Blending genres always seems like an appealing idea – I mean, who doesn’t like the idea of an RPG where you get to fight the battles, or a strategy game where your troops level up – but it really only works if you’re mixing together elements of good games. So when Battle Master combines aspects of a really bad RPG with a really bad strategy game and puts that into the framework of a really bad action game, the end product is, not surprisingly, really bad. It’s sort of like buying an expired cake mix from the dollar store, and then substituting the eggs and chocolate frosting with paint chips and used motor oil. You can still call it a cake, but it’s probably going to crumble apart right away and taste like the inside of someone’s shoe. Plus you’ll probably have to buy a new oven.
And that’s kind of what you get with Battle Master. To be fair, I didn’t have to buy a new oven after playing it, but that’s really the only good thing I have to say, and come to think of it, that’s almost certainly the least demanding or relevant criteria I’ve ever applied to a game. Judging it by the standards we normally apply to games produces less favorable results – the controls are slow and clunky, and the screen doesn’t really let you see enough to play it effectively as an action game. Strategy-wise, the AI is completely braindead, lacking even the most rudimentary pathfinding abilities, and shouting orders at the TV is every bit as effective as trying to command your troops within the game (assuming they haven’t all gotten stuck on a rock and left behind already). It’s like commanding an army of the world’s dumbest kittens. And the only elements of RPG gameplay that appear to be present are everyone’s favorites – inventory management, wandering around villages, and bad graphics.
Oh, an unexpected, instant Game Over as punishment for… playing the game normally. Thanks Battle Master!
Finally, Battle Master features one completely unforgivable (not to mention unnecessary) gameplay design choice – the inclusion of pit traps that appear without any warning at all and result in an instant game over. There’s absolutely no excuse for that shit, and putting them in sends a pretty obvious message to the player – don’t bother getting too involved in this game, because we just plan on jerking you around the whole time. At least they made that clear pretty early in the game.
So yeah, if you want to play a frustrating, slow, and hard to control action/strategy/RPG, give Battle Master a whirl. It won’t break your oven.