When it comes to game design, there’s a simple guideline many choose to follow: if you can’t come up with something new, just take two old ideas and mash them together. So it was that Battlewagon came to be. One part catapult game, one part vehicle designer. But does either element live up to its potential?
One of the three(!) Xbox Live games released last week, Battlewagon commands the price you might expect. For your money you’re getting a lot of content – a game with a full campaign, and even a vestigial plot, it sees you fighting to retake your kingdom by means of your upgradeable battlewagon: a mobile siege wagon.
Your would-be kingdom is divided into four realms, each ruled over by a different lord. Every realm includes a range of tasks to complete, designed to teach you the skills necessary for laying siege to a keep. These are divided into obstacle courses, where you must outfit your wagon appropriately to plough through the hazards in your way, and various forms of target practice: using your catapult to shoot down crows, bury treasure, and even return wayward chickens to their pen. These missions all manage to be endearingly daft, but can’t hide their simplicity.
Let’s take a look at them individually. First, the catapult. This is the easiest mode to explain, and also the most disappointing. It’s a standard pull-back-to-aim-and-launch game, with a specific target. Perhaps you’re launching chickens into a coop, or treasure into a pit, or rotten tomatoes at a man in the stocks, or rocks at crows, or… you get the idea. All of which sound nice and varied, but of course amount to the same thing every time: aim your shots to hit the targets. Sometimes you’ll need to repeatedly aim at the same target (chicken coops don’t tend to be mobile), sometimes there will be multiple targets which require you to change things up (and ideally arc your shots to hit several targets at once). So far, so simple. The twist? There, um, isn’t one.
The thing is, this catapult game is as simple as they come. Beyond the arcing trajectory of your shots, there’s no usage of any physics engines – any obstacles are immovable objects. Either they are destroyed on contact, or are permanent, indestructible objects. The logic on the latter is particularly bizarre – while crows may be your targets in certain levels, in others they become indestructible obstacles. That’s right: these are crows which can weather a direct blow to the noggin from a catapult-launched rock.
This extends even to the castle sieges. Despite a wealth of simple catapult vs. castle games showing how best to depict this age-old battle (clue: it involves collapsing walls and general destruction), Battlewagon decides to eschew the traditional approach and instead has you, um, aiming to fire a bomb precisely so that it rolls to a stop in front of a castle gate. And that’s it. Just watch out of the indestructible crows, eh! Underwhelming doesn’t quite cover it.
So what about the other half of the game? The part where you load out your wagon with an assortment of arms and armour, then launch it towards a target. This mode tries its best to hide its simplicity by being as opaque as possible, but succeeds only in being both disappointingly basic and unusually frustrating. Presented with a field littered with obstacles (ranging from rocks and stakes to livestock and soldiers), you must outfit your wagon so that it can plough through them unhindered. Your wagon can only carry a limited amount of weight, with every item weighing a different amount and being effective against different types of obstacle.
Once outfitted, it’s time to launch your wagon: this involves turning a wheel so that a little marker reaches a specific point, then releasing the controls. Turn the wheel too much and your wagon will plough into a hazard and explode. Don’t turn it enough and your wagon will roll to a stop short of the target and, er, explode. In concert with the marker moving in a jittery fashion, it’s all too easy to have outfitted your wagon perfectly only to see it self-destruct due to a misjudged launch. Even worse, the castle sieges require that you first roll your wagon up to the castle before firing your catapult, whereupon you have only two chances to bomb a gateway – fail here and you’ll have to go through the whole process again.
And that campaign? A lengthy process, which sees you gradually unlocking new items for your wagon, accumulating gold, and opening up new missions to complete, it fails to mask the unsatisfactory gameplay underpinning everything. Quite why you’d want to persist and unlock yet more disappointing levels I’m not sure. A large, polished mess of a game, Battlewagon is completely unworthy of its asking price, or its Xbox Live classification. Avoid.
Battlewagon Xbox Live Achievements
- All in Jest (10 points): Complete all Jester challenges.
- Duke it out (10 points): Complete all the Duke challenges.
- Coming up roses (5 points): Unlock Romeo armour.
- Mort (10 points): Unlock all skeletal upgrades.
- Complete Banker (5 points): Break gold, silver and bronze doors in a single castle.
- Fluke Duke (5 points): Get gold in any capitol castle on first attempt.
- Let them eat cake (10 points): Complete all peasant challenges.
- On the wagon (15 points): Complete all wagon-run levels.
- High King (25 points): Get gold in every castle.
- Crowning Glory (5 points): Complete a castle with the jeweled armor.
- Trumpet of Doom (5 points): Shoot an enemy with the trumpet cannon.
- Spellbound (10 points): Complete all wizard challenges.
- Singing in the rain (5 points): Unlock the umbrella ram.
- The Wagonator (10 points): Complete a castle with full health.
- Spring Dawn (10 points): Complete the capitol castle in spring.
- Summer Rain (15 points): Complete the capitol castle in summer.
- Autumn Breeze (20 points): Complete the capitol castle in autumn.
- Winter Night (25 points): Complete the capitol castle in winter.
Battlewagon Gameplay Video
Version Under Review : 220.127.116.11
There is a trial version available and the full version is available for $2.99, we are not sure what the limitations of the trial version are.
Our Rating for Battlewagon