The iPhone suffers no dearth of strategy role-playing games, among them such excellent titles as Reign of Swords, Uniwar, Mecho Wars, and the recently released Battle for Wesnoth. It’s becoming a crowded genre, but SRPGs are a perfect fit for the iPhone and new entries are welcome. Especially high-quality entries such as Agharta Studio’s Rogue Planet.
The story follows the crew of a space vessel returning to Earth after 35 years among the stars. Upon reaching Earth, however, they find themselves under attack and are forced to ground. There they find that Earth is no longer the home they left behind. The story unfolds over the course of 19 campaign missions. The game also includes a Quick Play mode with 34 maps (the 19 campaign maps, and 15 more), playable from the perspective of either army and with three difficulty levels.
Gameplay should feel familiar to anyone that’s played Uniwar on the iPhone, or any of the Advance Wars titles on Nintendo’s Gameboy or DS. You are provided a number of different units at the beginning of each mission, which you will then move individually across the map in an effort to occupy cities and factories, and to eliminate your opposition. Battles are turn-based: you will move all of your units, and then your enemy will do the same. Occupied cities provide resources, and factories can be used to produce new units in the field. So, there’s nothing new here, nothing we haven’t seen before.
Where Rogue Planet really shines, though, is in bringing it all together. Yes, the gameplay follows familiar formulas, but rarely does the iPhone see games of such spectacular production values. Everything about Rogue Planet is unabashedly slick: the menus, the artwork, the interface and touch response. Rogue Planet offers an experience so polished as to rival anything you might find from a major publisher or on other platforms like the Nintendo DS. In fact, with Gameloft having picked this one up for distribution, I would be surprised at all to see it released as DSiWare in the near future. It’s kind of a no-brainer for that platform.
Presentation: Top-notch in every possible way. The game is practically dripping with quality production. You’re unlikely to find a better looking game anywhere on the App Store. Menus animated fluidly, look fantastic and are easily navigated. The graphics and artwork are stylized and beautiful. The soundtrack is excellent, and the sound-effects add to the science-fiction atmosphere of the game. No detail seems overlooked, and every detail adds to the experience. Brilliant!
Story: Standard science-fiction fare, but nicely played. Similar to Terminator or Battlestar Galactica, the Machines have risen against their makers and annihilated the human race. Small bands of survivors now struggle for their very existence against the superior strength and numbers of the sentient Machines. Returning to Earth with man-power and advanced weaponry, you may be mankind’s last hope.
The story is told between missions as conversation with other characters aboard ship, and does a good job of herding you from one mission into the next. The tale itself is compelling enough to drive you, and helps to keep you interested in the game’s mythos.
Gameplay: Very similar to other games of the genre; feels a lot like Advanced Wars on the DS, or Uniwar on the iPhone. Those are good games to imitate, though, and Rogue Planet takes everything to the next level in it’s quality of production and ease of play. The game makes excellent use of the iPhone interface, and moving troops and attacking enemies feels intuitive.
Interruption Handling: The game auto-saves every round, making it easy to jump back in when interrupted by a telephone call or real-life.
Mulitplayer: The game offers multiplayer between units sharing a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection, and allows you to sign into Facebook for wall postings. What the game does not allow you to do is play against friends in a a time-lapse fashion, where you would take a turn then wait for a friend to login and take their turn — minutes, hours or days later. Being a turn-based game, this is a viable form of multiplayer, and one already seen in iPhone games such as Uniwar and Scrabble.
There is really very little to dislike about Rogue Planet. Every detail has been accounted for, every facet has been polished and the game just shines. Agharta put a lot of love into this title and it shows. For fans of the genre, Rogue Planet should be a no-brainer. For genre newcomers, Rogue Planet makes an excellent point of entry. This one comes as close to being flawless as any iPhone game I’ve played.