Tag Archives: Turn-Based Strategy

One Man Left Announces ‘Game II’

One Man Left, the notorious studio known for its notorious game Tilt to Live, has announced their next project for the App Store.

And you’ll be surprised: it strays far from shooting down dots but more on the lines of multiplayer-focused, turn-based strategy game.  There are really not many details thus far, but here’s what the devs have to say:

The prototype is literally just being finished, so not a ton of details feature-wise yet. We’re definitely going for local and online multiplayer (with matchmaking), so you can have fun with a friend or with a Stranger Danger. You’ll have a number of races to choose from, each with a unique advantage on the battlefield. Below are some characters concepts for the Plant and Cuddly teams (“for everyone” also means there’s a cuddly team).

Continue to check out their blog for weekly updates, and we’ll be updating you here as well on the progress.

Hunters Episode One HD Review: A Quite Enjoyable TBS

Hunters Episode One.

I mean, how epic does that sound?  On top of that, the pre-release screenshots looked killer, and I was more than excited to get my hands on this title.  And boy oh boy, I can’t say enough praise for Hunters Episode One.

It’s not without its flaws: the visuals can still do with some improvement, and the speed/framerate of the game is a bit slow even on the iPad 2.  I wish I could skip all the enemy actions, along with changing up the UI a little bit to be a bit brighter.

But the gameplay itself is fun.  You can’t really ask for much more in a game, and this is probably one of the few games that have proved worthy of my precious hours.

Likes

Just Plain Fun: I love strategy games: anything that has to do with challenging your mind.  Hunters Episode One does just that with around five different unit types, each with their own set of weapons/armor, and completing each mission is just a blast.  I honestly don’t have any words to explain why it’s fun: it just is.

Variety: There are so many items and armors that I doubt anyone will be able to buy even a quarter of what the game’s store has.  There are just so many items all with their ups and downs, and the possibilities are endless.  All of the missions are quite varied too, from protecting the reactors to finding artifacts and returning them to the base.

Visuals: I almost didn’t put this here since they’re not perfect, but you have to admit the lighting effect looks cool.  I’m not sure if that’s part of the image and doesn’t change, but even if it is, the artist sure has some skill.  The characters could use some more decorations in their armor and such, and choosing your own team color would be nice.  But these are all extra features; the ones right now should suffice.

Dislikes

GameCenter: Achievements and/or leaderboards anyone?  From a lot of the developers I’ve heard from, GameCenter does seem to boost some sales.  And it makes me a happy camper.  Just saying.

UI: The UI is a little dim, nothing too major.  It just seems like the buttons are “off-limits” when they’re that dim.

Skip enemy turns: This is probably one of the biggest features I would love to see implemented into this game.  Instead of waiting and seeing what your enemy is doing, it would be awesome to just skip that and see the results of the enemy’s turn (if that makes any sense).  Also, fast forwarding through all those unit movement animations would make each game a lot faster.  Right now it feels like I’m wasting precious time on what could be used for other things.

Hunters Episode One HD is far from perfect when it comes to features, but the gameplay is nearly perfect.  I love turn-based strategy games, and I’ve never poured so many hours into one iPad game than I did with Hunters Episode One HD.  Sure, there are a lot of games on the iPad I haven’t played.  But Hunters Episode One has captured my heart and there’s no doubting that.

Hunters Episode One HD was developed by Rodeo Games, and I played through version 1.03 on my iPad 2.  The price is $4.99 for the full version of the game and can be downloaded for free.


Highborn Review: Standard gameplay, but then hilarity (and good writing) ensues.

Highborn is a strong game. Its mechanics are smooth, and the gameplay is well thought out and easy to learn. In fact, you’ll probably think it’s pretty similar to lots of other games of its genre. It reminds me of Advance Wars on the DS and Mechowars on iPhone/iPod Touch. The list could go on and on. There are a huge number of games just like Highborn.

But not really.

This is a funny game in a few ways, but mostly because it is in fact funny. It’s really funny. I mean, I have literally laughed out loud while playing this game.

