The first player-versus-player (PVP) game I ever played online was Asheron’s Call, back in 1999. I started on a player-versus-environment (PVE) server, Harvestgain, but eventually decided to make the jump to Darktide. Darktide was a full-on PVP server, and it was the server that all of the coolest message board stories seemed to take place on. Ambushes. Territory disputes. Alliances- and betrayals.
Darktide was where the fun was. I loved my character, Naifi al-Sayyed, and the special role I’d created for myself (finder- and returner- of lost treasures in the desert). I was a lorekeeper for my guild, weighed down with the blank books you could buy and fill with permanent content. But once I’d gotten a taste of the thrill of always looking over my shoulder, of approaching each town with excitement mixed with dread, I soon spent all of my time there. I joined The Peacekeepers, a clan prominent in stature if not in numbers that were anti-PKers, and remained there until I drifted from the game.
The next stop, as it was for so many, was World of Warcraft. Asheron’s Call was an “open template” character system where what you were was defined entirely by where you allocated your skill points. That made for tremendous customization, but less of an emphasis on tactics as many characters tended to be min/maxed individually. WoW went in completely the opposite direction, forcing you to choose a class at the time of character creation. Customization, too, was comparatively limited, but as an upside there was a lot more of a focus on “roles.” I became acquainted with the tactical interplay between tanks, healers, and
I scratched the PVP bug quite often with Battlegrounds play, finding the Arena fairly dull by comparison. As the Forsaken Priest, Apoptygmaa, healing could be as clutch in PVP as an Instance (dungeon). I loved being in the thick of the fray tabbing through my allies’ life totals, keeping them alive and fighting with timely healing spells. But it wasn’t until my next game that I’d find the greatest PVP experience in an MMORPG.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning had me at hello. Not only was it, you know, Warhammer, but two little words made all the difference in the world when it came to PVP: collision detection. In WoW, there was no collision detection, so players could move freely through one another without impediment. If you wanted to murder the healers (and as a healer I can attest that this was a popular hobby), then you just ran up to them and started swinging.
Not so in AoR. The inability to just pass through players meant that you had to deal with them first. Large skirmishes would see a wall of tanks up front, healers behind them, and DPS everywhere. The tactical level was tremendous. Take down a tank, and you could flood through the breach to get at the softer targets within. Now I wasn’t just healing as (essentially) an alternate form of damage, but rather literally keeping the formation upright. If I faltered, failed to be perceptive, or lost my focus, the line could collapse. It was absolutely superlative.
I had some flashbacks to that feeling recently when I got in some beta test games with the Tirpitz in Battle of Titans.
For those reading a Battle of Titans bot review for the first time, here’s a quick primer on the game.
Battle Titans features five mechs in beta. One Light (Little Shon), three Medium (Ravager, M.A.O., and Nelly), and one Heavy (the Tirpitz). The classification system of bots and weapons will be very familiar to War Robots players, but in addition to hardpoints many bots have an extra slot for what’s being called a “backpack.”
While bots in War Robots have a single health pool, Battle Titans takes a more specific approach much like you’d see in Battletech. Each mech has separate HP values for tower, core, and leg. Many also have a resistance to certain kinds of attacks, “HEAT” (explosives) or “APFS” (projectiles).
Finally, while War Robots offers you an (unlockable) five-slot hangar, Battle Titans takes a sort of “hangar points” approach. You have a certain allotment of space in your hangar, and some robots take up more than others. You can fit a trio of Little Shons in the space taken up by a Tirpitz, for instance. This is a clever way of ensuring some balance in what players bring to the battlefield.
Okay, let’s start with the obvious- the Tirpitz is one big fella. Named after the famous Bismarck-class German battleship in World War II, the heaviest battleship ever built by a navy in Europe at the time, the Tirpitz lives up to that legacy in Battle of Titans.
As we’ll see, in more ways than one.
As the game’s sole “heavy,” the Tirpitz is a real challenge to bring down. The Tower is the hardiest, with an HP of 15,000. The Legs boast a robust 12,000 HP, and the Core is no slouch either at 10,000 HP. To put that in perspective, the Legs of the Tirpitz are the equivalent of three Little Shons.
