‘Battle for Wesnoth’ – An Open Source Classic on the iPhone
In the turn-based strategy world, few games are as vast as Battle for Wesnoth [App Store]. Originally released as an open source project in 2003, Wesnoth has collected a massive following of fans that contribute to the code base, create new art and sound assets, and/or write the campaigns themselves.
The computer game is a free download, and will run on Windows, OSX, Linux, and several other more obscure operating systems like the AmigaOS4 and OpenSolaris. Its system requirements are modest enough that the game will run on nearly any computer made in the last five years, and because of this Wesnoth seems to be a favorite among netbook gamers.
Kyle Poole, along with the support of countless fans, decided to take on the massive task of bringing Wesnothto the iPhone. After months and months of work, Battle for Wesnoth is finally available for turn based strategy fanatics on the App Store. If you look at the game strictly with regard to its faithfulness as a port, it’s absolutely phenomenal.
Nearly everything from the original has been preserved on the iPhone, and instead of just simply one or even two campaigns like most similar games, Wesnoth‘s initial release comes with 14. These 14 campaigns consist of nearly 200 individual scenarios which will provide hundreds of hours of playtime as you wage war in the mystical land of Wesnoth with multiple different battle locales, races, factions, and classes.
Like most turn based strategy games, utilizing your units intelligently along with taking advantage of the benefits offered by different types of terrain is key in winning any battle. These terrain types work exactly as you would expect– For instance, units attacking from forests are harder to retaliate against than units standing on open ground. I could go on detailing the various parts of the game, but they’ve already done that and then some on the Battle for Wesnoth wiki which I really recommend checking out before either downloading the free computer game or the iPhone version.
Unfortunately, while the game is a fabulous port of the original, not many concessions were made in its first release to make it a good fit for the iPhone. Most of the UI elements seem to be taken straight out of the PC version, with buttons and widgets that are often far too small to comfortably or accurately hit. Also, the different campaign levels themselves can take upwards of 30 minutes and needing to take a single phone call means losing all your progress since the last time you manually saved your game.
Normally these kind of things would really make me think twice before getting involved in an iPhone game that seems to forget that many people will be playing it on their phone, as interruptions will likely be unavoidable. Not only that, but reports of game performance on previous-generation devices have ranged from decent to unplayable.
Wesnoth‘s saving grace that has me on the verge of disregarding many of its flaws is its amazing implementation of multiplayer. Not only can you play online, but you can also play against the desktop version of Wesnoth. iPhone games with online multiplayer are few and far between. But iPhone games that not only have online multiplayer but also complete cross-platform compatibility are a rare find indeed.
Developer Kyle Pool is actively participating in the Battle for Wesnoth thread and plans to release an update soon addressing most of the issues mentioned above along with other complaints of forum members. Largely because of the spotty performance on devices other than the 3rd generation iPod Touch and iPhone 3GS, it is probably a good idea to hold off on buying Battle for Wesnoth until these issues are ironed out and the update is released.
If you’re willing to put up with these issues to play the game now, your perseverance should be rewarded with the most in-depth turn based strategy game available for the iPhone. If this is your genre, Battle for Wesnothreally is a game that you must experience, if not on your iPhone then on your computer.