The very first time most people play a freemium sim, they reach a point where they think "that's it?" After all, you've put time and possibly money into growing your crops, building your tower or expanding your kingdom, and then you want to, you know, do something with them. It's a feeling that passes, but it's always a bit of a letdown.

Battle Nations [Free] blasts that letdown into bits, because while you build up your military base you're also building up an army, and that army gets to fight. It's part freemium builder, part turn-based strategy game. You use the money you earn from the crops you grow to build your army and keep it in tip-top shape. Then you bring the hammer down on friends and foes alike.

That's "friends," not "allies" -- there is a multiplayer component to Battle Nations, and there are people actively playing it. You fight AI opponents during the campaign, but you can also fight friends (through the Z2 network) or strangers whenever you like. In my experience, the game has effective matchmaking. I was always paired with an opponent quickly, and they were always around my level.

The battles are far more interactive than most freemium war sims. Each battle presents a small grid for placement and all your available units. You choose which units to bring out for the fight and you choose where to place them. Then, turn by turn, you pick a unit to fire with and a target. The units all have their own strengths and weaknesses - some are stronger versus humans or machines, some have large areas of effect, some have more health or do more damage -- all the basics you'd expect from a strategy game.

This doesn't add up to a lot of depth, and the battles are brief. But they're fun, and quite dependent on your choices. Turns versus players are limited to 20 seconds, so waits are short and sweet, and the rewards for combat are huge. And there's another interesting thing at work in the background -- losing a unit in battle has a real cost that might be counted in time or money. This makes every decision much weightier. Do you bring out your best units, knowing if they get killed you're in for a long haul to bring them back?

This is where the farming sim meets the strategy game. Units have a cost to build and to heal. Between battles, you need to build up your military base, seek out and farm resources, and feed and house your army, all with the typical build, wait and tap setup. Resources -- money, stone, wood, oil and iron -- are needed to buy units, and they take time to train. Healing them after battle also takes time, and can be brutally expensive. It's a balance that works surprisingly well and left me itching to get back to the fight on a regular basis.

Nanopods, the premium currency, are pushed at every turn. Purchases are never strictly required, but the sales pitch is stronger and more compelling than I'm entirely comfortable with. You can speed up any action with Nanopods, and many things can only be purchased with them. Never necessary things, but some strong units and useful buildings are locked behind the pay wall. Nanopods can also be used to heal in battle, but only versus AI. Battle Nations provides many compelling reasons to make a purchase, and meters free Nanopods out at a glacial pace.

But I found that I didn't particularly mind. I haven't bought Nanopods yet, but I might -- since they let me get back to the fight quicker, there's an actual reward for using them. They also let players move through the story a little faster, which means leveling up faster and getting access to better troops and new things to build. Speaking of the story, Battle Nations actually has one, and it's extremely tongue-in-cheek. It makes a great accompaniment for your time in the game, giving you a good reason to keep moving forward.

The only thing holding me back was the loading. Battle Nations sits on the excessive side of the loading scale, with long waits not only whenever you load the game but also whenever you move from area to area. Granted, the game's primary mechanic involves waiting out the clock over and over, but waiting through the loading only to see that I then need to wait to do anything interesting is a pain.

Otherwise, Battle Nations is freemium done well, offering more entertainment for your download than most of its competition. Z2Live seems to have gone in to this game without a hint of contempt for its players or model, and as a result they created something fun, strategic and occasionally funny. So I'd recommend giving it a try if you enjoy the occasional war game, and reporting back once you've scouted it out.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • Anonymous

    Going to give this one a look. Trade Nations, when it launched, was one of the best freemium builders in the app store only leaving my device due to the, as this review put it, "is that it?" factor. Looked good, had comfortable, forgiving mechanics, but also had nothing compelling to keep you playing. But a similar styled builder plus blowing things up? Seems worth a look :)

    • http://twitter.com/Dan_Barnes Daniel Barnes

      Trade Nations has come a loooonnnnggggg way. I suggest you check it out again. 

      • Anonymous

        Definitely an improvement (think it's been nearly a year since I played this last - my holiday tree from last Christmas was still up and automatically got that achievement when I reinstalled). Not sure how long it will hold my interest, but back on my device again :)

  • Anonymous

    I'm hopeful about Trade Nations, but the number of things that come up via Nanopod purchases is becoming annoying.  PVP battles against people who have spent Nanopods to get the Bazooka are just depressing to helplessly lose at.  And now that I've leveled (slowly without Nanopods) to level 13, I've come across a quest that you can't complete without spending a ton of Nanopods, the Military Housing, which asks you to make a Bunkhouse.

    I'd be happier if you could buy the items that currently require Nanopods with regular resources and gold, using the Nanopods only as a way to get those items faster.

  • Victor Grunn

    This one was a favorite of mine. An interesting world, great art, actually something of a storyline to it... and then at level ~13, I got a "mission" which was basically, "Build this thing, and the only way to build it is to spend 100+ nanopods." I was fine with the nanopod shop - I even spent a few dollars in it - but that was just over the top. Now I'm pretty soured on the thing and may ditch it altogether.
    I guess they figure 'If you stick around with the grind to that level, clearly you really like the game so we can turn up the heat.'

