Battalion Wars is, as we know, a good game, although saying that much on this Wikia is a politically correct comment. But really, it has a great concept going for it: the manual unit system. You control one guy at a time, and he ends up being the Squishy Wizard of your team, as he is stuck with human reaction time to deal with anything in the heat of combat, but when he can, human intelligence is more adaptable than the CPU's is. (The former, though, would be why Kuju sees fit that the player's unit has power boosts, but I'd rather it not be around as a standard in any sequels.) It's up to the human player to keep their AI support safe, tell them where to move and where to hit, and fight off any attacks and defenses in the meantime.
BW also has good balance, despite the multiplayer maps being bad, but there are some blatant issues that still pop up, and it's not just in the matchups and unit setups where there are problems. To wit, the mechanics also have their shortcomings. I'm going to suggest a few ideas for the possibility of Battalion Wars 3 if Headstrong Games ever makes that game.
As a disclaimer, please note that the specifics are not set in stone, but again, these are ideas with the goal of improving the gameplay in mind.
Capture points for faster unit reinforcements
In Advance Wars, you capture properties so that you can get funds, which you can use to repair damaged units or simply use Factories, Airports, or Harbors to build new units. This is so that when unit losses happen, slippery slope does not occur, and the game will keep going as the incomes go up. The matches do have to end, but the important thing is to keep somebody from winning just because of an early advantage from having more leftover units.
Battalion Wars 1 was not able to have suitable multiplayer setup because of development timetable issues preventing proper addressing of letting the players get new units, citation of such from this interview: http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/09/29/battalion-wars-looking-back-and-forward
Battalion Wars 2, however, fixes this issue by providing five types of facilities: Headquarters, Barracks, Factory, Airbase, and Docks. When you hold a facility, units of the respective type will spawn from there, and this includes lost unit respawns.
There is, however, not a whole lot of depth to this: there is only one flag per facility, if that, and no other capture points whatsoever on any Skirmish map. This creates too much incentive to protect flags instead of trying to nab them, because losing a flag results in losing unit deployment control. The point of Cities in the standard Nintendo Wars games is to provide both players with properties that they want to try to capture without failure being instantly fatal.
Here's how the system I propose would work:
- Each player would be able to make a unit set allowing up to 7 unit types besides Grunts. A player can sacrifice a unit type slot to have more units of a given type available at a given time, as well as faster spawn rates. The Battlestation, Strato Fortress, and Dreadnaught would be exception to this: all 3 would be impossible to control transfer to unless another unit type slot is sacrificed for each of those unit types, and the player could have only one of each available at a time regardless. 1 Battleship, 1 Submarine, and 1 Frigate would all be available by default if Docks are captured, but any that don't take up a slot will be on forced Guard AI for the deployment facility. 3 Bazooka Vets, 1 Heavy Tank, and 2 Fighters would be default units for a Barracks, Factory, and Airbase respectively, with the same conditions except that they're only provided if the facility provides nothing else (except Grunts from Barracks) for the player to begin with.
- Initially, the player would start with Grunts, but they would gradually get units of other types. This is where the simple flags would come into play: having more flags raised would increase the rate of unit spawns. Simple flags would apply for all unit types but each at a rate of 2/3 of the facility flags. As an example: if you have Bazooka Vets on a unit slot, and you capture 3 simple flags and a Barracks, they would spawn 3 times as fast as if you had just the Barracks. 6 simple flags would increase that rate to 5 times as fast.
- The "flag energy" as I'll call it would spawn only single units for each type. You won't get your Vets all at once. You'd have to wait if you want to have them all around.
- If a player's unit count for a given type is capped, surplus units would not spawn and will instead wait to do so until units of the given type are killed, at which point the replacements would spawn immediately. As an example, if you're allowed to have 1 Heavy Tank out and you get enough time to spawn 3, if the first one hasn't been destroyed, the other two will be on the surplus, and as soon as the Heavy Tank is destroyed, the second one will spawn right away. If that gets destroyed, the third one will do the same. If you have had enough time to have only 1 spawn, and it gets destroyed halfway between its spawn moment and the second one's, you would need to wait half the spawn time (not the full spawn time) to get the second one.
