Posted on 05 Mar 2018 by Stephen Haselden

Forged Battalion

The Defence

Developer: Petroglyph Games
Publisher: Team17
Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: No data.

Forged Battalion (FB) is the latest RTS from Petroglyph, a company well known for making excellent RTS games.. Apart from being renowned for titles like Star Wars Empire at War (2006) and Grey Goo (2015), Petroglyph was also created in 2002 by ex members of Westwood Studios, the team behind the Command & Conquer series (C&C). One of Petroglyph’s clear design goals in making FB, was to model it closely on classic RTS like C&C. Infact, Petroglyph followed this goal so closely that the villain in FB is a technology obsessed maniac with a messianic complex. You don’t get closer to Kane than that without hiring Joseph D Kucan to play the villain.

Aiming for a classic RTS feel is something that Petroglyph has done before; their entire 8 Bit series was promoted on the basis of its traditional RTS mechanics. Although there are clear nods to C&C in FB, it feels a lot more abstract than the 90’s classic; This might be something to do with the lack of: soldiers, agonizing death screams, and excessive blood splatters. This might also have something to do with the lack of cutscenes and the simplified storyline too.

In addition to FB’s traditional RTS mechanics, Petroglyph have included the ability to customise unit and a Faction design. Having custom units in an RTS is not a new it idea, it’s been done in older games (Warzone, Earth Series – 2140, 2150, 2160), and many newer games too (SupCom2, Uncrewed, Istrolid, Stardrive 1&2 etc..). FB has an extensive Tech Tree from which to pick upgrades unit properties from. However, the customisation aspect takes place outside of the actual battles. Using “Research Points” gained from playing battles, you can select which chassis, parts and other buffs to give your unit. Once designed, you can select up to four vehicles per type (armoured, flying, vehicle and infantry) plus a few extra options for your turrets, super weapon, and main base. When your satisfied with your choices you can save them as a Faction.

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You can save multiple Factions, but it will take you a long time to unlock the whole Tech Tree. A nice feature however, is that you can get Research Points from any battle; that includes any campaign level (that you have unlocked), any MP match and any skirmish match too. Research Points are even awarded for losing a battle. Unlike some gamers, I enjoy the fact that you gradually unlock more components over time, rather than getting access to every upgrade and weapon right from the start. Discovering new abilities helps broaden a game, without throwing a huge learning cliff at you right from the start.

I have some reservations about the importance of the Tech Tree parts and upgrades. The amount of variation in units is actually not that much. There is a rock paper scissors (strengths & weaknesses to specific weapons) mechanic in place for chassis and weapon type, and another one for armour and weapon type. But, because you have to create your units “blind” before a battle, there’s no way of knowing exactly what you’ll face. However, instead of playing design roulette with your units, it’s much easier to simply choose max armour and max DPS (damage per second) with whatever chasis you prefer, which takes out a lot of fun from making your own designs. It should be noted though that unit balance is still changing here, and that by release there may be more strategic choices available, with less luck involved.

With max settings on a 4K monitor and a GTX980 graphics card, I found that the frame rate dropped noticeably. However at 2k (UHD) resolutions, FB ran smoothly throughout with no noticeable bugs or frame drops. Battles in FB are fast and decisive, you can make mistakes and survive. But the AI on higher difficulties does not hold back; be prepared to lose some matches. Even on the lowest difficulty some missions may be too tough until you have unlocked some better parts/upgrades. Matches last roughly between 10 and 30 minutes. Multiplayer and skirmish matches are available with 2-8 players in teams and FFA, and there is a growing collection of skirmish maps on the Steam Workshop. On the whole gameplay feels closer to the 8 bit series than anything else. Unit customisation is interesting, but it’s a meta mechanic rather than a tactical one. Forged Battalion is a solid RTS which fills the niche for fast and flashy, wanton destruction.

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