Set in the distant future BATALJ throws us in with a human race that has fully embraced technology and science in many different ways. Splitting into three completely distinct factions. The Rusters, the Re-Linked and the Spliced. Who have each chosen a different way to use the technology of the world, or fuse with it. The focus here is on fast-paced yet strategic combat in a one on one arena. The title translates to "Combat" in English from Swedish, which is a nod to the Fall Damage founders expertise in AAA first-person shooters. As Fall Damage was founded by four DICE veterans. Giving this game a pedigree that not many others can claim. Can BATALJ live up to the prestige brought by these FPS legends?
BATALJ REVEAL TRAILER
As mentioned above, BATALJ is set in the far future with three unique factions all vying for control of points on a map. Looking to claim that territory for themselves. Presumably for the resources within it, but at this point that is purely speculation and searching for in-game logic. While the game is currently in beta, the story seems to be the least fleshed out or least important part of the experience. The really important part of BATALJ is the gameplay.
So how does BATALJ play? Take a couple parts X-Com and mix in some control point capture mechanics. Take out the cover system and swap it for simultaneous turns and that just about sums up the very basics of BATALJ's gameplay experience. From my time with the game, it is not currently as quick as the developer, Fall Damage, seem to either think it is or maybe want it to be. Though as this is a one on one online experience, the issues could have been down to my opponents, my connection or my own unfamiliarity with the game to begin with. When BATALJ does flow as it should, then it is a totally different experience. While BATALJ by no means reinvents the wheel, it also sets itself apart from many of the games it can be compared to by doing enough differently to feel like it stands on its own, under its own merit.
“With BATALJ we wanted to take a whole new approach to the genre,” says Markus Nyström, Creative Director at Fall Damage. “We focused on making it as accessible as possible without sacrificing depth. The players will realize that they have endless options to mix and match units in their squad, trying out different lineups will be both exciting and challenging."
Battles take place on a pretty good sized map, with the controls points being directly between the two teams. Each team has their unique hero and a pool of 63 totally unique units to pull from. There are no mirrored units and no mechanic that feels like a rock, paper, scissors stand-in.
There are two phases to a turn: the planning phase and the action phase. These sound like exactly what they are, each player plans their turn at the same time and then depending on the timeline, shown at the top of the screen, each unit plays out their action. Leading to sure hits turning into firing at a unit who has moved to flank you and take the point you were so diligently defending. It's the timeline that truly sets this game apart from its contemporaries. As no unit is inherently faster than another, planning your action point use becomes the key factor in how a battle will play out.
Will you save your action points to give yourself an edge in an upcoming turn, or spend them all and go for an early advantage? This planning and reacting to your opponent is something you will have to master to claim the five points you need to win a battle. There is no element of chance here, you can always see what order the moves will be taken in and plan accordingly. BATALJ has a lot of trying to maximize your loadout at any given time against what your opponent is doing and wants to do.
Always be thinking a couple turns ahead if you can. If you catch yourself struggling to do so you may find that your opponent soon rolls over you. This happened to me in my first match or two. Luckily matches don't outstay their welcome and are often quick enough to want to make you jump back in for "just one more." I told myself "just one more" at least three times while playing, which speaks to the efficacy of these quick matches and just how good BATALJ feels to play.
Your first couple of games might see you struggle to plan your moves efficiently but when you figure out what does what, you should be racking up the points in no time.
Graphics & audio
BATALJ is still in beta so the current graphics and graphical options are subject to change, but as it is now BATALJ looks great. All the different unit models pop out from the terrain and the lighting effects on terrain elements such as the lava pools add an extra dimension that may have otherwise been missing due to the camera's angle.
Each unit and hero model are well designed and truly sell the idea of the different factions, each feeling like they belong specifically to that faction.
Each faction also has a distinct colour palette setting them even further apart from one another physically as well as ideologically, with the Rusters being more oranges and browns and earthy tones, the Splicers favour a red and black aesthetic, which by association to those colours in media, paints them as the bad guys, or at the very least morally ambiguous. The Re-Linked are the most tech looking and as such have a colour scheme of silvers and blues. You will never get confused by what unit belongs to what faction on the playing field.
Which makes playing and watching a game a lot easier. Which would open up BATALJ to work quite well as an eSport somewhere down the line, should Fall Damage want to go that route. Though at this point with only three factions, that could be a while away. Should more factions be introduced in the future I think that eSports is an arena where BATALJ could flourish.
BATALJ definitely plays and feels like a premium product. As of now, no price point has been disclosed but with the pedigree of the people behind it and the way it plays, I feel that the team know how much their game is worth and should charge accordingly.
The audio is just as good. Abilities all sound as unique as the models look, the in-game music isn't intrusive in any way and never feels like it overpowers any other sounds. Every sound in the game feels like it belongs to its source in a way that matches how each model feels like it belongs to its respective faction. The audio and visual design and direction in BATALJ is fantastic and truly adds to the overall experience. If even one of these elements were a little off it would be completely noticeable as they currently all fit together so well.
As it stands right now BATALJ is definitely worth checking out. You can claim your closed beta key on the official website or grab a key in our giveaway as we have 10,000 to give. I heartily recommend getting involved with BATALJ if you like strategic and fast-paced combat with a varied ability pool and a fantastic cast of characters. If you have played and enjoyed X-Com then there is a high chance you will also enjoy at least some elements of the world of BATALJ.
Even in its current beta form, BATALJ is leaps and bounds ahead of some other games on the market at the moment and can only get better as the development cycle continues. Which is something I, personally, am very excited to watch happen. You can also wish-list the game on Steam.
You can also claim yourself a two pack of codes and many other games in the Yogscast Jingle Jam Bundle from Humble. With all the proceeds from that going straight to charity.
If you would rather just jump in when the game fully releases, it is currently scheduled for a 2019 release, but if you can manage to get yourself into the beta, I recommend giving BATALJ a fair shake. Don't think you will know what is fully going on after one game. It will take a little while to grasp everything that is happening, what all the effects are of abilities and such.
Keep your eyes peeled here for more news and articles for BATALJ upon its full release.