Turning one of gaming’s most complicated and complete strategy series in to a free-to-play experience, Total War Battles: KINGDOM was always going to demand compromise. But, while it may be incredibly simplified compared to its forbearer, it does manage to keep much of the realistic tone that made the Total War series so popular.
It is good to be the king
In basic terms, there is little to separate Total War Battles: KINGDOM from Clash of Clans or Siegefall: gather resources to build your kingdom, defend against invaders, and attack other kingdoms to expand. What sets it apart is a more granular level of management and regimented style of combat.
You begin building your Kingdom on a hex-based landscape. Your first task is to build a dam and redirect a river, as well as ensuring that you have secure flood defenses. It may not have a huge influence on the game, but this sets a tone for the realism that proves Total War Battles: KINGDOM focus.
With an advisor walking you through the opening, you quickly learn the basics of all the systems: gather workers and troops, assign them, and using them to build further structures and gather additional resources. The detail of the world map helps with this, allowing you to distinguish between different buildings and items around the world (at least when zoomed in).
But while all the kingdom building is solid, it is the combat – both in missions and with other kingdoms – that differentiates Total War Battles: KINGDOM from similar titles.
Keeping it regimented
Taking a very traditional form of warfare, you line up and position your troops and set them of towards each other in formation. There is a rock-paper-scissors element to this system: so you can expect Spearmen to beat Cavalry, Cavalry to destroy Swordsmen, etc.
It’s quite predictable and rigid in comparison to some of the competition, but filling out the nine positions of your army with different troops adds complexity. Each unit looks the part, but when the camera is fully zoomed out you will have to rely on icons to tell units apart.
Along with having the right units, you must also place them properly and execute their abilities appropriately to win – particularly on the harder stages. For example, if your Swordsmen are in a different column to your opponent's Archers, their taunt can suck in the ranged units to engage more efficiently.
Being a free-to-play game, you can expect the usual deluge of timers, currencies, and resources. Fortunately you get a good three hours of play before a lack of these starts to limit your play, providing lots of time to decide if you are enjoying the game and if you want to pay anything.
Though it’s hard to deny that Total War Battles: KINGDOM lacks the depth of its big brothers, it is none the less a deep strategy game that implements a lot of the franchise core values and style. Given how much you can play before the game slams on the free-to-play breaks, fans of the Total War games and medieval warfare should give it a go.