Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Review: Battle for Wesnoth 1.6

After more than a year of constant development, The Battle for Wesnoth 1.6 was put out on March 22. This release comes with new graphics and unit portraits, a new campaign, called 'Legend of Wesmere', the possibility to log into the multiplayer with the forum account, and many, many other improvements.

Battle for Wesnoth 1.6 - main menu

For those who don't know, Battle for Wesnoth is a wonderful, completely free (licensed under the GPL) turn-based strategy game, with a huge community, developed continuously and at a fast rate.

Before proceeding with the review of 1.6, I'd like to point out that the 1.4.x series (the now old stable release) was also a very good and polished release, so what more can Wesnoth provide with this release?

First of all, one of the features which was always subject of debate on the forums was now implemented: the ability to own a nickname in the multiplayer game. You can now join the multiplayer lobby using your own username and password from the Wesnoth forums, so you won't have problems with someone else 'stealing' your nickname or identifying friends. This feature was awaited for a long time and now it's available.

Regarding the game interface, it didn't change much. The main menu has a background which resembles the one in 1.4, which looks very good anyway.

Major changes were done at the graphics, unit portraits, terrain, and the way in-game messages are displayed. Although there are still default faction units which don't have a portrait, most of them have refined portraits which now look awesome compared to the older ones used in 1.4.x. There are also new graphics for terrain like forest and villages, but all in all the way the terrain looks did not change much.

Playing vs. AI on Isar's Cross - notice the changes in the map

Most of the maps were re-done, for example the popular Isar's Cross is now larger and Fallenstar Lake (former Meteor Lake in versions pre-1.4) will need a different approach to play it in the middle of the map.

Comparing Fallenstar Lake in 1.4 vs 1.6

Regarding campaigns, 1.6 includes no less than 14 official ones, and most of them were available before only as add-ons. Also, the new campaign 'Legend of Wesmere' tells the story of Kalenz, an Elvish hero probably best known from the campaign Heir to the Throne. In one scenario, this campaign allows the AI to control one of your allied sides too.

The new Legend of Wesmere campaign

The WML (Wesnoth Markup Language) also received many improvements and the map editor can be started now from within the game's main menu. The background music hasn't changed much but that's OK since 1.4 had pretty appealing music. However, there are five new original background tracks.

Like all the default features are not enough, there are plenty of add-ons available, which definitely turn Wesnoth into an even more appealing TBS game.

This is how the new in-game dialogues look like now

All in all, this release is one step ahead for Wesnoth regarding both graphics and gameplay, and although in my opinion the difference from 1.4 to 1.6 does not seem to be as big as the changes from 1.2 to 1.4, it is definitely a good and long-awaited improvement.

Update: Here is a video of Wesnoth 1.6 on the Colosseum map:

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