With all of the MOBAS saturating the market today, many gamers are left wondering if we really need any more. Recently, a game popped up that rides the line between shooter and MOBA, so naturally, we had to give it a try. So what is it like? What makes it different? First of all, unlike most of the Facebook chatter would like you to believe, Battle Line: Steel Warfare is not a World of Tanks clone, nor is it a Real Time Strategy game. Actually, in many cases we felt that the game wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be, but we’ll get to that a little bit later.
Fortunately, as one would expect with any MOBA, character creations imply consists of typing in your name and exploring the main menu through a series of tutorials. Eventually the game invites you to play a practice round against the AI, at which point you are introduce to the Battle Line.
The term battleline is not arbitrary, it actually consists of a yellow line that runs horizontally down the battlefield, or vertically if you fancy turning your monitor on its side. The objective of each game is to ‘push’ the battle line forward and eventually overrun the enemy base. Doing so will require your team to capture camps occupied by your enemy, much in the way you would capture points in a game of Battlefield or Battlefront.
To capture a point you will simply drive your tank over it and wait for the progress bar to fill. Obviously this will go a bit faster if you have more than one player occupying the same space, and once the capture is complete, the battle line can be pushed forward. You get more experience for pushing the battle line forward, which isn’t surprising, because in this game you seem to get experience for every little thing you do. You can be destroyed in combat and earn +50 exp.
Just as the battle line moves forward, it can also be pushed back by the opposing team. They accomplish this in the same way you do, only they lose more and more opportunity to do so as they are consumed by the opposing team. Still, we saw some amazing comebacks during our time in game, and there are plenty of ways to win.
Controlling your tank is simple, because the game uses WSAD for vehicle control, many have simply called it a World of Tanks clone. In our brief experience however, we did not find it to be anything like World of Tanks, mainly because of the isometric viewpoint at which you play most of the game. If you need to target a little better, you can always switch over to the targeting mode by pressing T, though your barrel will be slow to move and you will NOT be able to move from this POV. Any time you are out of targeting mode, the game works like as fluid shooter. With your mouse hand you will be able to whip around and fire at will, unless of course you are waiting for your special abilities to recover. The abilities are not so much earned as they are added through the construction of facilities in your menu. The more research tickets you have, the more you can build and the more powerful you will be.
We found that in-game it is far better to work as a member of a group than to work alone. There are many who try to wander off by themselves, but they don’t seem to last more than a few minutes. For this reason, it is best that you develop your abilities to suit the group. For example you could equip yourself with repair abilities and be the group’s healer, or you might try to drive up the amount of damage you do with each shot, becoming the DPS. This is entirely up to you, but at this point in the game, it will be a bit difficult to anticipate the needs of the group, especially if you have no idea who you will be playing with before going in. This, however, is where Divisions will enter the picture.
Divisions are slated to work very much like guilds in MMORPGs, though they are to be part of a larger metagame consisting of a world map. Divisions will be tasked with maintaining control of the larger world map, and it is predicted to be a rather fierce battle. Once divisions are fully implemented into the game, they will consist of up to forty members, with nations(a group of divisions) supporting up to two hundred members. The good news, is that you don’t have to be part of a division to fully enjoy the game, which I find to be a bit of a relief; I rather enjoy simply jumping into a game for the purpose of stress relief. Rather than being a tactical shooter, it more or less has the mechanics of standard FPS combined with the armor of tanks. Let’s be honest; that’s fun.
Before going into battle you will be treated to a prep screen in which you can choose what takes you would like to take into battle, as well as where you would like to deploy. Like any other battlefield style game, you will be given the option to deploy at any point your faction has captured, though you should be wary of simply jumping right into the action if you have a weaker tank. Tanks are leveled up through combat individually, and as you level them, you can select new abilities. For example, you might choose to give one of your higher level tanks a better barrel, or perhaps give it more speed. I found that speed is very important in this game; if you find yourself left behind by the rest of your battalion, you’re going to miss out on the bigger battles, and in the worst case scenario you might be called a few nasty names by those who were depending on you.
Death in this game can have some serious consequences, and it would be best to avoid it, more so than in any other MOBA. When your tank is destroyed, you will be sent back to the prep screen, but instead of respawning immediately, you will be tasked with choosing a different tank. You are able to bring four with you per mission, and once one is destroyed it will take some time to repair it. The repair time depends heavily on the type of tank as well as the upgrades that have been performed on it. I found that even some of the lower end tanks require up to fifteen minutes to repair, and when you consider that most matches last for about ten minutes, you really won’t have time to wait. Fortunately you can use the ‘instant repair’ button which will get your tank back into the action, but these are limited in supply. You can either purchase them as a micro transaction, or you can earn them in-game from various achievements. These achievements however must be manually acknowledged by visiting the achievements section of the main page, and you will find it on the left hand side as a slide-out menu.
Your tanks level up along with you, and as the commander you can gain the ability to command several tanks at once, and the number(up to five) will depend upon how many crew members you have. Keep in mind that the number of crew members you can have raises with your rank, meaning that rank is NOT just a number!
Overall this game is actually quite impressive for an entry in an already saturated genre. I found very few problems with it, and with the level of cooperative gameplay involved, I find it hard to believe that success would depend entirely on purchases made from the in-game store. In other words, those who work together well will be victorious, and those who do not, well, there’s always Call of Duty.
The one problem I did find with this game was the point of view. Typically this would be focused on the tank, at least in a normal game, but I found you could actually refocus the cursor to virtually anywhere on the map. This is where I feel it has trouble determining whether or not it is a Real Time Strategy or a MOBA type game. Okay, so yes, being able to look at other allies on the battlefield is a great feature, but I often had trouble finding my own tank again which made fighting a little bit hard.
Other than that, the game ran smoothly, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The community was great, the interface was smooth, and most importantly, after each battle I had the opportunity to open a present(holiday promotion). Who doesn’t like presents? More importantly, who doesn’t like taking a fifteen minute break to blow random strangers off the face of the battlefield? I have a feeling I’ll be playing this game for quite some time.
+Still in Beta
+Loose Mouse Boundaries