At this point I suppose I depart from reviewing Highborn for a moment, but this is pertinent. One thing I’ve found lacking in many, if not most games on iOS devices, is good writing. I’ve seen some of the most shoddy, halfhearted, attempts at giving a game a story/backstory since days prior to the NES. In many cases, I’d rather they had not tried, and just tossed me into it as if I was playing some version of bricks.

I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’m sure it’s not because it’s too expensive to get a writer. As a writer, I can promise you, it’s not too expensive to get a writer. I am no stranger to writing cheap, and by cheap…I mean free.

No, it’s not a lack of hungry writers willing to sell their soul for a chance to ply their trade in a meaningful way. I actually think it’s because the app store is literally dominated by projects where the driving creative influence is from the programmers. And please, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a slam to the one-man/girl shops. In fact, I see some of the strongest writing out there on the app store coming from one-man/girl shops and some of the worst coming from the likes of EA, who seems to still care about iOS game development about as much as McDonald’s cares about making actual food.

Too many games on the app store still seem like tech demos with individual programmers or companies saying ‘look what I can do on the iPhone! Now, maybe I can get rich from this!’ There simply aren’t enough people (EA included) choosing iOS as a platform and then making something truly excellent for it by adding all the other touches; all the things that give a game true life and make us want to exist in that mental space instead of veg’ing or sleeping on the bus.

This is changing. Just look at the games we’ve reviewed lately and you can see that iOS is the future of gaming. The potential is there and ready to be embraced, but to do so, it takes a lot more than programming.

So, programmers and developers, get out there! Find yourself a writer. We want to work for you and I promise you, we all suck at haggling.

…which brings me back to Highborn…no really, it does.

As I said, the gameplay is excellent, but familiar and none too remarkable. Graphically, it’s a joy. Everything about the look of Highborn is beautifully simple, that simplicity being used to sculpt a unique and comical look for the game. I just love looking at it.

The writing is really clever and funny, with a myriad of pop culture references and jokes about other games. Perhaps the funniest thing is that the game world is self-aware. This breaking of the fourth wall provides such humor and cleverness that you forget that you have to do a lot of reading in this game. It’s totally worth it. Unlike most games you really feel like these pieces you move around the world are little people you know, with 3D personalities that bring comedy much like the joyful hilarity in the those games about the plumber with the mustache. Highborn could not be a better example of why games need good writing.

So in a nutshell…

Likes

Graphics: This game is beautiful and proves, once again, that gameplay and artistic design will win out every time over flash & pop noisy things that wow you instantly and are forgotten ten minutes later.

Writing: I love the voice this game has, and I love that I can point to this as a game with a voice. Smashing job!

Multiplayer: Excellent use of the Plus+ network for matchmaking and conducting your multiplayer games with your friends. It’s really a lot of fun, bogged down only by the fact that I don’t like Plus+ very much. If you do, it’ll be PERFECT.

Dislikes

Multiplayer: I’d really like them to use Game Center. I really hate having to have two, three, and four accounts for connected gaming on the iPhone. Apple’s put Game Center out there; reward them for it, USE IT.

Highborn is a really strong game and I highly recommend you give it a shot, even if your not a fan of turn based strategy games, or you’re tired of them. This is fresh, new, and seriously…how expensive is it really?

Highborn is developed by Jet Set Games and is available on the app store for $1.99. This review is based on version 1.1.2 and was played on my iPhone 4.  There is also a lite version available for free.


Rimelands: Hammer of Thor Review: Prepare to be Smitten

Smitten, a perfect word to describe how I felt after playing Rimelands: Hammer of Thor.  You may be asking yourself, ‘Does he mean he’s in love with the game or that he was brutally beaten by it?’  Well the answer is both.

Rimelands: Hammer of Thor is a very traditional style RPG that goes so far to prove that fact that the game shows you the dice rolls normally hidden behind the scenes.  You have three basic talent trees to choose from, barbarian, assassin, and shaman.  While you can mix your talents, based on my experience I would definitely choose one and stick with it.