Here's what the system would do:
- With the simple flags, there is now incentive to control the center aside from jackhammering enemy emplacements. More importantly, there is incentive to control multiple locations at once, so on a good custom map (would you think Battalion Wars 3 shouldn't have a stage builder?) being able to outsmart the opponent is actually a useful skill instead of being able to simply outspeed them.
- With immediate respawns at the price that they're not infinite, people would not suicide units because the opponents' key units are already gone for a while: not only will the opponents' key units be back almost immediately if their defense is working, but suiciding units will cost the commander resources.
- Anything else I'm not sure yet...umm...you get to choose which unit types you have? Oh right, that's customization.
Still, the multiplayer would have its level of depth improved. Skirmish certainly would. (And on topic about modes, about Co-Op, can we get emergency coverage units for each playable faction? PLEASE?)
Recently, games have become more involved in using a stamina system. Skyward Sword and Kid Icarus Uprising certainly use one, though they both have faulty execution about it. Skyward Sword has a faster stamina recovery speed than stamina usage speed, though at least has the excuse that health uses lower-end values and getting hit isn't supposed to be normal for good enough players. Kid Icarus Uprising, though, it's quite normal to get hit (outside using the broken garbage that is Evasion +4, why does it provide more invincibility frames than dodge lag frames?) so considering you get tired too fast half the time, being completely immobile if you get tired rather than simple damage punishment for trying to push yourself is inexcusable. (Seriously, even if self-pushing damage couldn't be lethal, the game itself is still to blame if 1 HP guys become a pain to catch.)
Battalion Wars already provides a sort of stamina system for specific units doing specific actions: if for too long infantry are in water or submarines are dived, they will start taking damage that can actually kill them. There's an idea: taking damage for continued stamina-draining actions. But as it's rather limited (swimming is situational in the first place, and subs tend to have sufficient surface recovery time), more things should affect a unit's stamina. Here's a list of recommended things, besides the swimming and submarine diving:
- Combat rolls and jumping. These already allow for evasive maneuvers that can help make a directly-controlled deadly to the touch.
- Knockback resistance. This comes up because the manual soldier is immune to flinching. If a soldier is hit for knockback, resisting could instead be done for a stamina cost, that would even apply for the manual unit's automated flinching immunity. Having too little stamina left would force the unit to take knockback, even if they're under manual control.
- First gear movement. Yes, vehicles would be able to move faster by having the nunchuck forward. It would be similar to Link's Dash option in Skyward Sword, which wasn't even there in prior Zelda games, so having it at all is sufficient.
- Jet planes' barrel rolling. Keeping them from being able to barrel roll too much would prevent them from enjoying effective invincibility.
By limiting infantry maneuvers, infantry will no longer be able to stay in hotzones without careful stamina management. This will force infantry to avoid unnecessary behavior and rely better on terrain cover to retain their health.
Knockback immunity should be a bonus for infantry. Even though they can survive hits, they still have low defense and are meant to believe in not getting hit, and therefore should still be punished if they do get hit. However, having it around whatsoever is still good for balance to prevent range knockback from being effective, Mortar VS Mortar being a blatant example.
First gear movement would be very useful as it would speed up games by giving vehicles a mobility option. This would serve multiple purposes:
- Faster units (Recon and air units come to mind) would be having an only slightly higher maximum speed, and going at maximum speed could cause overheat and result in gradual damage.
- The Artillery, Battlestation, and AA Vehicle would also have only slightly higher maximum speed than their current speed in BW2, if that. There would be no worries about ruining their usefulness because all 3 units have some form of usefulness even with minimal mobility. (The Artillery could snipe enemies and have supporting units guard it; the Battlestation humiliates any AI ground unit; and the AA Vehicle is anti-air that only fears surface anti-armor attack.)
- The Light Tank would have a way to move faster, so that it can actually catch AA Vehicles as well as zip past Artillery defenses. It would also justify infantry (Grunts in particular) getting better mobility, which in turn speed up the game and justify increased flag capture requirements, God knows how those need to be toned up.
- Air units would be forced to pay for moving too quickly from one area to another. Their stamina would not regenerate quickly, so they'd have to make well-calculated strikes now. Think of this as a nod to air units in the Advance Wars games requiring fuel to stay airborne.
