Battle for Wesnoth
Let’s be honest, as PC gamers we’re pretty damn spoiled. We don’t have to seek out new games, they get dropped in our lap. Fire up Steam and you’re hit with countless choices, click a few buttons and you have a shiny new world to play in. As awesome as that is, with so many pretty screens trying to grab our attention we’re bound to miss out on some great games. Which brings us to…
Battle for Wesnoth is a pretty fucking great turn based strategy game that there is a good chance you’ve never heard of. I am here to rectify that.
I will admit I am pretty biased. Being a long time Linux user, the selection of well polished games to waste away the day has always been pretty slim. Credit to Valve for finally showing us some love but in the dark old days Wesnoth has always been one of the first things I would grab after a fresh install. Even after moving back to Windows for gaming I still find myself firing it up despite the collection of neglected games in my Steam library.
It’s a pretty standard title in the TBS genre. 2D, top down, recruit units to move around and kill the other side or meet some specified objective. Really nothing new here. What it does do is take all those things that work well in every other game, slap a fresh coat of paint on and tie it all together. The maps and character sprites are clean and vibrant. Music is awesome, well done and adds great atmosphere without getting annoying or repetitive. Gameplay is dead simple yet allows for a lot of strategy once you get comfortable.
There is nothing too complex with your units, no items to equip or the worry of weapons breaking. Since you can level up and promote your troops to recall them in the next mission, you really feel the loss when one dies in battle. Resist the urge to go back a few turns to bring one back, you cheating bastard. You are a horrible leader and deserve to feel the pain of sending a trusted soldier and friend to death.
Probably the best aspect of Wesnoth is the community behind it. There is an insane amount of add-on content available right from a browser at the start screen. If you get tired of the 16 campaigns, each with their own difficulty levels, there are at the moment over 100 more available for download. One hundred. Also available are downloadable maps and factions for multiplayer. That is a shit ton of free content to keep you absorbed in an already free game.
If you are the tinkering type, there is the built in map editor to play with, also lots of great posts on creating new factions and campaigns on the very active Wesnoth forum here: http://forums.wesnoth.org/
Multiplayer is a bit of a let down in some regards. There is an online lobby to set up matches but Wesnoth is a fairly old game at this point, it was first released in 2003, so it may be tough finding a partner. That’s where the other modes come in, you can run the built in server and invite your friends across the globe, or just use it from a LAN match. Why the fuck do so few games ship with a LAN option anymore? No Mr. Game Publisher, I do NOT want to set up an special account to sign in to your multiplayer server, deal with your log in server going down or a random disconnect killing my game just so I can play a match with someone SITTING RIGHT FUCKING NEXT TO ME! Deep breaths. Serenity now. Where was I… There’s also a local game mode so you and a friend can go head to head on the same computer.
Available on Windows Mac and Linux for the price of free, is incredibly well polished, actively developed, and has a huge community behind it there just isn’t a valid excuse not to at least give Battle for Wenoth a try. I hear tell there are iOS and Android ports as well. Stop dicking around and just download it already: http://www.wesnoth.org/