A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a real-time strategy game designed expressly -- though not exclusively -- for online multiplayer gaming. Common Sense Media does not recommend online play for children aged 12 years and under. Players will play and conduct text chats with others as the game progresses, adding new friends to their contacts lists as they go. Parents should also be aware that this game is designed around a micropayment system that encourages players to purchase extra cards used to build more powerful armies. BattleForge can be played without purchasing more cards than those that come with the original game, but players who have bought more powerful cards may have an advantage during play. Excessive violence and sexuality aren't really a factor, though players will see the occasional splotch of blood on the battlefield and the outfits of some female characters leave little to the imagination. Also, expect to encounter rare instances of mild profanity.
What's it about?
BATTLEFORGE combines fantasy card trading games that involve magical creatures and medieval-style warriors with traditional real-time strategy video games. Players begin by creating a character, called a Skylord, who grows in experience and power with each mission. Battles are waged by using cards from a limited deck to call forth units, structures, and spells, and each card can only be used if you have enough power (which is gleaned from captured power wells) and have constructed monuments that match the card's element.
Outside of missions, players can buy new cards (a pack of eight costs $5 -- though it's worth noting that additional cards aren't mandatory for the completion of any mission), put up cards they no longer want for auction in the game's marketplace, and organize their collection into unique decks. You can test your cards' abilities in the \"forge,\" a sandbox of sorts that allows players to experiment with unit abilities and carry out mock battles. Between wars, players can also view the world map, where they can select from available quests and matches, find and chat with other players, and manage their lists of gamer contacts.
Is it any good?
Aside from its trading card twist and focus on multiplayer, BattleForge feels very much like a traditional real-time strategy game. Players vie for control of the resources necessary to create an army, then use that army to accomplish a series of objectives, such as wiping out enemy camps, protecting outposts, and taking on champion characters under enemy control. You'd think that the vast array of cards would make for countless tactical possibilities, but the majority of the game's units, structures, and spells feel somewhat interchangeable. Most players' greatest challenge will be figuring out whether a particular scenario calls for ranged units, melee units, or some sort of magic, at which point they'll use the most powerful card of that type at their disposal.
However, while BattleForge requires players to understand only the most rudimentary tactics, mission design is complex and varied enough to keep even veteran strategy fans on their toes. Players will need to deal with multiple mission objectives at the same time and learn quickly how to split their armies into several functional groups, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and goals -- and without going over the unit cap. It's not rocket science, but it is undeniably challenging. BattleForge's odd mixture of strategy, trading cards, and online play could keep interested players booting up the game night after night for months, if not years.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about online play. Do you prefer to play video games with others or by yourself? In your experience, have you retained friendships established with strangers in online games once you've stopped playing? Is there social value in such a relationship? You can also discuss micropayment systems. While BattleForge can be played without purchasing additional cards, there is an undeniable appeal and advantage to building out better decks. Do you think you would have as much fun playing if your ability to purchase additional cards was limited? Would you still want to play?