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Score: 8.3 / 10
Suspension of disbelief is essential for
any gaming experience, but Battle Engine Aquila (BEA) almost pushes the
suspension to breaking point.
The battle engine itself is a big transforming mechanized terror that
dishes out damage in the air and on the ground. It has a host of
powerful weapons and even the ability to accumulate small amounts of
enemy fire to unleash a “super shot” that can decimate wide swathes.
It’s one of the coolest robot’s I’ve ever piloted but it has the most
head-scratching and bizarre limitation. Like the Wicked Witch of the
West, the battle engine dissolves (i.e. explodes) when immersed in
This limitation is bizarre for a number of reasons but the main one is
that the conflict takes place over a series of islands – that being,
landmasses separated by
water. Were the engineers just not thinking
clearly that day? Was there a budget shortfall? Did the chief stand up
and say, “We just don’t have the budget to make it waterproof. Or even
float for short periods of time. Yes, we all know the water level is
rising and dry land is at a premium. But the money has run out. Those
$1.50 water seals are just too much to bear. We just have to hope that
the Muspell enemy don’t start using water balloons.”
Fortunately, this big gap in logic is somewhat overcome by the
considerations it creates during a mission.
Missions that take place over water can be especially harrowing since
the battle engine can only stay aloft for a finite time. The energy
normally used to power the shields (in walker mode) is what keeps the
engine flying. Once that drains you had better be over solid ground.
Once you land the energy replenishes and you can take to the skies once
more. This means leap-frogging off boats.
The best part of all this is the control aspects which I expected to be
a mess. Fortunately, a familiar first-person shooter scheme is used so
any learning curve falls to learning the battle engine’s full potential
instead of fighting the controls.
Equally impressive is the amount of un-confusing on-screen HUD’s that
indicate everything from selected weapon to targeting info to heads-up
from wing mates. Some of it can get lost in the course of a mission
simply because some conflicts are so big, intense and in your face that
you’ll need to pull back to properly assess your situation.
Unfortunately, assessment time is at a premium. Since the battle unfolds
independent of you – you’re but a cog in the war machine – you have to
know when to pitch in and tip the scales and if that means thundering
in, damn the torpedoes! They don’t call it the battle engine for
Of course, all this commotion can mean many, many do-overs. It’s easy to
flub a mission objective without even realizing – you do have to make
tactical choices. Mostly, “What should I vaporize first?” but they’re
still choices. And after a successful mission you can replay it to
attempt a better grade (that allows access to more missions).
As far as graphics go, the explosions are big and satisfying, the action
smooth and the small touches all equal an impressive visual package. The
cutscenes are all CG and of generally good quality, but have clothing
designers lost their minds? Your character, Hawk Winter is about as
color coordinated as a 9th Grade science teacher.
In some regards Battle Engine Aquila is a lot like Gun Metal (XB) but
with more style and gameplay. Plus, it’s more fun. (Can you say
two-player co-op?) BEA is definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of
big robots – and still worthy is you like your action hot and coated in
plasma. Just stay out of the water.