War of the Human Tanks was released on Rice Digital’s store yesterday, so I thought I’d spend the morning exploring what it has to offer. From doujin circle Yakiniku Banzai and localisation company, Fruitbat Factory it’s a smart little strategy game – with a cute exterior.
One thing that did take me by surprise was the fact that, alongside the strategic battle maps – War of the Human Tanks is also quite a lengthy Visual Novel. Broken up into episodes it charts the progress of your rag-tag bunch of human tanks and is told through quite a lot of whimsical and kinda charming dialogue skits.
Interestingly, battles and skits take place in self contained episodes (complete with opening and closing credits) and although lengthy, they nicely frame the action.
Typically, it’s quite hard to feel any kind of bond with a strategy game that takes place on fairly simple grids, but Yakiniku Banzai have done a decent job of injecting this universe with real personality.
As for the battles themselves? These break down into two sides. On one hand you have unit and team assembly where you have to put together a balanced selection of troops, and then you have the actual battles themselves.
In the field, you have a number of basic Human Tank types. Scouts can locate other enemies on the battlefield, Shock troops will blow themselves up if defeated (taking enemies close by down with them in the process), Assault units are armed rifles and are the close range attack option, where as Batteries are your long range missile units. Lastly the command unit is your leader – if it’s defeated, then the battle is lost.
Battles are played out on grid of different formations. Initially enemies are hiding in blocks marked ‘Unknown’ – so you need to use your Scouts as recon to uncover the enemy, although you can, if you wish, attack unknown blocks in the hope you might get lucky. In this respect you could say War of the Human tanks plays out like a more advanced version of battleships… er… a much more advanced version of battleships.
In fact – this is often a necessity, as you advance your slow moving Assault Tanks into the fog of war, stumbling on enemies by surprise. Often you’ll be attacked from an unknown block – and the enemy location will be revealed briefly – forcing you to try to commit to memory their location when your turn comes around.
It makes for oddly… tense encounters – testing both memory and tactical skill simultaneously – and it’s not easy. Early on as you get to grips with unit types, you’ll loose a lot of your Tanks.
Mercifully, you can replenish your stocks quite easily. Winning battles and defeating enenies will earn you crates. Crates that you can use to develop stronger types of tanks, buy new units or upgrade your exising units.
This is where the game’s most compelling aspect comes in. In a nice touch, you can choose to ‘free battle’ – play non consequential battles to effectively grind for resources. When you’re confident you’re well enough equipped for the next episode, you can choose to progress the story at your leisure.
What seems on the surface a cute and simple game actually hides something of a more, hard-nosed strategy experience, and certainly one that can eat away the hours of a what you thought would be a lazy evening.
You could easily be forgiven for taking one look at the screens and thinking this is not for you – but as is often the case with the more interesting strategy experiences – looks often hide a deeply satisfying game of tactics an wits, and one that is undoubtedly worth investigating if you’re partial to a game that requires more forethought, planning and cunning that a straight test of your reflexes.
The standard version of the game is available here for £8.99
You can also get a ‘Deluxe’ version of the game which includes the (very nice actually) soundtrack. This edition is £10.99
You can watch the trailer below
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