Barrel rolling also causing overheat limits air units from spamming it. Combined with limited cooling as well as heating for moving too quickly, and Fighters will no longer be evasion Gods.
All in all, nothing that hinders the gameplay, but instead gives infantry a needed nerf, improves already available vehicles, and makes the air units suffer as well.
The big one. Let's start with why this would be helpful if it manages to avoid being out of place.
Battalion Wars has a very nice concept: you are in direct control of one of the soldiers in your army and you give commands to the soldiers as well. You can manage a solo or leading attack to create openings in the enemy's formation while giving your guys care and coordination. This alone is very useful for the gameplay, where in multiplayer it actually helps to attack the AI units even without considering the manual unit's (frankly OP) defense power boost to isolate the manual unit and cut the opposing army's attack power severely. But inevitably, some manual units manage to become better than others, and the common pattern is that it's better to lead with combat role units because the AI units tend to be sluggish and/or dim about doing their tasks, especially since they like to clutter. Two that particularly suffer are Grunts and Recons, which only do anything worthwhile to infantry, who already can be answered against by other units that don't need as much support about it. As a result, it's generally a horrible idea to bother taking command as either unit against a formation with a thick defense.
A charisma system would fit for this. By leading better, especially as a unit like a humble Grunt or a natural scout like the Recon, your troops would become more loyal and end up fighting better. Lead poorly and you will be having near-useless guys. But the problem is managing the details.
The ways of gaining charisma would be important. Here's what would have to be remembered by players:
- Try to stay in command as a more humble unit. If you avoid being deadweight without personally relying on overwhelming firepower or armor, your troops will gladly support you.
- Frontline when you can. Soldiers are more loyal when you share in their pain and make their lives less difficult.
- Don't spam commands. The troops won't like being led by impatient people. Ordering them into bad matchups will annoy them too.
- Move commands should be used sparingly. You're supposed to lead by example, after all.
- Have troops Wait sometimes. Not only do they get recovery time, but bringing fewer soldiers to deal with a given situation is a good way to impress your guys too.
- Do not pressure highly damaged or tired units. Even if you win a given skirmish, you will have a less happy battalion for the next one.
- Above all, do not sacrifice units. The soldiers won't take kindly to being treated as nothing more than pawns, if that.
So what would be the reward for following this advice well? Power boosts, offensive or defensive, wouldn't make sense. Inputting something else may get rather complex. Here are some ideas:
- If you have a happy battalion, they would be more inclined to ignore low damage attacks and do things that eat up their stamina, and infantry would even trade some stamina to resist knockback attacks, with fully loyal infantry outright not even flinching.
- Soldiers that are treated well will prioritize valid targets that threaten the manual unit, even over valid targets that threaten the troops themselves.
- Leading by example will inspire soldiers to be less cluttered where plausible, giving them positional protection from clump punishment attacks. Units would also react to enemies from further away.
A meter for the player would represent how well the advice is followed. Obviously, if it's full, your troops would be at the very least highly loyal. But what about the in-between? Well, each unit type would also have a loyalty minimum for the meter. Meet it and the units will go at attack speed when they have full stamina. When the meter is more full, less stamina is needed for a unit to fight more competently.
General ideas for how given units would relate to the Charisma system:
- Grunt - very high charisma, very high loyalty
- Charisma - being able to fight off the opposing force with nothing but your own wits to work with makes your other guys feel better about how you wouldn't get in the way.
- Loyalty - other grunts also just want to get the job done.
- Charisma - with easy Charisma gaining, Grunts become perfectly valid manual units given enough valid targets. In fact, the Charisma system idea exists with Grunts and Recons in mind, as both have only MGs, typically leaving all of your anti-armor combat units to AI.
- Loyalty - high loyalty will make sure they're fully functioning in general, since their ability to be good at managing combat is questionable at best.
- Vets (as a whole) - moderate charisma, low loyalty
- Charisma - any greenhorn can loving use a weapon with chargeup when they can evade attacks with minimized effort. And getting on your guys' case about not doing their job when you clearly should be is a good way to be dealing with low morale and quite possibly a court marshal. Decent vets would have no problem showcasing their actual skill though.
- Loyalty - Vets will only respect the authority of those who lead well enough. To them, those who can't deserve to have their orders questioned.
