Review: Battle for Wesnoth HD (iPad)

4 mins read

The Battle for Wesnoth is proof that open source community projects can make awesome games. It’s been around for years, of course, and over that time has developed a very faithful community that has produced an immense range of scenarios and refinements, but the HD iPad version is perhaps the most natural fit of all.

That poor dude in the middle ran into the quicksand

If you think of Wesnoth as something akin to Fire Emblem, you’re on the right track. You move units around a hex-grid battlefield, fighting fantasy battles in turn-based fashion and winning experience for your characters. There are a mass of different character types to get a grip of, with some very large maps to traverse.

Within that frame is a great deal of depth in effectively managing your force – picking the right units for the situation, making good use of terrain and trying to protect them from death – like in Fire Emblem a dead unit is gone for good, along with the experience is had accursed through the game.

Wizard fellow, I think the building is the least of your worries

The down side to the game is in its presentation – although the HD visuals provide a high resolution, animations are extremely limited, and characters look more like cardboard cutouts than animated miniatures. Maps are likewise lifeless, with simple tree, mountain and water tiles giving the game a personality not dissimilar to the likes of early-era Heroes of Might and Magic games.

Music, on the other hand, is quite good, and somewhat surprisingly for community-produced content, the stories are of a high calibre, the text is well-written and largely free of grammatical errors.

Wesnoth is a game you have to pay for to play on iPad – which might irritate some, since you can get more scenarios for free on PC, but if you consider the nominal price (and it is less than $10) provides you a ‘best of’ list of 21 scenarios, the convenience of being able to play the game anywhere you like, and a mass of multiplayer options, it’s still better value than 99 per cent of other iPad games.

Why do kings always have beards?

Each of those scenarios provides a self-contained story within the world of Wesnoth, and those stories are linked by a series of battles – and that’s only a fraction of the content you’ll be getting when you buy this game. There’s also multiplayer – which works across multiple platforms and also features a hotseat option. There’s a skirmish mode that lets you take on the AI in a deathmatch across a massive range of maps. There’s OpenFeint for achievements. There’s save syncing – allowing you to play on PC at home, and then take the game on the go with your iPad without having to start again.

Although it lacks some of the refinement of a properly commercial game, Battle for Wesnoth is a soulful, meaty project that any strategy or RPG buffs will just love. Considering we will never get a Fire Emblem on the iPad, this is a worthy supplement.

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