While they’re not my specialty, I do enjoy turn-based games occasionally. But, as with any strategy or tactics game, they must have unique system or mechanic to hook me and keep me coming back. Sadly, I have not found anything about Battle Fleet: Ground Assault to recommend it over virtually any other turn-based game featuring tank combat. I’ve found it sparse, frustrating, and unintuitive. I, honestly, feel a little bad being this harsh. Let’s take a further look at the game and see if we can figure out where things go wrong. This is our Battle Fleet: Ground Assault review.
Starting out, Battle Fleet: Ground Assault is the 3rd game in the Battle Fleet series by developer Mythical City Games, an independent studio based in Vancouver. They have a fair few titles under their belt, from iOS block breakers and puzzle games to a VR city builder. The Battle Fleet series, prior to Ground Assault, has focused on naval combat. I’m not particularly familiar with the series, but this latest entry seems to be a departure from their norm. I do think some of the core gameplay is similar, though.
Ground Assault, at least, is a turn-based tactics game set during World War 2, so you have your Panzers and your Shermans and Pershings and what have you.
Graphics and UI
The game is not… particularly attractive. While it’s common to see more humble graphics in wargames and single-player tactical fare, I was not able to consistently ignore the rather sparse map design. Normandy Beaches, one of the first missions available to you, is a standout in this regard: it’s virtually barren, with nonfunctional pillboxes and grid-precise placement of tank traps on the beach itself. Also, notable: there’s never a human to be seen: not sitting atop open-carriage vehicles, not manning AT guns, not an AI ally charging alongside you, nothing. Your tools in this game are tanks, and that’s what you see. Tanks, and buildings, and trees. Town scenes can look barren because of this, as well.
From the all-over user interface that includes an unfortunate profusion of scrollbars, and UI elements hiding in every corner of the screen, to the menus, to the game’s out-of-combat meta layer, the game is messy and frustrating. It’s easy to learn, but never really felt appealing to me, and the relatively limited palette of options still, somehow, managed to come across as unclear.
Battle Fleet: Ground Assault puts the player in a series of to-the-death tank battles across Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Austria and France, with the player and AI opponent taking turns managing their war effort at a high level and engaging in tactical battles. The player is first presented with a world map divided into territories. Players can train new tanks here, and move their troops around, and pick territories to fight in. There’s no tutorial to speak of, but the player’s options upon selecting a territory are limited to Move, or Build, which helps a bit. The Build menu lets you pick a points value worth of tanks to add to the forces in a buildable region, with some tanks locked behind requirements like “play X number of matches” before they’re unlocked for use.
Upon picking Move, the player gets a menu to select which tanks they want to ferry into the destination territory: if the player has enough Transports to take the Enemy territory, the battle will be on.
Combat is where the meat of the game is, though it’s not without its tedium. Each tank can move twice or move once and shoot once (though ‘shoot once’ is a bit relative: many tanks can shoot 2 or 3 times even if they’ve moved). Movement has 2 phases: one where the player chooses the unit’s destination, and a second time – for most units – to confirm the unit’s angle when it’s done moving. Angle can be important, as many units have relatively narrow firing arcs, and some have narrow movement or turn arcs as well, making it important to line up your attack opportunities. Did I mention tedium? Every action seems to take multiple clicks, and there’s no real way to economize: you must select each move order, confirm it, watch the move animation, and then do so again. For every tank you own. And you must wait for your opponent to do the same.
Battles tend to start out with the player hunting the map for things to shoot at: fog of war often obscures you enemy, and it can be a turn or two before you can move your army in position to attack. Turns are staggered: each vehicle has its own priority, so the player or their opponent might have 3 or 4 tanks go in a row while the other player (or AI opponent) looks on.
Finally, it’s time to get into the thick of things. Combat! You’ve finally maneuvered within attack range of an enemy unit, when you find the game’s real selling point: you manually aim each round that each tank fires from each of its weapons. You aim the weapon and use a slider to determine how much force goes into the round: Worms-style, you choose how far you want the weapon to shoot.
Worms style… except the round doesn’t seem to collide with anything until it reaches its destination. I mean, the shot can collide with terrain, but you can’t fire past an enemy tank and expect the shell to hit it en route. You must land your shots dead-on enemy vehicles. They go where you tell them: I don’t think wind factors in, but elevation seems to. But it’s incredibly frustrating to see a shell land inches behind an enemy Panzer, doing nothing, when you’d expect it to collide on its way to its destination. The camera also tracks every shot which gets old fast.
Movement and attack range: those are pretty much the constraints the game works within. You do get some fun toys to play with: in an incredibly ‘gamey’ turn, players can pick up ‘off map’ abilities that range from dropping a minefield in a location to having a bombing run land on enemy units. These don’t require aiming, but the UI for them is phenomenally bad: instead of a cursor, you get a target reticle in the middle of the screen, and you drop your payload right under that big darn reticle. This makes it impossible to land these off-map abilities near the edge of the play space, you just can’t center your camera in some of these places. It’s a bad UI for what could have been a fun (if seemingly out of place in a game about estimating weapon ranges).
The game is clunky and frustrating. It provides some fun in estimating firing ranges for your tanks, but it makes that fun really hard to get to and loads it with the burdens of no tutorial, subpar UI, and frustrating movement mechanics. Whatever you’d come to this game looking for, it’s probably done better somewhere else.