'Totally Accurate Battle Simulator' Captures the Goofy Mayhem of Mass Violence
Nobody knows anything and nobody is in control.
'Totally Accurate Battle Simulator' screenshots courtesy of Landfall
Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is a silly game. It’s purposefully whimsical, everything about it is built to support its farcical premise of AI fighters stumbling toward each other on various battlefields, swinging weaponry around with the physical comedy that accompanies physics-based animations. Knights wobble and fall over under the weight of their swords, mammoths trample crowds then clumsily topple to their sides as axe-throwers throw axes in hopefully the direction of their targets. It’s mayhem, and it’s undeniably goofy.
The game follows developer Landfall Studios’ Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, and the titles' similarities are purposeful: Both games emphasized their physics-based animations as a source of gleeful chaos, but where Battlegrounds was a first person shooter taking heavy inspiration from PlayerUnknown’s take on the genre, Battle Simulator embraces the god-game perspective, giving players full camera control as their hodgepodge armies of chronologically-disassociated units advance on enemy forces.
It’s a simple game, in its current early access form. There is a sandbox mode, where armies can be freely constructed and then fired off at one another to clash somewhere in the middle of the arena, as well as a number of designed scenarios in Battle Simulator’s Campaign and Challenge modes. In these, players are given an allowance of points to spend on units from across the game’s retinue of soldiers. It is as much strategy as it is random chance, as even a well-constructed counter-army is made up of individual AI units deciding when to swing their pitchforks or fire off their flaming arrows.
This is the fun of the game, and coincidentally its most true-to-title feature. This is not a real-time strategy game, it’s not much of a strategy game at all. It’s a simulator of combat and most of the moment-to-moment gameplay is determined by each individual unit’s AI. Restarting a scenario repeatedly can lead to wildly different outcomes, which are in turn further exponentially changed by the addition or removal of a couple units. Scenarios become trial-and-error explorations of what military makeup can counter the opposition, and finding that swapping a few archers for Viking berserkers can change the entire tide of battle.
It’s not a logical game. This is played off as comedic (and it is, believe me) but it also feels more honest than most games of strategic combat. Real fights are not telegraphed, and do not have units responding to a voice on high dictating their precise positioning. The clumsy, fumbling swings of weaponry in Totally Accurate Battle Simulator feel more true to mob violence than most games—one need only look at protest footage to see this much.
Bodies tumble upon one another, weapons are more likely to be locked together by sheer force of pressure than ever elegantly wielded. Units bunch up together as they attempt to target the same enemies, becoming just as much of a danger to themselves as to their opponents. It is chaos, and it feels just as ‘accurate’ as the title cheekily winks and nods at.
Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is a great use of your time if you were the type of child who daydreamed about what would happen if a samurai fought a knight, or if an army of cavemen with rocks could take out a single trebuchet. It’s good, ridiculous fun, and in its own way, the googly-eyed combatants feel more true to the crowds they are imitating than any hard-boiled military sim.