LEGO builds up the difficulty level a bit in this satisfying real time strategy experience where you can play both sides in medieval times, deep space or on the high seas. As always, brick building elements permeate gameplay while you also get endless chances to unlock items and actually enjoy learning the battle schemes and strategies ideal for young children and adults.
You’ll find variety and challenge through six storylines and 90 levels with a story mode, which features existing or custom made scenarios, and a free play mode. After completing story modes, you can continue collecting items and achieving goals or proceed to the next level. The free play mode includes hunt the hero (the valuable main character), the search-and-destroy elimination and gold rush where you grab specific brick amounts. The local wireless multi-play mode supports up to three players offering color choice and 30 different maps to test your skills against others worldwide.
The 55 characters have no actual dialogue, which follows other LEGO games, but make expressions and sounds during cut scenes and when selecting them. Your hero characters have special attacks and heal minions within close proximity, so you need to protect them or all will be lost on some missions.
The equally important builder characters produce, harvest and repair damaged buildings. Bridge building is just one reason you should include a builder in your group (maximum of nine) in any expeditions. Build up your fighters quickly and sustain them with food production units (farms, biodomes, hatcheries, etc.) so you have a good balance. You also get up to 30 vehicles and special accompanying units (catapults, robots, etc.).
The main challenge with the enemy characters is not to move too close unless ready to engage. As you uncover new areas, this challenge can be hard to meet, so individual scouts work well here, but you might want to use an expendable character because one can get surrounded by as many as six baddies if he or she walks into a highly populated enemy area.
Most level constructions require you to traverse the entire map, which displays unvisited areas with shadows then reveals them on the top screen as you move through. Developers create some nice problem solving challenges for special area access, but don’t move groups too far ahead or you’ll encounter some issues. After you draw a square around your group to select them, you can use the stylus to point them where you want to go. Keep an eye on any obstructions though because if you get too far ahead, some group members will fall behind, which is especially frustrating when you lose your hero character, then accidentally come upon the enemies' main barracks and get wiped out.
Item collection increases your building, especially special sets like minikits, while understanding the brick types (red for build, blue for action, silver for upgrade and gold for special powers) helps you advance and unlock extra units. Your main base (castle, etc.) is essential for building special characters and healing the hero characters. Builders need to make mines over cracked ground as soon as possible in each level so you stay ahead in the materials department. Towers, walls, and bridges help your defenses.
The LEGO shop increases the fun with concept art, maps, playable cut scenes and a spot to enter your cheat codes. Real time strategy games are rare on the Nintendo DS, so this game is already special. The tutorial and hint support are definitely there while you only need minimal adjustments (group navigation strategies, etc.) to succeed. The jump to battle option in the lower right screen is nice while the graphics needed more sharpening.
LEGO Battles is a very detailed, all ages gaming experience, especially for younger players who can handle RTS titles like Advance Wars. Meanwhile older players might even reminisce about similar games like StarCraft while playing.
LEGO Battles is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for comic mischief and cartoon violence.