I have an affinity for magic users and thus chose to play as a shaman.  Not surprisingly the game was more difficult to early on as seems to be the customary format for magic classes in RPGs.  However, I found the difficulty to be incredibly frustrating at times, having to replay almost every fight early in the game numerous times because dice rolls simply were not in my favor.  Despite this I did find myself coming back again and again wanting to take another shot at the fights, knowing that I could win somehow.

Likes

Tutorial: Because of the complexity of the game, it is necessary to have a lengthy tutorial.  While long tutorials are often turn offs for most gamers it is a necessary evil to push through.  Fortunately, the information presented (in a succinct yet detailed manner) is spread out enough that it can be absorbed with relative ease.

Highly Detailed Areas: If you take the time to stop and look around in any given area you’ll find that there is an incredibly high level of detail in every single piece of environment.  Buildings clearly have individual bricks in them, trees have leaves on them, floors have individual tiles, and the list goes on and on.

Dungeons and Dragons style combat: Showing the dice rolls works two fold: Gives the game a much more original visual flare compared to most RPGs, and it adds a great deal of Dungeons and Dragons flavor that the app store is still very lite on.

Combat Variety: No matter how you choose to engage in combat in Rimelands you will be satisfied with the bevy of choices to make with each encounter.  Despite being magic focused I often found myself choosing to fire my gun rather than take a step towards an enemy in order to remain on the offensive as much as possible.  Changing up the combat style from my normal routine like this was very refreshing and greatly enhanced my satisfaction with encounters.

Enemy Variety: Unlike many other RPGs you don’t start out killing rats and work your way up to bigger targets.  There are lots of human targets to engage, but it’s not long at all before you start to see more and more monsters.  The resistances/immunities to specific attacks forces the player to adapt and change their play style much more frequently in order to succeed.

Sound: Sound effects are distinct and very crisp.  Particularly noticeable during the heat of combat are the sword swings and magic spell connects.

The music is fitting as well.  The dungeon music is foreboding and moody while the town music is noticeably lighter but still portrays a sense of uneasiness.

Menus: Not only are the menus simple and easy to use, there is a real classic RPG feel to them as well visually.  Great aesthetic that is just one more example of that excellent traditional RPG quality that makes this the complete package.

Dislikes

Dark Dungeons: Working completely against the great boon that is the highly detailed environments are the often unnecessarily overly dark dungeons that add a good sense of foreboding to the mood of the game, but this darkness is a little too extreme and ends up reducing this effect.

Dpad Responsiveness: The virtual dpad is not as responsive as one would like. Frequently I found myself tapping the arrows more than once to get my character to move. This gets to be a little grating but is only a minor setback.

No Ability to Grind Experience: Due to the incredibly linear nature of the game there are only a set number of enemies to fight at any given time in any area.  This eliminates the option for players like me that prefer to fight many extra rounds early in the game to help establish a level cushion to ease the rest of the game’s flow.  Although the developers considered this to be a good thing, this lack of ability to grind ends up forcing the player to struggle through the game more so than they may prefer.

Small annoyances aside, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor is simply one of the highest quality traditional role-playing game experiences available on the app store.  It’s tough as nails, but the combat have you coming back for more.

Rimelands: Hammer of Thor was developed by Crescent Moon Games, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPod touch 3G.  The price is $4.99.


chronoSgear Review: The Mafia meets “Might and Magic”

Axion Logic has released a strategy RPG that is a cross between elements of Puzzle Quest, Critter Crunch, and turn based strategy games called chronoSgear. Most similar to the Nintendo DS game Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, chronoSgear combines a match 3 battle system with an interesting and unique story line making for an engaging title. Leveling up units and yourself adds to the strategy as you embark on linear quests in a time travel storyline. Different factions with different abilities will keep you thinking for the best way to defeat an enemy.

Being a fan of the Heroes of Might and Magic series for some time now, I was immediately intrigued by the announcement of this title. It is the only and closest entry on the Appstore for fans of the series. In chronoSgear you play as Stark, an adopted member of the Amici Mafia. The head of your family sends you on quests that help them, and of course put you in peril. It all boils down to one fateful day where your enemy General Vincenti makes a move that the family is too late to stop. It is up to you to stop him and the only way is to go back in time. Luckily the Amici Family has a time travel device at their disposal so off you go to try and prevent the unfortunate events of the future.

