App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Ironhide Games is one of the few mobile developers out there that has a nearly untouchable pedigree. The Kingdom Rush games are some of the most celebrated and beloved titles on the App Store. So, with the release of their latest game, Iron Marines, it should be no surprise to hear that it's an incredible real-time strategy (RTS) game that manages to evoke all-time classics like Starcraft while also carefully crafting an experience that feels perfectly suited for mobile.
Command & Conquer
As a real-time strategy game, Iron Marines offers players an overhead view of a battlefield, where they must capture resources, build an army, and kill enemy units. In this game in particular, you're commanding squads of space marines and alien allies as you fight against hordes of evil aliens and robots. All of this is done with a simple tap-and-swipe-based control scheme that allows you to easily maneuver troops, build buildings, etc.
All of these ideas are pretty conventional for any given RTS, but Iron Marines takes these ideas and hones them into a package that feels perfect for mobile. As a result of these refinements, a lot of Iron Marines centers around troop management and building base defenses, rather than more traditional things like building other base structures, advancing a tech tree, or harvesting resources.
Throughout all of Iron Marines (14 Campaign Missions and 10 Special Operations Missions), the key to the game's success is its variety. Although the basics of maneuvering units and upgrading your bases may stay the same, every level presents new challenges and objectives to complete. There are boss fights, escort missions (that are actually good, by the way), environmental hazards, timed missions, and a whole bunch of new and unique enemies that crop up in each level.
To add to this variety, Iron Marines offers different hero characters for players to choose to lead their armies, with each having their own set of unique abilities and attacks. Also, the game has an upgrade tree and consumable items that players can spend in-game currency on to customize their army's capabilities in between missions. These systems all work to make every moment in Iron Marines feel fresh and new, even if you're simply replaying a level you've already beaten.
Iron Marines offers its streamlined strategy goodness for the premium price of $4.99, and–for my money–there's more than enough value there. That said, when you pay that price, you don't get full access to everything in the game. There are certain aspects of Iron Marines that are structured like a free-to-play game and/or require players to spend more money to unlock, which is somewhat disappointing.
The most egregious issue here is with Iron Marines's hero characters. The game offers up nine characters for players to choose from, but six of these heroes must be purchased individually for anywhere between $2.99-$6.99. Players can also buy additional in-game currencies to either further advance their tech tree or buy consumable powerups that can be deployed in missions. Although none of these purchases feel particularly necessary to complete the game, their mere presence cheapens the experience.
The bottom line
Iron Marines is quite possibly the best real-time strategy game on the App Store. It's full of variety, lovingly crafted, and imminently replayable. Its in-app purchases may rub you the wrong way, but that feels like a small blemish on an otherwise extremely polished and fun experience.