I’ve never particularly enjoyed real-time strategy games. Something about how distant you were from the combat never sat right with me. I’d like to say this unease came from a disturbingly real sense of warfare, playing the role of a cosy general damning countless lives in your stead. But the truth is that I kinda found them…boring. Like, if there’s combat in a game, I wanna be in that. I want to feel like I’m making a difference, a badass on the field taking names and capturing flags, not watching some nameless units aim at the same place and wait for one side to lose. Yet after playing Totally Accurate Battle Simulator this week, I’ve discovered the flaw with RTS games. The single thing they all need to do to make the genre flourish again, reaching a new golden age of strategy: Dumb units with googly eyes.
Let me be upfront, TABS isn’t an RTS game. Hell, it’s not even S game. It’s difficult to really shoehorn the experience into one specific genre, but if someone with particularly waxy moustache were to ask me the question while they tied me to a railway track, I would probably offer up “puzzle” as an answer. Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is a game that wants you to experiment and laugh at the utter absurdity of the events you can orchestrate. In the game’s Sandbox mode, you’ll be able to dump a variety of units onto the halved-up map and watch them beat the shit out of each other. What makes it funny is just how wonky it all is. Units can barely walk before they stumble over their own feet, let alone deliver a killing blow with a sword. Catapults send enemies flying through the air, measly shouts of rage turning to silly high pitched screams. It’s hilarious to watch but so difficult to describe.
Imagine if all the runners from QWOP picking up spears and declared war on each other.
That’s TABS distilled into a single metaphor and my God does it not grow old. Games built on the gimmick of silly physics and bizarre scenarios often lose their appeal after a while, because that’s what most of these games are: A novelty propped up by a gimmick. Yet TABS stays fresh way longer than I expected, offering players so much to do, with more content consistently being added. I spent hours just seeing how many halflings in Tweed jackets it would take to pull down a woolly mammoth; when I finally had my answer (roughly 100 or so, they were surprisingly hardy), I thought to experiment with how many firework archers it would take to launch a woolly mammoth into the air. If Sandbox mode doesn’t do it for you, leap into the game’s campaign. A series of encounters that sees players needing to claim victory over particular enemies with a certain budget available for units.
Applying those kinda rules to TABS is actually an incredibly interesting experience. It turns the game from a fun, novelty experience into something that’s surprisingly deep. Certain units can counter others effectively and vice versa, with positioning and economy often playing a much more significant role than you’d initially expect. Your units have one setting and it’s the one where the dial points at “kill everything no matter how many times you fall over”, so it’s up to you to place them in positions that allow for some kind of synergy, like spearmen being placed behind shield bearers, or archers spread out so as to cover a bigger variety of corners. Despite the farce that the game is clearly trying to represent, you’ll be able to be quite realistic with your military formations. Maybe the whole “Totally Accurate” part of the title isn’t as big of a joke as I thought.
It’s difficult to find games that are built for the sole purpose of being fun. That’s what TABS is, game that doesn’t require a large portion of your brain to enjoy and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s a game to switch on when you’ve had a particularly stressful day at work and need to blow off some steam. It’s a game for couples going on one their first dates and needing something silly to laugh and bond over (Hell, my girlfriend will probably love playing this with me). It’s a game for friends to cackle at when you get together and don’t really want the competitiveness of Mario Kart to possibly spoil a relaxed evening.
Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is the game for adults who used to spend hours building the most elaborate, intricately designed LEGO structures only to look forward to the following 60 seconds where they got to smash it apart with a cricket bat. It’s silly, chaotic, simple and just so much damn fun. I highly recommend you pick this game up in early access while new units and campaigns are being added because TABS has a bright and highly successful future ahead of it.
Last Updated: June 18, 2019