I had the opportunity here at this year's German Games Convention to talk with the Creative Director of BattleForge, Volker Wertich, about his upcoming project. An online-focused RTS game that mixes both traditional strategy elements with card collecting, BattleForge definitely surprised me with how addictive the formula is. Wertich was kind enough to walk me through a number of the game's basic principles and then showed me a few single-player scenarios as a demonstration.
Wertich began our demo by describing the overarching themes that went into the game's design. BattleForge is meant to be accessible, intensely social, persistently supported, rewarding and will be an ongoing project. The idea behind BattleForge is that you have full control over your army like any other RTS, but your units are governed by playing cards that you assemble and build a deck with. Wertich hopes that the team can continuously update BattleForge with new cards and maps at least three times a year.
The interface of BattleForge is very accessible. Before a proper battle, you'll be allowed to experiment with cards and build decks in an open testing environment. You take a card and put it into an open slot along the bottom of the screen. To summon a creature into battle, you simply click on the card and then select a summoning location. If you're currently summoning a creature near your base, the unit will spawn with full health. If you select a location further from your home turf, the creature will spawn with half health and be much more vulnerable to enemy attack.
The art design of BattleForge isn't entirely original but it has great coloring and a fair amount of style, so I enjoyed seeing the different elementally-themed creatures spring to life after being confined to a playing card.
Wertich explained that the primary appeal of BattleForge comes from the player's ability to completely customize his or her deck. You can make your own collection of creatures and skills and you needn't adhere strictly to a pre-selected race. I have to say that combining the addictive, highly customizable appeal of a card game with a fast-paced real-time strategy mechanic looks like a great mix.
Wertich then launched a scenario where he had to capture several fortresses which give you control of elemental orbs. These orbs enable you to summon more powerful creatures, which means orbs act as your mana pool. After sweeping through a series of enemy bases with quickly summoned soldiers and a few massive, tree-like colossus units, Wertich came upon the "boss" of the scenario -- an eerie spider creature. Using a spell card that causes fire to reign down from the sky, Wertich brought the level to an end.
Wertich ended the demonstration by noting that cards can be upgraded and customized. These various features can be enjoyed on your own or with cooperative scenarios built for 2, 4 or even twelve players. A matchmaking system is also in place to keep players of the same skill in the same competitions. And the best part of the whole dynamic is being able to win, trade and buy new cards to constantly modify your deck.
While I obviously only scratched the surface of BattleForge, it's clear to me that there's a lot of potential in this game. If the actual RTS elements can deliver on the same level as the premise itself, BattleForge could become a RTS favorite.