Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
I’m just going to rip this band-aid right off - Block Fortress: War has some issues.
There. I said it. It feels good to get it out.
This spin-off from Foursaken’s critically acclaimed Block Fortress shares a great deal of its predecessor’s DNA. The block-based visuals, UI elements, even the loading screens will feel instantly familiar to veterans. What differs is in how players will go about mowing down the lumbering, cubic hordes.
Block Fortress: War ditches its Big Brother’s first-person perspective for an isometric view and adds pseudo-RTS gameplay. Gone are the intricately crafted defense networks surrounding that poor, vulnerable barracks. Now we’re facing an enemy HQ at the far end of the map. Also, mineral nodes are no longer tapped for ongoing resources. Instead, nodes captured by the player’s commanding unit grant a one-time credit provision and a surrounding radius in which blocks can be built. Marching waves of units auto-spawn at intervals until eventually one barracks or the other lies in ruin. Simple enough, yes?
The execution, unfortunately, is quite lacking. This primarily stems from losing what made the original so interesting: the openness to design fortifications according to the player’s whim. The funds acquired for each node are barely sufficient for a couple of weapon emplacements, a few blocks, and maybe some armor for them. Also, the small build radius around each mineral node generally leaves only the front, road-facing arc as the optimal turret placement area. Spawned enemies magnetically home-in on captured nodes and an exposed node will be dead within seconds, leaving every linked weapon equally dead with no means to salvage or recover them. Even a nest of armored blocks falls with relative swiftness once the player gets past the first level or two.
Indeed, post-tutorial difficulty ramps upward at about a ninety degree angle. Funds are always lacking (hope those turrets don’t need repairs), the controls hampered me when switching between modes in the heat of combat, and my attempts to shift strategies were inevitably thwarted by enemies that consistently outranged and/or outdamaged me. An obvious solution would be the tedious grinding of the easier levels for sufficient currency to purchase most of the weapons and equipment, but when the core gameplay elements aren’t especially compelling and one single mistake equals a rapid, unrecoverable spiral toward death and a level restart who can be bothered?
On the plus side the soundtrack is strident and tense, lending a cinematic feel. The visuals are as engaging as ever, provided one enjoys the Minecraft aesthetic. The addition of new, distinctive playable races (including the old Goblocks) is also nice, but good luck finishing enough of the first campaign to unlock them.
I hadn’t actually played the original Block Fortress prior to penning this review. On the advice of others I sampled it and instantly understood just why it was so beloved. But despite the shared pedigree, Block Fortress: War feels half-realized and, sadly, doesn’t deliver the same kind of fun or promise.