Board Gaming · Digital Review

Digital Review: BattleCON Online

Today I’m going to do something a little different than usual. There is no denying that we’re seeing a boom in the amount of board games that are going digital. While I don’t prefer to play games in a digital format (I’d much rather have the human opponent at the table and touch/feel the components), there are a few that I do play more often than others. And when Brad from Level 99 Games mentioned I could review BattleCON Online, I wasn’t sure how that might fit in with my personal playing preferences.

Let’s start by saying this won’t be in the format of my typical review in the sense that I won’t be giving an overview of the game or how to set up/play it. Instead I’m going to dive right into some pros & cons for the Online version of the game and wrap up with my final thoughts. And look for at least one digital review to appear each month (hopefully) as I tinker around in the realm of apps or Steam-based versions for your games.

***

+++Note: You can look at my review of Trials and apply many of the comments on that game to the Online version. Rather than rehash those same things, I’ll focus on what applies exclusively to the Online version.

+ The game has built-in timers, both on number of rounds and some countdowns associated with how much time you get to make decisions. These both help the game move along and fall into that 20-30 minute range without overstepping to the 45-ish mark. I really enjoy the speed of the match itself when playing because it never feels like it runs too long.

+ The AI opponent option is a great thing to use when you just have a brief amount of time or if there isn’t an available opponent. Or to get better with a character (or even just familiarize yourself with them before using against someone else). This was a recent addition, and one I really like having in there. I just wish you earned coins by facing the AI, apart from getting those small achievement goals for bonus coins.

+ There are a good number of characters available, and a host of them that could still be added. I’m not sure how many are planned to be unlocked at the start, or which ones might be the first characters you can use (it recently changed to a new set of 4, which surprised me in a good way). But you gain the currency to unlock by playing matches against other people and/or accomplishing one of three current objectives (such as Spend 30 force, or Deal 60 Damage, or use a Specialist 3 times, etc.) to get bonus currency. As long as the characters remain “free” to unlock, this isn’t a bad thing. It’d be nice to be able to use any of them against something like a Training Dummy, just to know before unlocking a character whether you like their style, but you can see info about the character and their cards and draw some conclusions that way.

+ This game helps with some visual elements, showing you the combined stats of your cards being played and showing the spaces your attack could hit. This takes some of that guesswork out and helps you make sure you make better plays. It doesn’t always help me – I still make mistakes – but I believe I make fewer mistakes on that front. Most of the time. It also takes care of any upkeep you may have, which helps progress the game right along.

+ The music, the voices and sound effects, and the animations all make this game come alive. It feels even more like a fighting video game, but without the button-mashing or combo memorizing. This has a toe in both worlds, tabletop and video game, and will hopefully help unite players in both of those realms. Some of those themes will stick in your mind, and it is fun to hear how some of the characters sound.

+ The best thing about the Online version of BattleCON is the community associated with it. There is a really strong, dedicated core of players who are willing to play and, in many cases, provide some feedback afterwards on how to more effectively use that character. I recently got obliterated with my first play as Marmelee and got a significant set of recommendations on how to more effectively use her, which turned out to be much better when I put it into practice. If you have any interest at all in playing BattleCON Online (BCO), joining its Discord community is the best move you can make.

+/- Tying in with that, the most effective way to get a match is to hop on Discord and mention you’re looking for a match. This may change when it gets a wider official release, but just idly waiting for a match could take over half an hour. Pinging the Discord, though, could get you paired within minutes.

+/- But beware: finding a match could get you paired with someone about 100 tiers above your current skill level. There is nothing wrong with that – I am a firm believer in you learn through losing at games – but some people might get frustrated and/or put off from that experience. Especially when a match becomes one-sided. Add in the fact that certain characters do better or worse in specific matchups, and this could easily snowball if you are on the wrong end of the character matchup AND playing against someone with a lot more experience.

– A big thing I noticed with this is that it runs a little on the slow side. It might be completely on my own machine as the cause here, as I have a computer that isn’t designed for online gaming, but I suspect that at least the initial opening/loading screens and the Victory screen after a match are both slow outside of my own computer. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the delay is quite noticeable. I also get random pauses during a match when selecting/revealing cards but it is brief and I suspect more a result of my own machine for those. Just know that it won’t be lightning-fast through everything like you’d expect from a PS4 game or anything.

Final Thoughts

I love BattleCON so much. I actually played this before I got a review copy of Trials, and the learning game and a match against the Training Dummy were enough to raise my excitement. So when I had a chance to also get a physical copy of the game, I had to pounce on that! The game does a great job of teaching the basics and managing those small details that are easy to be confused by or overlook in person for those first games. I like the speed of the individual matches, and as long as I plan in advance I can get the game loading early so it is ready when I want to find a match.

I’ll probably still always prefer the cardboard version of the game, but that is more of a “me” thing than anything. When I don’t have someone to play against in person, I have a really fun way to get some matches played. It lets me try characters I don’t own, which can help me decide upon the next set I want to try and pick up. And, since I believe this is still in Beta form and getting updated regularly, everything about this will continue to get even better.

Yet if BCO didn’t change at all from the form it is in today, it would still be something I would recommend to anyone who love BattleCON or is interested in the game. The music, the voices, and some of the animations really make a great game come alive in a new way that provides a fun and fresh experience. And the availability of playing with others around the world, of a variety of skill levels, makes this even better.

There is organized play for this which can help you to earn points. There is a sheet in the Discord for filling it out – I haven’t used it myself yet because I need to know my opponent’s number to submit the form. It hasn’t been important enough for me to try and figure that out yet, and some people won’t care at all about the organized play and possible rewards. I mention this to point out that it exists, and it sounds like a great thing to get excited about. I plan to figure it out on my own eventually, hopefully before the current season ends on June 30th, so I can possibly get the first tier of rewards between my plays of this and my teaching players the physical game…

 

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