  • http://profiles.google.com/rekzkarz Ari Krawitz

    "Destroy your friends in battle" is the text used to 'hype' this game.  That's the reason I won't be playing.  Sorry, but there are actually so many fun ways to play with people that don't include WARFARE.  No?
    As Xmas & stuff come along, can't we all just get along?  We used to play cards, play chess & checkers (an abstract version of a battle), backgammon, etc -- but actual warfare & stuff???
    So many games about war & killing & death are not going to get my vote for best game.  The desensitization is unhealthy for the USA people.
    I have some war games on my iPhone, kinda hard to avoid all of 'em, but they seem less 'war mongering-ish'.

    • http://twitter.com/Dan_Barnes Daniel Barnes

      No, hippie. You say that desensitizing is unhealthy for Americans? Man we're over-sensitized if anything. You can't say one word or joke without getting protested against. Kids are killing themselves over bullies! Bullies are a part of life, not saying we should tolerate it, but half these kids wouldn't have survived the childhood of generations past. People only talk, no one dares to act (I'm looking at you OWS and no I don't mean riot). For crying out loud you fight raptors in this damn game! RAPTORS! And you destroy your friend's 16 bit avatars, not your friend literally. Lighten up man. There are cartoons on children's channels are that more dangerous than this.

  • Jason Kinser

    Fun game and fairly addictive.  But, the cancer of the in app purchases only makes this game for so long.  Then the user has to spend $4.99 just to buy things to stay competitive and keep the game fun.  Without that it's just a grind.

  • Anonymous

    Ever since i update my iphone i can't seems to play battle nations. There is always a message stating that an unexpected error has occured on the server and sometime it state that there is no internet connection found even when there is a connection.Can someone help me on how i can solve this matter. Really appreaciate it. Thanks

  • Jason Urquhart

    This game was fun until the last 24hrs or so when it constantly lost connectivity and now over the past 4hrs I have been unable to connect to the server!  How do they expect to keep this game successful if they charge real money for certain items and then the server is down for hours at a time!  I have a very short tolerance for this stuff.  When I want to play a game and I cant login I am basically done with it!  There are far too many games to go play and lose interest with this one than to sit around and wait for their servers to get it straight!

  • Christopher Li

    I think it is a fun game, however, when I go into battle against other players, I only get around maybe 1000 gold which is not even nearly enough to cover the expenses of losing my soldiers.  If this game is going to be good, then it's going to be needed to be updated so that their is an actual reward for winning.  If all you get for winning a match is wasted money, resources, and time, people are not going to be all to eager to come back and play.  Overall there isn't really a goal for high levels to aim for in this game if pvp is just a waste of time.

    • WARRZONE

      I am glad they took out repair costs for PVP battles.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JLRGF53RMMHLTZLKJFT5NN3BLM shawnmoody69

    I have enjoyed playing this game and, after $50 in nanopod purchases and 2 weeks later i am level 26.
    My complaints: many server issues with lots of downtime and kick outs. Things are expensive in game to build and heal and without nanopods it becomes very tedious and time consuming waiting for and collecting resources. Without a venue for trading and buying resources , as in its predecessor Trade Nations, you quickly become deficient in iron and plentiful in everything else. Gold actually becomes useless the higher level you get because you accumulate so much.
    My likes: the constant AI missions and random attacks keeps the game fun, and the ability to randomly battle Pvp is great. I feel like the time i spend is not as wasted as on other games (farmville,trade nations) because i can actually build an army and have a new battle anytime, and stronger my army gets more battles i can fight and win.
    Thumbs up to 2live dev team for a job well done. Look for this game to win some awards this year.

  • sze andrew

    everything is about the $$$
    you can't really keep up and play without spending lotsa money

  • Jeoffrey Seballos

    [error connecting to server] msgbox has been in my face since yesterday. yes, its already connected to the server, yes my internet connection is working fine, and yes i can play the game. can you please add another button to [dismiss] or whatever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jake-Steidle/100002564646068 Jake Steidle

    After I did an online battle all the troops that I used were gone, I won the battle and only lost one minor troop, but if that also means that I have to lose my flame troops sharp shooters and various vehicles, I am done with this game. Is this normal and will they come back? Please help!!!

    • pizzaman262

      I'm also wondering the same, one of the missions was to lose a pvp battle and now all the troops I lost are not able to be healed in the hospital. The # of troops lost is in red so I want to say they're floating around somewhere? I'm hoping this is just a bug..

      • http://www.facebook.com/tatiana.corralcolletta Tatiana Corral Colletta

        Guys you have to return/collect your armies after a pvp battle. Troops who get killed in pvp don't have to be healed like troops who get killed npc combat. I know this is an old comment so I'm sure you hopefully didn't give up and figured it out.

  • Marcus Black

    I like this game so far (Up to Level 8) enjoy the graphics and the way it's put together.  Love the battle strategy element and fighing against your friends etc.  Been very impressed so far - only been playing 2 weeks so will keep on and update if I change my mind

  • WARRZONE

    A few quests require you to spend nanopods on buildings and units. I don't like that. There should always be a gold alternative for quests.

Battle Nations Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4