Battle Slots

A new genre that can only strangely be called hardcore casual.

By Daavpuke, Posted 22 Apr 2011

These days, it’s hard to decipher what a casual game consists of, as all games are played casually, except if you are one of the few making a living off Starcraft II. Games like Battle Slots blur the lines even further by creating an RPG universe revolving around a casual mechanic, in this case a slot machine. Almost everything will be handled by this one-armed bandit, from leveling to attacks, spells and so forth, so how does that translate to a full game experience?

For starters, it will need some context, such as a forgettable storyline, some oddly painted settings, a common enemy and anything else to create the universe of Tellus. Then all that’s needed is one plot device after another to spew an endless amount of slot-based battles.

Now, simply offering a slot reel wouldn’t be enough to constitute an RPG, so Battle Slots provides a load of customization options to create a unique playthrough. The most important features are the symbols that fit the machine, divided in colors to reflect attack, mana and even gold and experience. These can be calibrated to the desired amount to optimize payouts from winnings. By completing at least the 3 first signs from 5 in an appropriate line, players fill bars according to that color’s attribute. These payouts in turn can be used to fuel special attacks for damaging or hampering opponents or to boost one’s own status with extra spins or healing power for instance.

NoobFeed Review - Battle Slots RPG
Shai Hulud! My incredible fandom pretty much forces me to reference that.

There is a great amount of customizable options, mostly revolving around the reel, but there’s also the possibility capture animals, gain allies, summons and so forth. When in town, gold can be spent to upgrade many of these features or players can visit the Slot Smith to enhance and optimize their machine and attacks. It’s even possible to focus on specific symbols more than others and as a plus, more powerful emblems also auto-adjust themselves into the slots as they become available.  But while there is a vast amount of differing options available, about half of them won’t ever be a viable option, as they’re effectiveness ratio is fairly terrible.

But the weirdest part is that most of these concepts aren’t really well-implemented or balanced. There are several summons and allies, but only a handful of them make sense to use. The same goes for the zoo creatures, with the first captured animal being largely the best option and some being plain ridiculous. Also, while it is possible to equip runes there are only a handful to be found, so it will only be required once, twice at most, to replace some.

NoobFeed Review - Battle Slots RPG
Pretty much the entirety of Battle Slots in one screen. Still, read the review, please.

Yet, even without balance issues, tweaking and enhancements can only go so far. Yes, it is possible to create a myriad of different warriors in Battle Slots, even bad ones, but when the wheel isn’t spinning your way, there’s little you can do. And this is where the game kind of takes a tumble. Fighting is a decent casual pastime, but like all slot machines, there is a lot of luck required and no possible tweak in the world can offset this. That and the fact that the entire game consists of pressing one Spin button forges a lack of involvement necessary to make a true RPG title shine. It’s hard to get into a game when there’s little control whether a battle will be won or lost.

Luckily, there’s also a ton of decent things in Battle Slots. As mentioned, battles are fun enough to keep trying, even if random encounters are annoying and fleeing from foes will sometimes block paths that only free up after some time. It doesn’t hurt either that the game offers a nice amount of eye candy with each spell and can follow those up with new spins fluently, even though the sound effects can be quite repetitive and annoying as well. But foremost, there is a lot of Battle Slots to play, a whole lot. Running about the world of Tellus takes ages and with additional side-quests and random fights, Battle Slots will be as long as players want. Completing the final story alone, complete with a nice twist, takes over 50 hours and as the concept is always the same it can’t really get tired. The only question is whether gambling addicts are willing to spend that amount of time on something as simple. Finishing Battle Slots seems like an investment rather than a pastime and as such it transcends itself into a new genre that can only strangely be called hardcore casual.

NoobFeed Review - Battle Slots RPG
FORK! Regardless, some of the most impressive and effective attacks in Battle Slots.

Whether or not players are willing to commit to this long quest will mostly be decided on how much the mechanics appeal to them personally. While Battle Slots does offer a lot of content, decent gameplay and loads of options, the problems with balance and luck keep it from becoming something more than it is right now. As an RPG, it’s a tepid display, but as a casual pastime it serves its purpose well. But it feels like it should be more and that’s a shame really.  Going back to the storyboard and bettering a load of their concepts and ideas could’ve made all the difference. Balancing attacks and removing random encounters, perhaps offering more reel options rather than just spinning it; all these could’ve contributed to the next casual hit. Rather, it never adheres to the addiction level gambling provides.

On a side note: There’s an obvious reference that can be made to another casual RPG hybrid, but Battle Slots is not Puzzle Quest and players should not consider the two going in. Battle Slots does its thing and should be viewed upon its own merits.

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Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Battle Slots

60/100

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher(s): Phantom EFX, Inc.
Developer(s): 8MonkeyLabs
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2011-04-11

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