Battle for Wesnoth PC Game Review
In the beginning
Once I decided I wanted to write about battle for Wesnoth, I hemmed and hawed and paced and pondered on how I wanted to tackle this article and which angle I wanted to approach it from.
In the end I have decided that sometimes the most compelling way to tell a story is directly and from it's true foundations.
So yes I am writing about this game called Battle for Wesnoth, and very excited to get all of you excited about it, but before we get into that, maybe a little explanation of how I went looking to find Wesnoth in the first place will help the whole thing make sense.
Goldilocks and the non-Intel Mac
For the whole story of how I came to be writing about this game with at least a modicum of fan boy fervor, one must first know that the person I mention in my profile that I need to get a ring for, is in fact living someplace other than where I am right now, and so for the time being our time together is spent in letters (yes we write them to each other), on the phone, and above and beyond all else, online.
So with not a whole lot of options for a 'date night' at present we like to have a little good nerdy fun to keep us occupied between chatting and laughing and what not.
For a long time we played a game on Facebook called 'King (or Queen) of the World' which we got a lot of enjoyment out of, but for all intents and purposes are quite done with after three years of playing.
So with KOTW (king of the world) behind us, the hunt was on for a new game!!
The only problem is that the girlfriend's computer is one she got to replace her Acorn computer. (and no, I had never heard of Acorn computers before this, but yes it is/was a real thing). In all fairness, the Mac isn't all that ancient (a G5 I believe), but it is certainly not an Intel Mac, and perhaps a step or two behind on playing games.
We first tried counter-strike, which I got her as a gift, and would have worked fine except..yup 'requires Intel mac' ,
Next I went looking to see if there is an online version of one of my favourite board games of my younger days, Axis and Allies.
There is in fact what looks to be a fairly good clone of it called triple A. The interface is slightly clunky, and to be honest I didn't play it a whole lot, but from what I see they have got it all right.
The only issue, of course: wont play on a non-Intel Mac.
It seemed like there was nothing that was cheap fun and casual that both my P.C. and her Mac could play.
And then we found Wesnoth.
Battle for Wesnoth Trailer
What is battle for Wesnoth?
Battle for Wesnoth is a turn based strategey game with a high fantasy theme (so orcs, trolls, wizards, elves and other Tolkienesque fair) and as you might have already guessed is compatible with both of our computers.
Not only that, but amazingly the game plays not only on her Mac and Windows, but also on Linux and on some O/S that frankly I have never heard of before!!
You see Battle for Wesnoth is made and supported by it's community. It is in active development, has a healthy number of ad-ons and mods (easily added and explored) and an impressive list of translations, opening the game up to the world.
There is a online muli-player option that like the game itself works smoothly and without hang ups or crashes.
If you are the type that likes to learn as you play, or simply like to have readily available game tips and information, the game is rich with help documentation and community support, and close to everything in the game has a useful tool tip attached
To top it all off, Battle for Wesnoth is released under a GNU licence and is free.
Completely and truly free. No gimmicks, no nonsense. Just a nice example of what happens when people work together towards something they want, in this case a very awesome turn based strategy game.
So let's take a look at some of the aspects of the game.
Graphics and Art
The art and graphics in video games certainly have come a long way from the 'pong' of the 1970s to the spectacular, processor straining, epic 3D art of today, that can provide or at least challenge cinematic experiences.
If you are looking for jaw dropping 3D computer art in Battle for Wesnoth I am sorry that I am going to have to disappoint you.
That does not, however mean that Wesnoth looks bad. Far from it.
While the game is 2D and the graphics lean more toward functional than spectacular the game still looks 'nice' and has sufficient polish to be satisfying.
The lack of processor straining uber graphics also helps keep the game playable and running smoothly by just about everyone and if you are desperate for some eye candy, each of the many classes/races in the game have their own information page (easily accessible from in game) that includes some generally nice and professional looking artwork.
So final verdict is, that while the graphics ultimately provide no real spectacle the game is still, for what it is nice to look at
It is perfect for what it needs to be.
Sound and Audio
The sound in Battle for Wesnoth is surprisingly quite a treat. It is clear and crisp, with genre appropriate music and some in game sounds that range from being simply appropriate to actually being quite entertaining and definitely adding to the game experience.
The sound quality and appropriateness to my mind enhances the experience of playing the game and adds to the overall good impression this game lends itself to.
It is in game play where battle for Wesnoth truly starts to stand out and to shine.
Battle for Wesnoth is a turn based game, so indeed in that way very much like the classic board games Risk or Axis and Allies, and at face value sharing some traits with video games like 'Heroes of Might and Magic'.
The problem with most turn based games, is that their tends to be a 'trick' to them and more likely than not they end up being a contest of paper-Orc-scissors. (To paraphrase) or has so much or so little randomness that the game either becomes 'all luck' or becomes more of a mathematics equation than it does a game. Battle for Wesnoth provides a nice balance between randomness (such as chances to hit etc.) and absolutes (such as movement and zones of control) along with enough depth and variables such as terrain considerations, as well as racial, class and weapon variations, that strikes the right balance where luck plays a factor, but where good strategy and tactics will pretty consistently win out over inferior battlefield choices.
You can play with or against your friends, or with a surprisingly adept and challenging A.I.
that even includes an alternate A.I. in case you wanted to mix things up a little bit.
Now as far as who is fighting who, there are six factions to choose from that include an impressive 200 unit types.and well managed veteran units will level up and increase in effectiveness.
Each faction, as indeed each unit has it's strengths and weaknesses, and in some conditions or with certain match ups, one side will have an advantage over the other, but almost always there is a way to turn the tables. Battle for Wesnoth manages to be incredibly balanced without being completely stangnant.
The mix of easy to get started playing, with rich depth of tactical and strategic choices and a wide range of units and battkefield and combat variables makes the game play for Wesnoth a winner for me. Frankly, in this regard it is one of the best games I have played, including ones I have paid for.
It might not be for everyone, but it is well done.
While Battle for Wesnoth wont satisfy the insatiable adrenaline junkies amongst you, it is none the less a well put together, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable game, and because the community is an active one development is ongoing.
There is also more to Wesnoth than what I have detailed her, as in addition to being able to skirmish there are also campaign modes which I personally have not even tried yet and a large selection of user made content and mods.
This is an excellent and challenging game that seems to work smoothly over multiple platforms and systems.
It is far more value, depth and enjoyment than I ever imagined I would get from a free video game.
Check it out for yourself and see what you think
See you on the battlefield!