Battling opponents utilizes a match 3 battle system while protecting Stark’s “Soul Zone”. Deplete the enemies’ soul for the victory, allow Stark’s to empty and he is defeated. Simple? Not really, since many different units are available for play and with different abilities, strategy is high. Decisions must be made to  attack or defend and in some cases one choice is clearly the more beneficial. There are no weapons or armor to upgrade here, only Soul Zone points and Soul Cards that help in battle.

Likes:

Battle System: Strategy is involved in the battle system as you try to match units of three. Only a set number of moves are allowed each turn and choices must be made to attack or defend. Each unit has a different attack rating. But those with the higher attack values need more turns to “mature” if you will. Choices between waiting a turn for the higher attack, or attacking with less on the next turn become crucial to winning and losing a battle.

Manga Art: Having not seen manga artwork in some time in a game of this caliber it is refreshing for a developer to take the risk and it pays off. Lots of Japanese influences abound with Japanese writing on the title screen. The cut scenes are very enjoyable with this style of artwork.

Controls: To move Stark in the overworld a d-pad appears wherever your finger touches the screen. This makes it easy to move around the portrait orientated map. Touch anywhere and you can move. Since moving around does not need to be precise, this works very well. Especially if you need to move in circles to encounter enemies while leveling either yourself or your units.

Dislikes:

Balance: While in most RPGs I expect some amount of leveling up via grinding, it is frustrating in this game to face your first assignment by the family only to get obliterated immediately. Setting out to level up, Starck circled in place and battling enough enemies to level up not one but two levels before having success in that battle.

Another instance of too much too soon are the amounts of exp points needed to level up. Even at low levels, leveling up needs an average of 4,000 exp in some cases and battling opponents yields between 175 and 325 exp, leaving a daunting task in order to gain a level. There are also quite a few side battles to face to accomplish your goal. While a veteran of this battle style and game play will welcome the added battles, there has to be a middle ground for the new player. I can see frustrated new players barging into battle and encountering frustration as the enemy depletes their Soul Zone in one move.

Options Menu: Separate music and sound effects controls are needed in the options. Perhaps this is a personal pet peeve but for me it is a sign of a polished game that the dev took the extra step to finish off for the consumer. There are a ton of games that it is great to hear the sound effects but not the music and vice versa. I am not sure why this is not a standard feature at this juncture of the Appstore. While the game supports playing music from your own playlist, the music drowns out the sound effects. A separate volume control within the game option menu should be included to control not the overall volume of the game but instead the sound effects and the music separately. So many games have been doing this successfully I guess I have been spoiled.

Unit Selection: The battle screen is separated in two. The top half is your opponent and the bottom half is Stark. To make a match, select a unit to move from one column to another – in the style of Critter Crunch or DynoGems. With so many units on the screen the boxes and columns are pretty slight. This led to some false movements due to the wrong selection. The blue column highlight camouflages the color of the unit just enough so that orange might look purple and vice versa so a wrong move is discovered too late. With only three moves per turn, this can kill a battle against a stronger opponent later in the game.  An undo button should be at the very least implemented in a future update since screen real estate is at a premium and the number of units on screen should not be sacrificed.

Length of game: The loading screen indicates this is a “prequel.”  Each unit only levels up to 5, so paired with my gripe about the game being unbalanced it is also short. What the grinding seems to do is artificially lengthen the play. It will remain to be seen if there is a next chapter and if it is a free upgrade or DLC or a new title.

Overall, chronoSgear is a nice addition to the Appstore that takes some familiar game concepts and rolls them into one. With gameplay similar to a popular game series, and new elements introduced, this game should satisfy many needs. Seamlessly combining a strategic RPG, a puzzle and a turn based strategy game into one was not an easy task, but Axion Logic appears to have done just that with chronoSgear.

chronoSgear version 1.01 by Axion Logic was tested on an iPod Touch 2g with OS 4.1. It is currently available for an introductory price of $1.99.