I don’t play too many action games. Usually it happens when a publisher announces it has an “action-adventure” available, but then it turns out to be an action game with, oh, dialogue and an inventory system. But every so often I play an action game on purpose, just for a change of pace from all the adventures and role-playing games I usually play. And, thus, I present to you Battle Engine Aquila, sort of a mech, action, shoot-em-up game from Lost Toys and Encore Software.
The background story behind Battle Engine Aquila involves a futuristic world where land is scare and therefore valuable. Two groups of people live on the world, the peaceful, agrarian Forseti and the power-hungry Muspell. Guess which side is the good guys. Not coincidentally, in the campaign that comes with the game, you play an ace pilot for the Forseti, beating back an invasion from the Muspell, and then taking the invasion to them.
As you might guess, what Battle Engine Aquila is mostly about is shooting stuff. Your mech in the game can walk on the ground and fly in the air, and it has weapons available like lasers, grenade launchers, torpedoes, and rail guns. Your mech also has shields, but in a nice twist, the energy that fuels the shields is the same energy that allows the mech to fly, and so if you fly you don’t get shields. That means you can drive the mech on the ground and be slow but safe, or fly it and be fast but vulnerable. So there’s some nice strategy involving which mode you should use.
Also different than what you might have seen before, rather than having it be you all by yourself against hordes of enemies, you’re usually just one unit (albeit a very powerful unit) in large-scale battles. So you have to do things like help defend bases or remove anti-air turrets to allow for bomber runs, and things like that. There are even real-time strategy elements in the game, as you and the enemy can have buildings that produce units, and so protecting or destroying those buildings is usually paramount.
During battles, you also have to manage your weapons. Some weapons (like the grenade launcher) only come with a certain number of grenades, while other weapons (like lasers) can only fire for so long before over-heating. Luckily, Battle Engine Aquila is a fairly friendly game, and so you won’t blow yourself up by using heat-generating weapons too much. And if you run out of ammo, you can just visit a repair bay to load up more -- and, oh yeah, get your mech repaired if it has taken too much damage, which it probably will, given all the things that will be shooting at it.
Where Battle Engine Aquila isn’t as friendly is the interface. There are some minor problems, like the controls being a little awkward, and it being difficult to tell what direction you’re going, and there are also some major problems, like not being able to save your game during missions, and not having a difficulty setting available. Those last two problems can make the game extremely aggravating at times, because missions can go on for 15-20 minutes, and sometimes you have to do some easy stuff before the difficult stuff, and since you can’t save that means you might have to do the easy stuff over and over again, only to get repeatedly killed during the difficult stuff, and that isn’t fun at all.
But Battle Engine Aquila comes with 43 missions in its branching campaign, and they’re generally fun. Some missions have puzzles, because the Muspell have their own battle engines, and there’s usually some sort of trick to killing them, and some missions are straightforward shoot-em-ups. I played one path through the campaign (26 missions), and overall I found the experience more entertaining than frustrating, and, with a price of about $25, the game is fun enough for those who have twitchy trigger fingers.