In the history of video games, there have been many titles that have tried to encapsulate the raw and brutal reality that is war. From giant, AAA first-person shooters like the Battlefield or Call of Duty series that put you in the boots of a single solider on the ground, to real-time strategy games like StarCraft or Total War giving a more top-down overview of conflicts, to small indie titles like like Valiant Hearts: The Great War and This War of Mine that show the more personal and emotional cost of battle.
But despite the sheer number of war games in existence, none capture the madness of war quite like Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (TABS for short) went into open alpha.
I've played a fair amount of shooters and war games in my time...
And none of them have captured the struggle...
The true essence of battles with the level of total accuracy that Totally Accurate Battle Simulator has.
Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is a new game coming out in 2017 from developer Landfall Games (you may recognize one of the company's earlier games, Clustertruck, which made the rounds this year). TABS, as the same suggests, is a battle simulator in the broadest sense. You're presented with an array of opposing soldiers of various unit types, and in turn place your own units on an opposite side of the field and hit go.
The two sides will then rush forward, while you're free to pan the camera around and watch your googly-eyed warriors smash into each other, lobbing spears, hefting muskets, and being flung rag-doll style by incoming artillery fire. It's a conceit very similar to indie title Gratuitous Space Battles, but TABS’ wacky, flailing polygon people add a level of surrealism to the experience that made me smile.
The public alpha consists of a short 20 level campaign, offering a variety of scenarios with different opposing enemy armies. Each level has a set limit on prices, and you're left to buy and arrange your soldiers however you see fit. Want to send an army of 100 peasants armed with nothing more than their fists into a line of musket men? Or perhaps use a ninja master covered by shielding crusaders? The choice is yours. The game offers a wide variety of units spanning several military cultures, ranging from Viking warriors and Napoleonic musket men to the more exotic Chicken Man (who flings chickens at enemies, of course).
TABS also offers a free play sandbox, where you can pit any number of the game’s units against each other without worrying about unit costs: the main limit then becomes your processor's ability to render discrete objects. It's here where I spent most of my time mucking around, seeing how many swordsmen I would need to overwhelm a line of cannons, or seeing how shield men fared against an army of ninjas.
TABS is still very much in development: the game crashes often, camera controls are sluggish and unwieldy, and menus feel very much like placeholders. But as a free alpha, it's definitely a fun way to spend a weekend. And I'm extremely interested in seeing where the game goes as it continues development on its way to a full release next year.
The Totally Accurate Battle Simulator open alpha is available on PC for free by signing up on Landfall Games' website, with an expected release set for summer 2017.