Tank games are popular. MOBAs are popular. So why not combine the two?
That might have been the genesis of the idea that gave us Battleline: Steel Warfare, Bandai Namco’s newest online offering, which has been available in Korea since 2012 under the name Blitz 2: Battle Line. There’s a basic MOBA-like underpinning to the game, but there are some important differences.
The first and most obvious is team size. With around 30 players a side, a five-on-five it ain’t. Also, because you’re dealing with tanks, which move semi-realistically, maneuverability is limited. You won’t have too many cases where you dart in, deal some damage, and escape. Group fights generally come down to who has the bigger numbers and the biggest tanks, at least on the lower levels I was playing on.
The eponymous Battleline is a line of advancement that stretches across the field of battle. Capture opposing camps and spawn points and push forward to increase your coverage of the map. When it gets to 100%, you have to hold it for 60 seconds to win. Because camps can switch control, I actually found there to be a surprisingly good comeback factor; in one match, my team held 88% of territory only to swiftly lose it and the game. Totally wasn’t my fault.
With the currency you accumulate in the game, you can buy new tanks and even command multiple tanks per contest. The tanks span all eras, from Panzers to M1 Abrams; more powerful tanks are balanced out by the repair time to get them functional again after they’ve been destroyed. Each tank can also equip four skills, such as stealth, smoke screen, AoE cannister shots, and so on. The tanks themselves level up and you can also assign researchers to improve your skills. There’s enough specialization that you could designate some tanks as scouts with extra speed and stealth while others have improved defenses and weaponry to hold the front line. Also, most beneficial effects can be applied to allied tanks, letting you serve in a support role. There are also a fair number of consumables in the game, such as repair kits that heal your tank.
So that brings us to the cash shop. It looks as though you can buy just about everything in the game with either gold or platinum (real-money currency). You’ll rack up gold quickly in the beginning, when achievements are plentiful and easy, but that slows down rather quickly. Consumables are inexpensive, but tanks are obviously much pricier. There’s probably a reasonable grind involved – and you can, of course, buy gold bonuses – but it’s probably not too awful. At the least, I didn’t find any direct advantages – i.e., pay-to-win – available exclusively for real-world money.
Matchmaking would be key, though, to making sure you have a balanced, fun experience. With 30 players per side, it’s not easy to tell how balanced the teams are, but you can contribute even with a starter tank. Still, being competitive will probably require a major investment in time and probably platinum to stay ahead of the curve.
Bottom line: Is it fun? Sure, to a degree. The heavy-metal music and overwrought voice acting might get on some people’s nerves, but I rather enjoyed it just for its cheesiness. There’s some strategy to be had, the action is fast-paced and satisfyingly destructive, and it’s cool to find the right mix of skills to suit a situation, but it’s hard to take the game too seriously. For me, I just enjoyed it for what it was – a MOBA-style game with tanks – and tried not to think too hard about what it wasn’t.
Battleline: Steel Warfare is currently in open beta, so you can try it for yourself here.