Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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Despite marketing positioning it as a turn-based strategy game, Assault Vector feels more like a re-skinned version of some sort of hyper-future checkers where all the other pieces are out to murder you. Players move their ship around a hex-based "sector" of space, trying to either destroy all of the opposing spacecraft or make their way to the green exit gate. Destroying the enemy ships nets you the opportunity to upgrade your own, while making it to the exit space just guarantees safe passage to the next board - without any benefits beyond surviving another day.
The player and the enemy fleet alternate turns, moving one hex at a time. Each enemy ship has a firing arc, which can be viewed in red by tapping that specific ship. Most of these are along straight or diagonal lines, but the occasional ship has a circular danger zone surrounding it on all sides. Enemy ships are destroyed by moving into one of their bordering safe hexes, allowing the player's ship to get the first shot off. Jumping into a hex that's on the firing line, on the other hand, gets the player's ship blasted instead, shaving off a point of health. But the player has a couple of other tools on hand to assist, each one usable once per sector. The Hyper Jump allows for one single move of a greater distance than the usual one hex. Similarly, the Neutron Cannon allows one enemy ship to be attacked from a far away, rather than the usual point-blank range.
The enemies in Assault Vector don't really have much of an AI to speak of, behaving rather predictably most of the time. This leads to the game becoming a matter of constantly checking and re-checking the attack radiuses of enemies, trying to dance outside their arcs until one or two can be picked off. At this point, the rest of the level becomes a slow but inevitably fatal chase as you dog their survivors into a corner and finish them off.
After a dozen or so levels, as one nears the “goal” on level 15, the difficulty starts ramping up. This is mostly due to the enemies’ firing range getting larger, the number of enemy ships increasing, and the maps getting slightly smaller as hexes are lost - creating choke points that can lead to getting boxed in and blown to bits. It’s not really any sort of improvement of the enemy AI, but rather an artificially induced difficulty born of just throwing larger numbers of stronger enemies at the player.
Assault Vector starts off fun and interesting enough, but without any real variation or change to the core experience it gets stale in relatively short order. It’s a good conceptual idea, but it still feels like a prototype that could benefit from some more depth; a few more options and a couple more iterations in the design process could have done wonders for this one.