Not three Little Shon Legs. Little Shons. The next-most-sturdy unit, the Ravager, has a total HP of only 16,500. Needless to say, you take a Tirpitz to war and it’s going to be soaking up a ton of damage.
The other advantage for the Tirpitz is loadout. It boasts two Heavy hardpoints under its “wings,” which come equipped with Hammers off the shelf. That’s eclipsed by a Medium bot, the M.A.O. (which has three), but what puts it over the top is that the Tirpitz boasts the game’s only Heavy Backpack weapon, the Inquisitor. We’ll come back to that when we get into the bot’s role on the battlefield, and the comparison to Warhammer Online will become much clearer.
But sticking with the physical characteristics a bit longer, you might be surprised to discover that the Tirpitz is not the slowest bot in the game. That dubious honor belongs to the spider-like Nelly, which makes up for its sluggish crawl speed by the ability to climb over nearly anything it runs into- including other bots.
It’s important to remember that the pace of Battle of Titans is significantly slower than War Robots. Little Shon might speed across the battlefield at 63 km/h, but that’s leagues faster than any other bot in the game. Nelly creeps along at 20, the Ravager at 29, and everything else is in between. The Tirpitz is solidly middle-of-the-pack at 25.
Finally, the Tirpitz is the only bot without a special ability of some kind, be it Sprint, Jump, or Crawl. Nor does it have any kind of weapon-based resistances. Truly, what you see is what you get.
But what is it that you get? What’s the role of the Tirpitz? It’s not the reason you’d think. In games like War Robots, you tend to think of a Heavy bot in a sea of Mediums and Lights as an 800-pound gorilla. A Lancelot or Fury against Cossacks and Golems. And here’s where the reveal comes in: just as a battleship needs support, so too does the Tirpitz.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
In my first game with a Tirpitz aboard, I led with a Little Shon to scout the enemy. Scouting is crucial in Battle of Titans, for unlike War Robots, you don’t get to see where everyone is on the map at all times. If you get a contact on an enemy, you and all your teammates will see that bot on your radar, but until then they are smoke and ghosts. This makes threat detection a crucial consideration, and gives a vital role to the Little Shon.
It’s also vital for the Tirpitz! The Inquisitor can deal massive damage, but if you don’t have a contact on your enemy (often through forward-scouting Little Shons), then that 1000m range might as well be 10m. Your allies are your eyes, and without them you’re largely blind.
Not only that, but- and here’s the real twist- you’re also largely helpless. I treated my Tirpitz like I would in War Robots, a hard-hitting Heavy. And I got taken out by a Ravager that raced in and stuck to me like glue. That “deadzone under the wings” that the game’s tooltip warns you about might be a little vague on first reading, but it only takes one encounter to grasp what it’s trying to tell you. If they get close, you get dead.
And that’s why I liken the Tirpitz to the role-based play of Warhammer Online. Battle of Titans rejects “bigger is better” and goes for a very solid role-based style of gaming. The Tirpitz is perhaps the worst bot in the game by itself. It can’t see far enough ahead to get the most of its maximum range, and can’t defend itself up close.
But then take a moment to go the other direction. Imagine being on voice comms with seven other players. Two Tirpitzes for long-range artillery support. Three supporting Mediums, providing two-way offensive/defensive play, keeping the Tirpitzes minded. And three scouting Little Shons, acting as the squad’s scouts, vanguards, and pickets.
This starts to piece together the level of tactical play that could be a prominent component of Battle of Titans, and why it brought to mind the necessities of PVP combat in Warhammer Online.
We’re still a way off from release, but it’s looking like Red Button is taking differentiation seriously. This won’t be just a “War Robots knockoff,” but rather a game with a flow and pace that are substantially different. In that sense, the comparison of World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online are quite apt. On the surface, they’re both quite similar games. Fantasy MMORPG’s, with two bifactional play (Horde/Alliance, Order/Destruction), swords and spells, different races and classes with specializations…
…and yet it’s the tactical focus that really sets them apart. AoE PVP was significantly different from WoW, just as Battle of Titans is from War Robots. Although too early to tell, I suspect that squad play in Battle of Titans will have tactical elements not unlike raid planning in WoW, particularly with eight players to coordinate rather than six.
If the Tirpitz is the herald for the difference in game structure, then it seems Red Button has found it’s differentiation indeed.