Battle FanG Review

“And it’s one, two, three, what’re we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a dang — next stop is Battle FanG (Out Now, $0.99)!” Okay, so maybe it doesn’t go quite as well as the Vietnam-era song by Country Joe and the Fish, but that’s about all the rationale there is for a giant war between cute lil’ humans and the undead in Studio FanG’s Castle Defense debut. The game’s translation isn’t much to write home about and maybe the developers didn’t want to put too much effort into text for that reason, but darn it all if a little more info wouldn’t have made a big difference here.

Battle FanG’s style will be immediately familiar to Castle Defense veterans. You select a roster of unit classes to bring into battle, draw upon your stock of food to dispatch soldiers along five lanes, and hopefully replenish your food supply by defeating enemies in time to send reinforcements. Individual units become more effective when placed next to others of compatible classes, and most have some special action they can execute when you tap on them. Unit classes are equipped and upgraded with reward cash outside of battle.

One of my disappointments is how impotent the player’s general is: he basically puts the “castle” in Castle Defense, hanging at the back of the formation waiting to get whacked by enemies that push through. He is able to cast consumable spells that enemies drop from time to time though, their use apparently directed through some kind of pre-targeting system. My second gripe with the game design itself is the fact that units can’t be removed from the field if their use happens to disappear. Lane mismatch between your short-range fighter and an enemy archer, and you’ve run clean out of resources to send another unit to go take care of it? That’s just tough luck.

Those complaints aside, Battle FanG’s clear depth should have made it a pretty solid title and it might even bring a new concept or two to the genre table with its unit pairing. Tragically, a near-complete lack of references weighs severely on the entire experience for me. There’s a static Help section available in the main menu but it doesn’t seem to scratch the surface of the game’s content. The further I dug in, the more I realized I was at a complete loss for how to keep track of all the enemy types, unit matchups, area effects, and spell pickups the player is asked to feel out and memorize through experience alone.

Live tutorials can feel cumbersome sometimes, I totally get that. But if those are going to be absent, it’s still completely worth having some aid to the player in a genre this complex. Maybe a monster encyclopedia, a dossier of unit matchups, or a quick reminder of what a unit’s attack range and specialties are before you deploy it. Irony of ironies, Studio FanG did go to the trouble of sketching out really slick unit rundown sheets, basically little flashcards — and then tucked them into loading screens, where they zoom right by and where they’re presented piecemeal so you’ll never get one rundown of how all your units compare. If the developer can collect these into a little flip book and make it accessible in the Help menu, that would be a great start for improvement in updates.

Battle FanG’s limited model animations and complete lack of visual effects for some spells aren’t doing it any favors. Like every other aspect of the game, aesthetics serve only to muddle the player’s understanding of its deeper mechanics — the one exception being helpful area effect overlays once units are ready to unleash their special attacks. To its credit, I found Battle FanG’s interface very responsive. For that reason alone I wouldn’t say the game’s a lost cause by any means; it’s just one in need of a lot of fine tuning before it can compete in a crowded genre filled with much stronger titles.

iFanzine Verdict: There’s a neat and very deep Castle Defense game lurking somewhere inside Battle FanG. It’s just a shame you’ll have to search long and hard for it, as several of its mechanics aren’t easily understood and helpful references are scarce. Approach with caution until this one gets a good working-over in updates.