending a dime, and some of the best players have placed highly in the leaderboard while doing so.
Battle Dawn is engaging and the play is smooth with a minimum of time investment required, though like other browser based games, most players tend to put in a bit more than the minimum amount of time. Expect atleast 10 minutes of daily investment just for upkeep, with more time necessary as a player increases their city's involvement in the power struggle within the game. The graphics are a combination of inspired and mediocre. They convey the information well enough at a glance, but some variation in units and cities would definitely improve the game.
Overall Battle Dawn deserves its place as one of the more widely played browser based wargames, and with thousands of players participating each age on multiple worlds, it’s likely to be at the top for awhile yet. To play Battle Dawn you’ll need a web browser equipped with Flash Player 9.0 or higher and an Internet connection.