Looking at this game for the first time, a few other titles came swirling around in my head, most notably World of Tanks and World of Warcraft. Coincidentally, if you smash those two games together with a car crusher you see in Hollywood films, you get World of Battles. I have to emphasize on the crushing part, because where those two games struck gold, this struck foul balls. Taking the fantasy looks of various media floating around the industry and the single instance, strategic teamplay rewarding combat of the Total War series, you get a game that looks pretty and runs well, but with a fun factor that might be lacking.
World of Battles makes a big deal about its graphics and rightly so. This game has a very well designed quality of detail in the units and and terrain. I could tell a lot of work was done in this area, and it seems to have paid off well. The UI is also very masterly crafted, looking very polished and simple to understand, while still maintaining the artistic value. The music that plays is very minimal and repetitive, and more often than not I replaced it with a work of Jeremy Soule or Hanz Zimmer.
Despite the music's failings, the unit noises are well done and the sounds of combat were very typical albeit accomplished. The style of the game is that of your typical fantasy game, with the occasional women being scantily clad and goblins hobbling around as they march into your defensive line with all the fury of a stick of butter. I'll be sure to go more in-depth regarding the butter comment in the gameplay column, don't worry about that. The animations were also a little bit icky, and not really flashy at all. Goblins would stab with their little pokey stick while my infantry would slash with their blades, but it all kind of killed the intensity. The feeling that the soldiers had about the same enthusiasm level that I have for launching the game did not escape me, and I had a good chuckle when I made that connection.
I ran into very little bugs throughout my time in the game. Any issues I had regarding connection were because of my current internet at the time, but it is very counter-intuitive to design this game and not include a 30 second timeout feature. Many of the disconnect times were when I was doing battle with some Orc or Undead army, anywhere from the beginning of the match to the end. Other than the connection issue, I ran into very few bugs during the play through. The games starting menu was pretty and all, but there wasn't much there and sometimes certain sections would load slower than others. Any issues I had were quickly responded by customer service rather quickly, so this game certainly deserves a decent Polish score.
The gameplay is very generic for a strategy game of this era, with X being greater Y but being countered by Z. If you tend to use the units for reasons other than their intended purpose, chances are these won't turn out in your favor. The combat is slow-paced (only walking animations? Maybe I just haven't found the correct key for running yet...), and I felt that the game was on half-speed more times than not. Remember my earlier butter comment in the aesthetics column? That is the highest intensity of every battle. The animations were slow and lacked any 'oomph', and the walking cavalry charging into the walking infantry unit only to be countered by some special ability and some walking spearmen got really boring and I was heavily uninterested in the first few battles. The main menu however does have the option of participating in clan-based conquering matches, similar to the AvA system of Global Agenda. These change every day as more people try to take over or defend certain things. In the end, the combat of this game was very boring from the get-go. A weird issue I kept running into was that it seemed not all my units would attack, and only the front liners would really see combat. The rest would just raise swords and stare furiously at the enemy 5 feet from them. Unless this is some new form of psych warfare, I don't think angry stares will be any more effective against bloodsworn barbarians than they are against one's siblings. A positive I should note however is the tutorial system. The in-game tutorials are very well done and are aimed at giving a novice RTS player a crash-course in this style of the genre. Also a positive, things tend to die when they get hit with stuff; by that I mean the balancing is pretty evident, I had no trouble taking out units of another race, while they had no trouble killing me. Few games can boast something like that.
As stated above, the PvP aspect could keep a player for a long time because of the randomness of where you may end up fighting on the map. However, the single-player gives the impression of a grindy MMO system multiplied by 3, as in the time it takes to do 3 quests in another game would take 1 'Task' in World of Battles. While typical of a strategy game, the feel of accomplishment is certainly diminished when there aren't many lasting effects for all your hard work. If the art or collecting was your fancy then a player could remain for a while, as buying new units takes quite a lot of money later on. Sadly, I did not hold many of these interests, and more often than not I would not feel like playing the game at all. With that in mind, I had to give the game a low longevity score on the grounds that it just wasn't exciting or accomplishing (in my opinion).
World of Battles doesn't bring much new to the table, besides the clan ownership-based PvP which is rare but has been done before. The concept of an artful strategy game is somewhat new, however. I may not be sold on the art and visual style alone, but I must give them credit for putting a good amount of effort into their work. The types of races are varied, and if you ever played Warlords Battlecry (shot in the dark? Anyone? Anyone?), you'll see some familiar concepts regarding the races. Beastmen and Barbarians aside, World of Battles does not seem to have anything wild, crazy, and new compared to other MMO games of the past 5 years.
I did not dabble much in the social aspect of the game, so I'm certainly not gospel on this part. From what I can tell, clans are the biggest social feature in the game. They allow groups to form and fight against another opposite force, and they can claim land as they progress. Skirmishes also have the nicety of having Chat in battles, so that is always a plus in a team-based game. The forums of this game seem like a hotspot for grouping up and gathering tips and tricks, so a community certainly is established. For the most part the community seems respectful, although every group has it's bad apples. I think the major thing that pulled this category down was the lack of much to do at all when not fighting.
The game is free to play, and does a good job of being so early on. Later on, free players may become underpowered simply because paying players can unlock more faster, but that doesn't pose a huge problem. The pricing schemes in the shop are pretty fair, no more expensive than I would expect for simple things. All in all, this game can provide a few hours of entertainment free of charge, and thus the investment one would really need to worry about is their time.
World of Battles is a good game to spend time on if you're bored. Maybe others will find this game more enjoyable than I did, but I'll be honest and say I would probably pass this game up for another chance at playing Shattered Galaxy again. WoB lacks a lot of interesting components and only provides a few ways to keep gamers playing. I have to say that casual players may find this much more entertaining to play, although anyone who is extreme on any of the above categories might lose interest pretty quick.