Battle for Wesnoth in Review – Epic battles across platforms

One of the heavy-duty genres that work well on the iDevice is Turn-Based Strategy. While the limited screen does offer some challenges for the developers, the genre’s pace alleviates the troubles that RTS games have on the platform. Battle for Wesnoth is an open source cross-platform tactical strategy game that tries to build on this and bring true wargaming to the iPhone. Feel free to discuss Battle for Wesnoth in our forums.

Battle for Wesnoth is a classic turn-based strategy/RPG game which is played on a hex map. Don’t expect any deep economical layer as this is a 100% tactical wargame. Gameplay focuses on building and developing your units and using them at just the right moment.

I heard somewhere war described as brief periods of intense action separated by long periods of maneuvering. And this is certainly the case with Battle for Wesnoth. Choosing the right time for attack is crucial since the units are affected by the time of day where different factions receiving bonuses or penalties that often decide the outcome of battle. The terrain and unit damage types, as well as attack modes also have a considerable effect on the warring effort and should be carefully considered.

The number of units is where most of the fun is at. Each faction has a lot, and I do mean a LOT of different units. Furthermore, as they gain experience they not only upgrade, but actually may branch off in their development gaining special bonuses. While individual scenarios don’t usually allow to max out the levels, the fact that you can recall units from a previous mission, allows to develop a real death-machine and makes you cherish your veterans even more.

Battle for Wesnoth’s depth of gameplay is simply staggering. At the moment the game features 17 campaigns with well over 100 individual scenarios each. Considering it will usually take up to several hours to finish even one scenario you will easily see that Battle for Wesnoth is not leaving your iDevice anytime soon. And the developers keep adding new campaigns with every update.

A unique (at least for the moment) feature is the cross-platform multiplayer. You can finally challenge not only the lucky owners of the “Jesus” phone, but thousands of players all over the world from any platform. The desktop version, available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other platform is currently free, so you’ll never see a shortage of competitors. Additionally the developers added full Openfeint integration with achievement support.

Unfortunately, not all is well in the land of Wesnoth. The game suffers from a lack of contextual help and it’s often difficult to understand how combat modifiers are implemented. But that’s not the worst issue. Despite issuing 3 updates already, the developers still cling to the desktop interface, which is obviously poorly adapted to the iDevice. Buttons are too small to use comfortably and the text is sometimes difficult to read. All of it just screams “Awkward”!

The graphics have been ported nicely on the iDevice though are a bit below par of the other similar titles on the iDevice. With this in mind it’s a mystery to me why the game suffers from major performance issues on the 3G iPhone. The lag is frustrating to the point of wanting to dump the iPhone in the nearest pond. The fact that the developers have forgotten to turn off the iPhone auto-lock while the game is running serves only to illustrate the point in the previous paragraph.

Battle for Wesnoth is an epic title that suffers from lack of polish and optimization. The amount of gameplay will keep you busy for hours if you don’t smash your iPhone out of sheer frustration at some point. If you are a fan of wargames this is definitely a must have, but the casual players will find it difficult to both understand and control.

With this I declare Battle for Wesnoth officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Battle for Wesnoth Developer: Kyle Poole
Reviewed Ver: 1.3 Min OS Req: 2.2
Price: $4.99 App Size: 204 MB
  • Deep tactical gameplay
  • Lots of units with branching development paths
  • Enormous amount of gameplay
  • Cross-platform multiplayer
  • Awkward and clunky interface
  • Very poor performance on the older devices


Checkmate! There’re loads of strategy games at the App Store and at TMA:

A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well):

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