- Charisma - Vets already have so many tools for surviving without needing defensive power, as well as supporting combat forces as an effective manual combat unit. However, they're surprisingly iffy against groups that have good brute force control.
- Loyalty - Vets can already abuse a numbers advantage to deal potentially obscene amounts of damage. This needs to be kept in check.
- Recon - high charisma, very high loyalty
- Charisma - while not as able to impress as Grunts, Recons are intended to be scouts who would get their act together.
- Loyalty - the guys who tend to drive the Recon cars tend to be scouts, so it's natural they'd be loyal.
- Gameplay: see Grunts. It should be noted that BW2's Recon can run over infantry (BW1's can but sucks about it), but that isn't helpful against a thick defense, which is the main problem.
- Tanks - low charisma, high loyalty
- Charisma - "The man in the armored tank speaks of rights." ~Caulder the Complete Monster has a point. (He's snarking there if you couldn't tell.) Of course, without respect for life, his science is pointless, and the psychopath used his own youngest daughter as a sacrificial lamb for an unneeded Xanatos Gambit, but both subjects are off-topic. The tank guy is making use of high defensive power to keep himself safe. Not exactly foot-guys-can-do-this-too material.
- Loyalty - of course, the man in the armored tank does support your cause, and he has a method of creating a power imbalance that could easily shift things in your favor. Just give the order and preferably let him handle the unit duels.
- Charisma - the charisma is higher if the tank is weaker. However, all 3 tanks have lowish Charisma because they'd easily handle ALL of the other criteria of filling the charisma meter.
- Loyalty - drivers of stronger tanks will be less loyal or smart, but even the Battlestation's main driver will have the sense to naturally attack valid targets at a good rate. High enough loyalty will make sure that they won't be junk if under AI control. In fact, the charisma system was thought up with making other manual units valid in mind.
- Artillery - moderate charisma, low loyalty
- Charisma - while Artillery do provide covering fire, backlining means they can only impress so much.
- Loyalty - sometimes, the guys at Artillery command can get arrogant. Not quite believing they are God, but nevertheless believing they have borrowed his Smite button. They will only properly follow commanders who bust their butts to keep them safe.
- Charisma - not too much of a worry, as anything the Artillery does to gather/keep Charisma is an inherently problematic action for it. If they frontline, they're asking to get swarmed. If they don't issue orders, they're asking to get smashed.
- Loyalty - on the other hand, Artillery at full potential can be rather bothersome to deal with. Positional Artillery that don't have to be commanded to attack to do so shouldn't exactly come easy. Certainly not in a game like BW.
- Anti-Air Vehicle - low charisma, moderate loyalty
- Charisma - seen as important whether the other units like it or not, anybody who can't handle an AA Vehicle well and proper is a moron.
- Loyalty - of course, the guys on the AA Vehicles will do their jobs nevertheless. Just don't expect them to like idiot commanders.
- Charisma - AA Vehicle doesn't have to worry about racking up charisma to begin with because of how synergetic it is with charisma system when played properly: it frontlines well with nothing but surface anti-armor even able to threaten it well, it shouldn't need frequent ordering, and it shouldn't need any backup beyond anti-armor killers.
- Loyalty - moderate loyalty means that the AA Vehicle will often enough shoot down the enemy air force quickly enough to keep them from being a threat, providing the enemy air force is intercepted fast enough of course. It's kept not too high so that it's still a challenge to deal with air units when kiting gets nerfed.
- Fighter - moderate charisma, moderate loyalty
- Charisma - although they have their share of pride, Fighter pilots nevertheless understand that their role is purely to keep the skies clear of bandits 12:00 high. Smarter ones are able to scout, but they'd have to watch out for anti-air fire.
- Loyalty - Fighter pilots' jobs are simple enough that they wouldn't be fond of being told what to do, but as long as orders are coherent enough, they're not complaining too much.
- Charisma - the Fighter relies purely on scout commanding and air unit sniping to be decent as the manual unit. Otherwise, it has problems, being useless for directly dealing with some of the more potentially annoying units, like Artillery. (Of course, its Charisma shouldn't be too high, we want the Recon to be a usable manual unit.)
