The Battle of Polytopia is a turn-based strategy game. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It debuted on iOS devices in 2016, followed by Android devices later that year, and eventually Steam in 2020. The Nintendo Switch is the first home console to receive the game, and I’m happy to say it’s a welcome addition.
In The Battle of Polytopia, players grow a civilization. You begin with a tiny plot of land, first creating people, then farming or hunting to upgrade your town. This, in turn, allows the creation of more people and the expansion of your civilization.
Those are the basics, but there’s actually a lot more to it. I came into Polytopia completely blind, having never played another version. It took a little getting used to, with a lot of options and little understanding of what they meant or what to do. It’s not that the game is difficult, but I would recommend first playing the solo mode, which acts as a tutorial of sorts. I jumped straight into the local multiplayer mode, which meant picking it up as I went along. However, it didn’t take me long to realize how enjoyable it is.
Every game of Polytopia is divided into “turns” (it is a turn-based affair, after all). At the beginning of each turn, you earn stars. These important assets allow you to perform actions; for example, hunting costs two stars. They also allow you to “train”, which unlocks new abilities. These range from hunting and archery to fishing and sailing—not to mention farming, strategy, diplomacy, and even whaling (yikes). It adds a lot of depth to the game, and it’s fun working your way through the training tree and planning your next move. For example, you have to unlock fishing before you can unlock sailing. In a watery world (there are various terrains available), you’ll probably want both of these abilities.
Graphically, The Battle of Polytopia sports a cute aesthetic, using bright colors and blocky sprites reminiscent of Minecraft. It works well, creating an engaging world full of villages, mines, and crops that dot the landscape. The background music is equally pleasant, sitting neatly behind the scenes to accompany your quest to take over the land.
Oddly, the multiplayer mode only allows one controller. It’s fine in the sense that you can only play one at a time anyway, and I suppose it’s great if you only happen to have one controller, but why not make this an option? You should be able to change this setting so everyone can use their own controller without having to reach over and pass the control after your turn ends. Mind you, it makes more sense if you’re playing in handheld mode; here you can just pass the entire Switch around.
The controls work well, with most actions mapped to a button. In handheld mode you can use touchscreen controls, reminiscent of the game’s mobile origins. This is an enjoyable way to play. My only criticism with the controls is the weird way the cursor moves. When you alternate players, the cursor starts way up in the top right corner of the screen, and you have to move it to the “Start turn” button in the center of the screen and press A. This seems unnecessary; a simple tap of the A button would suffice and improve the user experience that little bit more.
The game comes in at $14.99, which seems like a reasonable price for what it is. There’s a lot of replay value here, with maps that generate differently each time you play. The amount of customization in multiplayer mode is also impressive. You can choose the size of your world, the number of players (up to four local players), and your starting tribe.
Overall, The Battle of Polytopia is a fun game about expanding your own empire. The cute graphics and varied options provide an entertaining and welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch library.