Indie Game Review: Battlepaths (PC, XBLIG)
Battlepaths is a lighthearted 2D turn-based RPG in which you explore a vast world, gathering treasure, leveling up, and battling baddies along the way. Sounds fun, right? It is…for a while.
Starting Battlepaths for the first time, you’re given the opportunity to create a new character with a focus on one of five characteristics (power, mind, agility, damage, and balanced). Don’t over think the choice, it isn’t permanent. You can apply your attribute points how you see fit as you gain experience throughout the game effectively avoiding the common scenario of pigeonholing the player into a specific playstyle. After making your initial choice, your character Rick is dumped unceremoniously into Battlepaths’ first realm, Babatula.
While not a graphical powerhouse, the cartoonish style of Battlepaths is fun to look at and adds to the cheerful tone of the game. The grays and earthy colors used in many games of its ilk aren’t as prevalent and are replaced with a set of bright colors, creating a vibrant world. From the exaggerated characters to the funky environments, Battlepaths’ graphics are definitely a welcomed break from the dreary dungeon-crawling norm. The animations leave something to be desired, but overall it works well in a turn-based game.
Though the graphics are hard to miss, the first thing I immediately noticed was the background music. It sounds eerily similar to Diablo or Torchlight to the point where if I closed my eyes, I could probably mistake the games. Outside of this music, much of the sound in the game is hardly noticeable but serviceable.
As a longtime lover of the role-playing genre, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of thoughtfulness that went into some of the basic design elements. Inventory management is wonderful and is in many ways equal to the standards put forth in more well known franchises like Diablo or Guild Wars. Items picked up are immediately comparable to items equipped (yay!) and sorting through your loot is incredibly easy. I wish the developers would have spent some time to make the items you’ve equipped appear on Rick to add a feeling of customization but you can’t have it all.
Quests are clearly defined which make your goals and objectives plain and easy to pursue. While the majority of quests don’t stray far from the standard “go to X and kill Y”, I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I could turn the game off and come back later and still know what I needed to do. The only quibble I have with the quests is the lack of map and defined boundaries. I often questioned if I was in the correct area to take care of business which was annoying.
While Battlepaths possesses some admirable qualities, a game should first and foremost be fun to play. It starts out on a good foot but over the course of time the gameplay – the combat in particular – grows stale and begins to grind on you. I think the decision to go turn-based was a mistake and the main source of frustration. This approach feels very similar to a cell phone game like Doom RPG than the more traditional turn-based combat of Final Fantasy.
As the game progresses too many turns end up as “misses” (despite numerous points spent upgrading accuracy) which leads to combat moving at a snail’s pace, interrupting the flow of the game. Enemies can box you in, which feels cheap – there’s no way to dodge incoming attacks and ranged opponents are vastly overpowered. Little strategy is required and oftentimes the combat boils down to “hold attack and pray” which can be stressful and simply not fun. The loot is fun to collect for a while, but after picking up a few higher level items there’s little incentive to pick up another sword or chain mail.
Creating a living, breathing world filled with history and lore is challenging, but critical to the overall experience of a role-playing game. Unfortunately this is one area in the genre that is often overlooked, both by indie and big budget developers, and Battlepaths is no exception. Oftentimes players can overlook a weak story and still enjoy the game for its “fun-factor”, such as with Torchlight. Battlepaths flirts with the idea of a story, with character monologue for the various quests, but it isn’t prevalent enough and feels like a throwaway.
Key17 Games should be commended for the ambition shown with its first project. Battlepaths is an absolutely huge game and lasts anywhere from 10-15 hours on a typical play-through. Despite the abundance of content they jammed in, however, it’s a tough game to recommend due to the stale combat and lack of story elements. If these flaws were addressed, I’d be more than happy to jump back into the world of Battlepaths. I’m looking forward to Key17’s next project.
Final Rating: 6.5/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: PC
Time to Complete: 10-15 hours
Gamerscore Earned: N/A
Purchase Price: Review copy provided by Key17 Games
Current Price*: $2.99 (GamersGate), 80 MSP (X360)
Recommended Purchase Price: 80 MSP ($1)
Why You Should Buy It: There’s a solid chunk of content for the price
Why You Shouldn’t Buy It: Combat grows stale quickly and no story leaves little reason to continue grinding
*Battlepaths is up for nomination on Steam Greenlight and may be available for this platform in the future.