If there was anything in history that took my attention back in my academic days (a simpler and laid-back time) it would be the golden age of Greek history. There is just something captivating in reading the stories and the rich culture and the innovative breakthroughs in the fields of the arts and sciences they made that helped shape the world as we know it today. Despite being a bit romanticized, there was still something alluring when you read about the exploits of such notable figures in Greek history/mythology - the battle waged by Hector, Paris and Achilles at Troy, Odysseus' perilous journey going home, and not to mention the plethora of gods and their narratives that one would just get lost in. The sheer depth and intertwining mix of fact and fantasy of Greek myths is ideal for being the theme for games, and that's just what the people from Clapalong had in mind in making Batheo.
Batheo is a free-to-play, 2D browser-based strategy game that has players command their very own legion and city to engage in combat with notable figures in Greek antiquity until you've successfully have dominion over all the city-states. With such deep source material to get inspiration from, did this game made good and pleased the gods, or does it deserve a lightning bolt or a journey to Hades? Let's find out!
Words Falling on Deaf Ears
Batheo welcomes players to the game with a tutorial. Having a tutorial seems standard, as most games often has this feature to make sure that new players would know the ins and outs of the game and not get lost amid the jargon and instances. But they way Batheo made their tutorial is flawed because while it does teach its players what to do, most of the time it's a wall of text that tends to get drab and boring as it. Add to that fact that the tutorial seems to take FOREVER to finish, and by the 5-minute mark of still being in the tutorial phase, your mind would just zone out and be mindlessly pressing the "NEXT" button, as that button conveniently makes the tutorial move faster (or at least as fast as it can get). The tutorial is poorly executed, as you'd feel detached and away from the action that having the "NEXT" button is a welcome reprieve that aids you to have at least some involvement.
Once the tutorial is done, you will miss that "NEXT" button because the game just leaves it to the player to explore the game afterwards. The quest tracker does provide information of what you should be doing, but it doesn't really say HOW you should go about your quest. There were times when playing that I've looked for the "NEXT" button even after the tutorial has been completed because I did not know what I should be doing.
Also, there are some lapses with the text in terms of grammar and coherence. It is quite a Herculean task (pun intended) trying to read and understand certain instances because some of the explanation is badly written or translated. One can use this title as a drinking game wherein your friends need to take a shot whenever a mistranslated sentence appears.
Regarding the story, I think Batheo does have one, but it's really hard to get invested with the narrative when you're busy sulking as to why you're playing this game in the first place as it's sadly of poor quality.
Welcome to Antiquity (the Bad Way)
One thing that strikes out right off the bat is that Batheo uses 2D for its game. Not that it is an issue, as there are other 2D browser games that still plays decently, and the 2D makes it feel more retro than anything else. But for Batheo, the retro feel is there, but for all the wrong reasons. The graphics and effects looks dated rather than having a nostalgic look.
Players are given the opportunity to do battle with Greek antiquity's notable personalities such as Achilles, Hector, Perseus, and many more. Once defeated, you get the chance to recruit them and become generals that would lead your legions. When not in combat, players take charge of their own city-state and make preparations and fortifications in order to ensure that their quest for dominance would be well-funded and well-fueled. This was a decent effort to incorporate the intricacies of running one's own city-state and army during these times; it feels gratifying when you lay waste the enemy troop with your own. There are also power ups and items that you can level up and equip to your generals that would further sway the battle in your favor. There is some PvP in Batheo, but players need to choose between three factions - Zeus', Poseidon's, and Athena's. Once players have chosen which faction they would swear allegiance to, they can wage war against the other two opposing groups by taking their territories.
But other than that, Batheo's gameplay lacks in interactivity and involvement for its players, as apart from choosing your army's historically accurate battle formations, the battle itself does not include active participation from the players. Most of the time, players would just be looking at their army trade blows with the opponents and click the prompt that will pop up after the battle that shows whether your faction won or not. The player's army does have animated sprites, but even at cosmetic value, they rather look cheap and bland.
After a couple of these "battle scenes", you'd rather click the results button to skip the animation altogether as it has no other purpose. While the recruited generals can be distinguished somewhat by their avatars during the battle sequences, they aren't as animated and look dated. The faction selecting is also suspect for scrutiny, as players are not allowed to join a faction that is already full. This is frustrating because newer players are relegated to choose between the two other factions that are not as strong, and this can prove to have some balance issues, as the more seasoned players can pick and rout the weaker ones outright.
The place where some player interactivity is noticeable is the city-state developing part of the game where you get to choose what structures need to be built and what equipment needs to be upgraded. It would have been better if the combat portion has players control their troops while engaging the opponents, but it seems that the developers wanted the players' involvement to be with the boring and uninteresting parts of their game. This truly takes whatever that's left to enjoy out of this game, as the game developers deemed that there is more action in tending the fields and collecting levies from your citizens rather than the call of the battlefield. Knowing the intricacies of city-state management can be quite interesting, but you're better off making an economy simulator game rather than branding your game as a strategy game that offers little participation when the battle starts.
Planning is Different from Execution
It's truly disheartening and disappointing that the developers didn't capitalize on properly delivering a decent game even when they have such a deep and rich source material to work with. In the case of Batheo, the execution of incorporating every detail in Greek antiquity felt flat and poor in relation to other developers' works that use different era and time periods in their games. How hard was it to have such well-known Greek figures in a bygone era rife with such grand and epic battles and place it onto a workable, easily-taught browser game? Apparently a difficult one at that, based on what can be seen in Batheo. It wasted a good opportunity by not utilizing the theme they have chosen to its upmost potential properly, and the result leaves a lot to be desired.
Batheo is a game that, on the onset, has a very exciting and workable theme to build a game around - Greek history and mythology. But in terms of executing a working game, it sadly does not give any justice to its source material. From a very long, drawn-out, and bland tutorial that takes forever to finish and leaves players confused once it has completed, lackluster visuals and graphics, some faction balance issues, and an overall poor execution on the aspects that should have been its main drawing points (i.e. battle and strategy), Batheo is one MMO that is better swept away by the Aegean current and be lost at sea, never to be found.
Pros and Cons
Here are the pros and cons of Batheo:
- Historically accurate map layout and battle formations
- Heroes from Greek Antiquity can be recruited to help your legion win at battles
- Incorporation of running a city-state and an army at the same time
- Tutorial leaves players more confused and disengaged
- Graphics leaves a lot to be desired
- Restrictive game interface
- Click and watch gameplay
- Cap restriction for joining factions