Currently in early access, this is one of the weirdest strategy games out there. Unlike most RTS games where you control a base, economy and army – right down to ordering units about – in Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (or TABS for short), you simply see what units your foe has, select your desired units (usually to a set economic value, unless you’re playing in sandbox mode), and strategically position them on the map. Once everything’s in place, you hit the start button and watch the chaos unfold.
I can’t help it. For some reason, the goofy, googly-eyed characters that inhabit TABS, put me in mind of the Muppets – drunk Muppets. Perhaps it’s how they look, or the fact that how they move and sound put me in mind of some of the more chaotic sequences from The Muppet Show. The characters stagger around looking like they’re being pulled along by invisible strings, emitting strange mumbling and grunting sounds whilst flailing at each other.
It’s wacky, hilarious and glorious. Mammoths trample into the fray, halflings launch themselves at bigger foes and try to weigh them down, archers shoot fireworks which attach themselves to their targets and launch them into the air, whilst vikings with totally historically (in)accurate horned helmets lower their heads and charge like bulls. A personal favourite is the Balloon Archer, whose projectiles turn into balloons which gently float their hapless targets up into the air before dropping them with a thud.
The cast of factions is diverse, including the stone age (mammoths!), Ancient Greece (and, yes, there is a lightening-bolt hurling Zeus), a Japanese/Chinese mix (fire dragons, samurai, ninjas and monkey kings), and beyond.
With its physics-based animations and ludicrous AI, fights never turn out quite how you’re expecting, and you’ll find yourself laughing in disbelief as the AI does something totally nonsensical. A good example of this was one fight which lasted nine minutes, whilst a lone clubman walked around in circles and swatted ineffectually at a pile of fallen friends and foes, under which was buried a still live (put pinned) enemy. Winning or losing really doesn’t matter, the fun here is from experimenting and seeing the crazy results. While, at the time of writing, there is currently no network multiplayer, this is a great game to play with a friend present – either to watch over your shoulder and argue about unit type and placement, or to position opposing units in sandbox mode.
While it already has plenty of content and maps, Landfall is working hard to bring new factions including pirates (I can only hope they’ll bring back the light-saber wielding Neon faction from the beta) and a unit and faction creator. As it already has the ability for players to create and share custom battles and campaigns with the simple click of a button, TABS looks like it’s lining up to have tons of replay-value and an enduring player base.
Cute, engaging and funny, Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is extremely entertaining, and great fun for the entire family, whatever their ages. ■