- Loyalty - naturally, you order the Fighter to attack its valid targets and watch those valid targets get totaled. Not much to it, really. Worth checking against a bit to slow down the damage to the valid targets.
- Bomber - low charisma, very low loyalty
- Charisma - nothing says arrogant like claiming you control the heavens when you can't contest anything that controls the simple skies.
- Loyalty - the Bomber pilots, of course, will not appreciate being told what to do unless the commander proves VERY charismatic.
- Charisma - yeah, the Bomber is going to be given another tool to add to being able to 1RK a Heavy Tank even dealt sufficient offensive power nerfing with Heavy Tank getting appropriate resistance buffs? Yeah, no.
- Loyalty - and, of course, who wants the Bomber massacring everything on AI control, turning it into a command-to-win unit? Not happening.
- Gunship - very low charisma, high loyalty
- Charisma - Gunship pilots aren't known for being brave or they wouldn't be in a machine that flies with high control. They will arrogantly believe that all is fair in love and war, but that will only serve to anger friend and enemy alike.
- Loyalty - say what you want about them, though, but Gunship pilots are serving your cause using an advantage they find to be safe. Granted, as with tank pilots, loyalty isn't everything, but it's better than nothing.
- Charisma - guess what, kiters? No, you are not going to stat AND terrain kite *AND* get any charisma. No, not happening. If you think you can get away with it, you will suffer having a Tabitha army that will ultimately get munched, causing you to get isolated. Have fun.
- Loyalty - Gunships are not nearly as nightmarish under AI control as under player control. The biggest problem with leaving them to AI is that they generally expose themselves to any AA fire if ordered to join in the skirmish in any way. Gunships, ironically, need some protection against this.
- Battleship - moderate charisma, moderate loyalty
- Charisma - while not the bravest or most humble guys out there, Battleship captains do still provide nice, useful support to back up whatever promises they make.
- Loyalty - Battleship captains do have some stoicism going on so they're more about practicality, but they will see about giving charismatic commanders a reasonable chance at survival.
- Charisma - although defensively powerful with a self-explanatory purpose, the Battleship has to worry about dealing with brutal counters. Directing land troops can be a bit of a chore too.
- Loyalty - like the Fighter, the Battleship provides easy free damage to valid targets if well supported. Not much else to say.
- Frigate - low charisma, high loyalty
- Charisma - the AA Vehicle of the sea, as Windsor exclaimed before.
- Loyalty - what do you expect from hired bodyguard units?
- Charisma - as it is, the Frigate has too many advantages to controlling manually in a sea battle. It's countered for decent damage by only ONE unit, and has the speed to dodge said unit's attacks. Meanwhile, the Frigate instantly gimps the units it counters even when under AI control. The manual Frigate definitely doesn't need another bloody advantage.
- Loyalty - the Frigates are supposed to be escorts. It should be preferable to have them under AI control, but the game makes it preferable to have them under player control.
- Submarine - moderate charisma, high loyalty
- Charisma - Submarine pilots have the necessity of their job being understood just enough that fellow soldiers are willing to put up.
- Loyalty - well, hey, if the Submarine pilots wanted, they could sell out to the opposing force and make use of their vehicles to give them blatant advantages.
- Charisma - it would seem that the Submarine can become abusive since it can kite the Frigate and rob it of half its health that way, which would be an unfair advantage for the Submarine, countering the sole non-Sub unit capable of even hitting it when it's dived, but the Frigate can just wall the manual Submarine while destroying anything that threatens its own Submarine support. Diving, by the way, wouldn't count as frontlining, because enemy Battleships will NEVER attack dived Subs. This would give incentive for the manual Submarine to stay surfaced: gathering charisma. Battleships or other units that have problems against Subs, in turn, would have a reason to actually attack surfaced Subs. More playstyles!
- Loyalty - while the Submarine can be a headache to hit, AI still has problems with tactical evasion: they won't realize when to dive and when to surface. This means that their AI already has to be manipulated to get mileage out of them.
So that should cover it. As long as things like anti-armor can actually be entrusted to AI, that should make some manual units more viable.
So yeah, there's a lot of work here, but if BW3 is made, I certainly hope that these ideas are followed.
Well, hey, one can dream. Who knows? Maybe BW3 could indeed be made and handle all this. That would certainly be nice.