Developed by Yakiniku Banzai, War of the Human Tanks is a hybrid of visual novel style storytelling and strategic gameplay as you join the conflict between the ruthless Kingdom of Japon (parody of Japan I suppose) and the tenacious Empire of Japon – both using an army of… human-like tanks to do battle? Or are the tanks personifications of humans? Confusing inquiry aside, don’t let the adorable and benign facade fool you, this is actually a very competent title…with a few caveats for consideration, of course.
Title: War of the Human Tanks
Developer: Yakiniku Banzai (Localized by Fruitbat Factory)
System: PC (Steam Store)
Length: 4 – 8 hrs
The player assumes the role of Shoutaro Daihon’ei, once known as a fearsome commander on the battlefield until his unit was forced into dormancy. Now permitted back into action by orders of Imperal Japon, his mission is to assist in breaking the stalemate with the Kingdom of Japon and their Royal Army. With his brilliant engineer of a sister Chiyoko and supporting office Lisolotte at his side, they fight to defeat the Kingdom once and for all while Shoutaro draws ever closer to his unforgettable past in the process. Admittedly, the overall narrative is not the most engrossing one, but combined with the fairly flippant sense of humor and well-groomed writing, it does keep your attention and contains a lot of charm. Depending on how you play, the game can diverge onto different alternative routes which will present new combat opportunities and pieces of the story. With a New Game+ option open after beating the game once, it is very much worth going through a second time for anything you might have missed or want to challenge.
The course of gameplay is not that hard to wrap your mind around and if you are familiar with SRPG’s such as: Advance Wars or Final Fantasy Tactics (sans the leveling up or needless battle preambles), then you should have a very solid gist of things. Battles takes place on a hexagonal grid shrouded in a fog of war as you deploy a set number of units to use. With everything working under a real-time system and only able to act with units when they show an “Connect” marker above their heads, various bouts do create an acute sense of excitement and dread as you quickly try to assign actions (the only moment when time stands still) and find the enemy before they get the jump on you. Oddly enough, units can’t survive a single hit and the ones that do, usually are harder to deal with due to them taking up a greater deal of real estate on the grid. Since different units do excel in specific task than others like: Scouts being able to peel back a greater area of the fog of war and Assault units more prone to killing units efficiently, using a carefully curated group is obviously the only way to heighten success, yet with mission briefings giving you an overview of what to expect, choosing units for the occasion isn’t that much of a hardship. While most of the game meshes together well, the maps have be the most prominent among my complaints as they lack variety. The formation of enemy troops does differ, but sometimes it is so easy to pinpoint them due to miniscule terrain differences, you can finish battles with minimal ease early in the game. Thankfully, the late game does rectify this with troop numbers and variety significantly bolstered or victory conditions more difficulty to achieve.
When you are not hammering through the main campaign, you have the chance to develop new units, upgrade to better versions, and even develop new modules (items to boost their performance in battle) with the in-game currency collected during skirmishes. If you ever find yourself strapped for cash or wanting to test your mettle before moving to the next mission, Free Battles afford the opportunity to replay any previous maps you have cleared and in general, a great resource that you will most likely visit and be pertinent to success. That being said, you can easily tackle the main story without upgrading your troops drastically or equipping them with modules, but when it comes to the optional quest and branching routes – be prepared to jump through a few hoops.
As a game that seems like it was developed on budget, War of the Human Tanks does look the part without question. Being a visual novel at its core, it is understandable that the artwork would be at a premium, but do wish that most of the units have more distinguishable features in their upgrade trees other than the equipment stats. The backgrounds are also just as meager., but sort of cool as they feature mosaics that look as if they are obscuring real life locations or actual paintings. Where the visuals do fall slightly short, the music is great – ranging anywhere from techno to some mild rock. My favorite track has to be tmh, one of the many vocal pieces and fusion of rock and techno styles into an intense medley. I do wish it actually played during some of the battles than the in-between event scenes, though.
War of the Human Tanks definitely will not appeal to everyone, yet if you can deal with a cute and frivolous concept supported by very steadfast and nearly addictive strategic gameplay elements it is a very worthwhile proposition for the price. It is very unlikely to see an audience outside anime, doujin, and niche fanatics partaking of this, but still worth giving a shot whether you are tactically adverse or casual player. Giving it a fair chance, there is a good chance you will be satisfied with the purchase just like me.
Pros: Quick and strategic battle system, great soundtrack, unit upgrade and equipment systems, Free Battles allow for easy cash grinding, New Game+ invites replay opportunities.
Cons: maps present little variety or feel reused for some stages, some larger units are cumbersome to deal with, stale victory conditions.
- As of the time of publishing this post (2/10/2015), War of the Human Tanks will be on sale for $4.99 (originally $9.99) until February 15.