- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 26, 2011

An irresistible and highly addictive real-time strategy hybrid game turns Apple’s magical table into colorful world dictated by war and acquisition.

Through a bird’s-eye view, a player micromanages an ever-expanding Imperial Empire settlement, can complete more than 100 missions and fight back raiders, rebel forces and ferocious beasts such as wild boars and raptors through simple clicks and swipes on the touch screen in Battle Nations (Z2Live, rated 12+, free).

The focused fun requires an incredible level of patience and forethought for the player to succeed. Daily and hourly actions can require structure building, resource management, worker and soldier creation, visiting locations and the output and collection of raw materials (from iron to stone and gold).

Specifically, dropping structures on forested, resource-rich, land chunks to grow crops, maybe place a bakery (love the lumpy cornbread), plant a protective pillbox (that will cost you 900 pieces of gold and 100 concrete blocks) or set up a Tool Shop (for only 2,500 gold, 325 concrete and 75 iron pieces) can be an all-consuming, multi-day experience.

Let’s add the turn-based combat portion of the show played out on a sparse, gridded-board-style arena. Each side places a set number of warriors (and eventually vehicles) like chess pieces and attacks, one at a time, until each army is beaten.

And, don’t worry about losing a coveted warrior in battle; he can be healed at the hospital you built. You did build a hospital, right?

The biggest hindrance to the managing is that all projects take time to complete, often excruciating periods, ranging from training a sniper at four hours to 12 hours to grow a batch of the Buddha’s Hand plant.

Add to that the methodical time it takes to level up through gaining experience points — which add more workers and unlock new troops and structures to the settlement — and some players might just run back to Angry Birds.

The robust simulation does maintain a player’s interest through some humorous text dialogue snippets and a story starring a cartoony character roster influenced by Japanese anime, the comic book Danger Girls and even Star Wars’ Tusken Raiders.

For example, players quickly meet the grizzled Sergeant Ramsey who offers tips but wants you to love his little kitty Mr. Purrface; a blond-haired egocentric boy emperor, civil engineer and environmentalist Floyd; and Steam Punk chick and mechanical genius Zoey.

They can build a Raptor Ranch that serves delicacies such as General Mo’s Raptor or put up an Antipathy Shack, not quite the Love Shack but good for a dispersal of 150 gold pieces every 10 hours.

In addition to the building, combat and missions, a multiplayer element mixes in.

Players can friend one another and either help, when a pal’s settlement is attacked, or actually attack, pillage and occupy a friend’s land (soon to be former friend).

Attacks all depend on which way a battle flag flies the right colors (it takes hours to turn that flag back) as to whether a player will open up to these types of encounters.

Also, a more traditional online component is simple, on-the-fly, player-versus-player battle to gain gold and experience.

Now, the best part the Battle Nations is the cost. It’s free, that’s right, free. However, since nothing in life is really free, developers tempt the opening up of impatient player’s wallets by throwing in the use time-bending and life-imbuing currency called Nanopods.

Remember, everything is timed. Actions such as growing a patch of Daikon can take 24 real hours but apply some Nanopods and get immediate results or even use these green glowing orbs to train elite troops such as soldiers wielding flame throwers.

Nanopods are normally dispersed in miserly allocations for accomplishing missions or watching a sponsor’s video, but players will eventually get sucked into purchasing packs of these nuggets to build quickly their armies of Shock Troopers

Those packs can cost anywhere from 99 cents for 20 Nanopods to $49.99 for 1,250 of them. Yes, it can get expensive for those who won’t wait. Apparently, in the inspiring Battle Nations, it’s proven that time really is money.

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